Huge SPOILER alert. Do not read any further if you want to be surprised by the first act of Marvel's next big epic. Salma Hayek's Ajak has been suspiciously absent from promotional materials in the lead up to Marvel's Eternals even despite a lengthy delay in release due to the pandemic. With Ajak believed to be the leader of the Eternals, fans assumed the marketing team have simply attempted to draw more focus to the larger star power in the film, most notably Angelina Jolie. This might not be the case though, with rumors of a shock revelation that involves Ajak's unfortunate destiny.
Recent reports suggest there may actually be a lack of footage of Salma Hayek in the role, as Ajak could meet her end much sooner than most fans expect. In fact, it seems the untimely demise of Ajak in the movie's opening exchanges could be what kicks off the plot in the first place. Hayek previously described her character as 'the bridge between the Celestials and the Eternals' so it's fair to say her death would have huge ramifications.
This would also explain the more prominent marketing of Thena (Angelina Jolie) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) as the group will likely need a new leader. The plot could even extend to a rivalry between the two for control of the group leading to deeper conflict within the team. In the opening sequence of the final trailer, Ajak is briefing Ikaris on the task ahead suggesting a close relationship between the pair and a clear trust in his abilities.
Ikaris is also the first hero we see in action in that trailer drawing a keen focus to his abilities. Thena has also been very prominent in the film's posters though, which could be due to the star power of Jolie as previously suggested but there are other visual clues that set her aside as the prime candidate. One image in particular from an earlier trailer sees Thena positioned at the head of a table surrounded by the Eternals which certainly alludes to her elevated position in the team.
It's a risky plot choice and director Chloe Zhao will also have to be mindful of managing the situation with dignity. The film has strived for diversity in its cast, something celebrated by Hayek herself during an interview about the film. Placing a 55-year-old Mexican-American woman as head of the team was a bold step and immediately killing her off could be controversial. The movie is bound to face criticisms of 'fridging' if Madden does indeed assume control of the team.
Fridging is a comic book term that refers to when a female character is used as a plot device, often by dying, to inspire a male protagonist to do great things. Zhao is coming into the film with a lot of prestige having picked up the Academy Awards for Best Film and Best Director for her last project Nomadland so she's no stranger to handling an emotionally charged narrative.
Ajak has also being portrayed as a supervillain in the long history of the Eternals comics so the possibility of her faking her death and turning on the team at the end also can't be ruled out. Whichever direction it takes it's sure to offer twists and turns in a film that already looks set to remove itself from the established world perhaps more than any MCU film before it.
Its clear Eternals will be closely tied to the larger MCU narrative with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame directly referenced in the trailers. The film also looks to be more fantastical than previous entries and shows off a new scope of the MCU universe, not yet explored. Fans don't have long to wait with Eternals expected to arrive in theatres on November 5th. This story originated at Giant Freakin Robot.