Chloé Zhao Says Shot Length Runs Longer in ‘Eternals’ Than in Other Marvel Movies

Zhao is beloved for her immersive long takes, and she's bringing that aesthetic with her to the MCU.

With the upcoming release of “Eternals,” Chloé Zhao is looking to shake up the visual language of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s already known the director rejected as much green-screen usage as possible, preferring to shoot on location instead, and now Zhao revealed to Fandango that her shot length is far longer than what the MCU is used to seeing. Zhao is acclaimed for her immersive long takes. The director said “Eternals” might not have any shots that last as long as some of the one takes in “Nomadland,” but it was her goal to let shots breathe throughout her MCU epic.

“For this specific movie, what drew me to this movie and why they hired me, I think, is that the visual experience for this film must feel immersive enough for the audience to believe that these superhero characters have walked the earth for 7,000 years,” Zhao said. “So, to do that, there’s what I like to call an anthropological way of capturing things. The cameras are very grounded, and the movements are very natural. Shots are longer — we use wide angle lenses, and deep focus…it’s about giving the audience the space and the time to be able to explore what’s within the frame, and therefore come to their own conclusion of the relationship between the characters and the space they’re in.”

Zhao added, “We definitely linger with the camera, both in action sequences and if it’s someone walking through a village or in space with the Celestials. We always try to see how long we can hold before we have to cut. When you have unlimited tools, it was very important to set limitations. So for us, we set the language up and then we follow it strictly. And part of that for us is to try to linger in every type of scene as much as possible for a film like this.”

“Eternals” is set after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and centers on an immortal team of superheroes who must band together to stop an alien race known as the Deviants. Because her film spans centuries, Zhao said it was all the more important to increase shot length and make the filmmaking as immersive as possible.

“In this case you’re going throughout history and 7,000 years, [and so it’s] even more important to make us feel like this world feels real and grounded,” Zhao told Fandango. “I wanted to apply that same digital style to everything from action, visual effects, to also capturing the grand mythology of the Celestials in the cosmos, and the consistency of that. I wanted it to feel grounded yet fantastical.”

“Eternals” opens in theaters November 5 from Disney.

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