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Eternals Filmmaker Comments On What Makes Ikaris Different From Superman

After its theatrical premiere in November 2021, Marvel Studios kicked began 2022 by formally streaming Eternals on Disney+. With an all-star cast including Richard Madden as Ikaris and Salma Hayek as Ajak, as well as hinting great things for the franchise’s cosmological potential, Eternals continues to make its mark, with viewers all around the globe able to watch it from the comfort of their own homes. Within its first few weeks on Disney+, the MCU’s third film of 2021 has already broken audience records as fans enjoy another round of fascinating storylines and the world’s best visual effects.

With Eternals introducing over a dozen new superheroes over the length of 156 minutes, Marvel Studios faced a difficult issue in ensuring that each hero and villain received their own tale while growing the larger storyline. Part of the problem with each hero was ensuring that each of their abilities sounded and looked distinct on the big screen, especially in terms of distinguishing them from iconic figures from other brands. Recently, filmmaker Chloé Zhao addressed that difficulty explicitly in relation to Madden’s Ikaris, who drew in-universe similarities to another super-powered flying guy in blue.

Differentiating Ikaris From DC’s Superman

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Director Chloé Zhao discussed how the crew ensured that Richard Madden’s Ikaris looked and handled his talents differently than DC’s Superman in the Eternals Audio Commentary. Zhao stated that he wanted the two to be “separated…as much as possible,” with Superman’s eyes firing heat vision and Ikaris’ eyes firing “more of an energy burst.” To accomplish this, sound designer Addison Teague sought to accentuate the sound of Ikaris’ powers in order to convey the force more than how it appeared visually:

“We wanted to make sure that we separated Ikaris from Superman as much as possible. Superman has heat vision while Ikaris has more of an energy blast. So, in creating the sound for Ikaris’ eye beams, sound designer Addison Teague put more emphasis on the power, the sound of power, impact, and pressure so that it has a very unique sound.”

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Continuing to the group’s skills, Zhao wanted each hero’s abilities to seem “elemental,” notably referring to the sphere held in Ajak’s chest and Sprite’s illusions being somewhat water-based. Zhao and his crew incorporated audio components “from several types of sacred worship” to make the Eternals’ abilities sound distinct in the film’s final cut:

“It feels almost elemental. We wanted all of their powers, even from the opening scene when you see the little sphere coming out of Ajak’s chest and going into Ajak’s chest, there’s like a humming sound. And with Sprite’s illusions, there’s a water element to it. We always use sound from different types of sacred worship, as a Tibetan singing bowl or, you know, Druig’s mind-controlling is more like a whisper, a chant. And so Addison took all these different types of sounds of worship to create the Eternals’ powers sound. Pretty awesome.”

Elements to Zhao’s Work on Eternals’ Powers

Adding abilities to a major Hollywood film is no easy task, especially with so many movies and TV series from many studios airing at the same time. This is especially difficult when characters from different franchises have comparable superpowers, as in the case of Marvel’s Ikaris and DC’s Superman. These parallels were also mentioned in the film when Phastos’ son Jack compared Ikaris to Superman during their first interaction. With the two possessing many of the same abilities, like flying and the aforementioned eye beams, Marvel chose to make this relationship canon by identifying the Last Son of Krypton as an in-universe figure.

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In terms of visuals, Ikaris’ optical powers used a golden color palette along with intense sound effects to make an audible impact as well as a visual one. This was considerably different from Superman’s red-colored heat vision, which can melt practically any object in its line, as opposed to Ikaris’ simple blowing foes away from him. The fundamental nature of each of the Eternals’ capabilities aided in this attempt much beyond Ikaris, since the team’s talents stood out and distinguished themselves from anything seen in previous Marvel or DC films. Eternals, whether by sound or images, helped to distinguish itself from DC’s formidable hero by ensuring Ikaris’ powers were entirely his own.

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