‘Eternals’ director Chloe Zhao divulges the Eastern philosophy behind film

Image via Marvel

When it comes to Marvel’s Eternals, the superhero film proved divisive to critics but nevertheless resonated with audiences for the most part, if the disparity between the movie’s critical score compared to its audience score on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes is any indication.

Whether you loved it or you hated it, there’s no doubt the film was a fairly unique entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focusing on quasi-godlike immortal heroes who are faced with impossible moral dilemmas at every turn. Indeed, the movie stands out amid other superhero films for its more spiritual themes and its visual focus on the natural world, such as a myriad of scenes taking place during the golden hour in epic landscapes and filming in real-world awe-inspiring locations, like an active volcano island featured in the climax.

We’re now getting more insights from director Chloe Zhao as to some of the Eastern philosophy elements from which the movie took inspiration.

Zhao, who is Chinese, recently said in an interview with Variety that she specifically worked to include Taoist principles in the movie, such as the “virtue of inaction,” acting in a way that’s aligned with the natural world, and balancing the opposing forces of yin and yang. As she explained:

“In our society, in the stories we tell about ourselves, we often emphasize and celebrate masculine strength — the strength of constant action, of winning, of innovating and expending. In ‘Eternals,’ we wanted to explore the feminine strength in all of us — the strength that comes from vulnerability, love, forgiveness and ‘actionless action.'”

Zhao went on to say that all the characters in the film are trying to find “the harmony between the masculine and the feminine sides of them, the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang,'” in order to become whole from discovering the perfect balance.

Warning: Spoilers to follow.

If you’ve seen the movie, this insight makes perfect sense since the climax of the film centers around a dilemma similar to the famous thought experiment known as the “trolley problem.” Basically, the characters have to decide between sacrificing planet Earth for the sake of countless other civilizations being born, or halting the birth of the god-like Celestial about to be born from the Earth’s core and destroying every human on the planet.

If you missed it in theaters, you can catch Eternals on Disney Plus on Jan. 12.