In an interview on Polygon with Eternals writers Kaz and Ryan Firpo, the cousins admit that the love they and director Chloé Zhao share for Spirited Away was a big influence in understanding the complex themes of the movie Marvel Cinematic 2021 pinning down universe film unveiled. Indeed, Kaz said of Zhao, “Chloé is an amazing human filmmaker who makes spiritual drama, and at the same time she’s a huge nerd. And that’s Chloé’s secret recipe, so to speak.”
To further explore the conflicting thematic elements of Eternals, the writing team decided from the start to focus on Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden). For Firpo, the film’s focus on her provided an opportunity to explore the thematic conflict between love and duty, with each character in Eternals representing a different ideal. “It’s really a film about humanity with a capital H,” says Kaz. “Are we worthy of this gift that both this planet and life have given us? Then these eternal, immortal, space gods also dealt with that, which was something I don’t think any film ever got a chance to do.”
Director and co-writer Chloe Zhao herself was pleased with the creative process Marvel allowed her to do with Eternals. The Oscar-winning director hoped to strike a balance with her film, which hadn’t been starred in any MCU films up to that point, and told Collider her intention with the film was always to be of huge, epic proportions balancing it with a deeply personal story – that’s, in fact, the very quality viewers still love about Spirited Away all these years later.