After a lengthy delay, the most recent instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Eternals,” has now been released in theatres (much like the Eternals themselves). It relates the tale of a number of extraordinarily powerful beings made by the celestial space gods in order to defend human civilizations from the formidable and quickly evolving Deviants. The movie suggests that Eternals had coexisted with humans for aeons, inspiring numerous myths (Gilgamesh and Athena, anyone?) and scientific breakthroughs. With a name like Eternals, it would be strange if they didn’t live a long time, carrying out the orders of their Celestial superiors for perhaps millions of years.
However, despite their strength and longevity, they suffer from a rare dementia-like condition called mahd w’yry, also known to comic fans as “Eternal lunacy.” As a result, over time, the sheer amount of memories that Eternals have can become overwhelming to their minds, causing them to lose track of time and become disconnected from the present. In the movie, the Eternal Thena’s illness—played by Angelina Jolie—plays a crucial part in the development of her character.
In this section, we’ll examine this particular character flaw, Thena and the Eternals’ experiences with it, and related comic book examples.
W’yry is the Head That is Eternal
According to comic book legend, Eternals (first shown in “Eternals” #1, July 1976) were not formed out of nothing by Celestials, but rather as a result of Celestials’ experiments on humans. When Celestials first came to Earth a million years ago, they experimented on the earliest humans to create both the Eternals and the Deviants, the latter of which had both genetic instability and power. As a result of being imbued with cosmic energy, Eternals possess a wide range of extraordinary abilities, including superhuman strength, flight, the capacity to produce force blasts, illusions, weaponized energy, and the ability to manipulate matter and energy. The Celestial technology that generates the Eternals, “the Machine,” also allows Eternals to be revived after being destroyed, thereby regenerating themselves. In essence, a Uni-Mind is a psychological meta-Eternal entity that possesses the powers of all the Eternals that created it. Each group of eternals has a Prime Eternal whose powers can be increased by the collective.
They have all these incredible abilities, but because of their immortality and aforementioned special condition mahd wy’ry, they are also prone to it. (Yes, the burden of recollection drives people mad and wears them out; the condition is dubbed “mad weary”). Mahd w’yry is described in comic books as a Celestial error that resulted from imbuing human bodies with powerful cosmic energies that endure for millennia but not with human minds and consciousnesses (in “Avengers” #361). The cumulative weight of memories and experiences is said to wear down the fundamentally human minds of the Eternals over ages, though it can happen sooner. The ability of the Eternals to share consciousness through the Uni-Mind or with their chosen life partner (in a procedure known as “Gann Josin”) may be able to stave off the affliction, but as Ikaris explains in episode #361, the main known cure is an ancient “rite of cleansing”—the “molecular discorporation” of the increasingly insane Eternal. In essence, the afflicted Eternal died as described above and was then rebuilt using the supposed “Machine.”
Thena is not an everlasting who has the sickness in comic book lore, unlike the movie. Sersi is the one who has the condition and is threatened with destruction and reconstitution in the aforementioned issue #361 (which they finally don’t do). It’s also possible that Sprite experienced symptoms of the disease, giving rise to the notion to employ the Dreaming Celestial to transform Sprite into a human and enable regular ageing (instead of Sprite’s inexorably youthful appearance). However, it theoretically might infect any Eternal, and the typical cure is a hard reboot of the affected Eternal.
You Mahd, Bro?
Contrary to the comics, Eternals are not the results of Celestial human experimentation; rather, they are an extraterrestrial presence that was created outside of Earth. As a result, mahd w’yry isn’t brought on by years of experience wearing down the human mind, but it is nonetheless referred to as a result of the Eternals’ lengthy lifetimes. A hard reset of that Eternal’s life serves as the film’s conventional treatment for the disease, just like it does in the comics. Yes, the time-tested advice to “turn it off and turn it back on again” is the remedy for the Eternal’s disease in both instances.
The fact that Thena, a warrior, contracts the illness rather than Sersi or Sprite (as in the comics) is another significant distinction between the two mediums. Producer Nate Moore clarifies Thena’s predicament in the movie in an interview with ScreenRant:
“She has a tragic story in our film in that she comes down with something called Mahd Wy’ry. If you guys are fans of comics, Mahd Wy’ry is something that can beset an Eternal. It’s a version of dementia. Because of the amount of memories they have, they become unstuck in their own mind, so she starts to forget exactly when she is.”
It has several plot features in common with Sersi’s comedic struggle, such as the debate over whether to demolish and rebuild her, although Sersi isn’t severely affected in the movie. why not Thena? It’s certainly convenient to have the team’s strongest fighter occasionally turn into a problem rather than an asset whenever it suits the tale, and then be OK when she’s required again. However, they haven’t given a thorough analysis of all of their storytelling choices here. Let’s just write that off as a storytelling free pass.
With “Eternals” currently in theatres, you may observe the results of immortals becoming “mahd w’yry,” or “crazy weary,” for yourself.