RELEASED: November 5th 2021
DISTRIBUTED BY: Disney
DIRECTED BY: Chloé Zhao
WRITTEN BY: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo & Kaz Firpo
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige & Nate Moore
MUSIC BY: Ramin Djawadi
STARRING: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiana, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harrington, Bill Skarsgård, Salma Hayek & Angelina Jolie
REVIEW: Eternals is perhaps one of the most ambitious entries in Marvel’s pantheon of films. In the space of two and a half hours, it attempts to introduce ten (plus) brand new characters, explain the creation myth of the Marvel Universe, explore (and in certain ways, redefine) the Marvel cosmology, while also telling a story about humanity, family and purpose.
It’s a lot. And as you’ve probably seen from reviews, for many, it’s too much. But are they being fair? Is this film, that Marvel Studios have touted as a bold new vision for their cinematic universe, as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score might suggest (it’s the worst rated, in case you hadn’t heard)?
In short, no. It’s not that bad.
But it’s not the game changer Marvel wanted it to be either.
Eternals follows a group of ten superhumans, sent to Earth 7000 years ago by the godlike beings known as the Celestials, and tasked with protecting humanity from alien predators known as the Deviants. But when these Deviants, long thought dead, return in the modern day, after one of the Eternals has been murdered, the group must reconnect, fight past their differences and contend with their true purpose.
To be fair to Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios, it’s not hard to see why they though they had a winner on their hands.
Helmed by Oscar darling Chloé Zhao, Eternals is certainly different from your standard Marvel fare. It’s more epic, dense in lore, and has some glorious shots that are far more dazzling than anything you might see in other Marvel movies.
The costumes, designs and the Eternals powers all look resplendent. The scale of the film is also something to be commended; as the movie tackles different time periods and world events, while also giving us our first proper look at the Celestials; huge, imposing beings of unknowable power. Gods, essentially.
Zhao has brought with her a fantastic cast, full of big names, popular faces and some lesser known, yet equally capable stars.
But unfortunately, a good cast and a visionary director don’t always guarantee a solid film. Because as good as the cast may be, Eternals struggles as the majority of the runtime is devoted towards exposition rather than actually giving these characters… Well, character.
That’s not to say these are all bland, blank canvases. The actors mostly do well with what they have. The charm of certain actors shines through in spite of their limited screen time. My personal favourite was Lauren Ridloff, who, despite not actually speaking (Marvel’s first deaf superhero, who communicates through sign language), still conveyed a wealth of charm, alongside having some pretty awesome action sequences.
But then, conversely, you have someone like Angelina Jolie. An esteemed actor, yet one who’s character and story here are rather lacking. She gets some cool moments, sure, and the premise of her particular story is promising, but without enough time devoted to it, it feels rather tacked on. Pointless, in some ways. It ends up being relevant to the overall plot, but it often feels like an aside, and by the time you reach the climax of her particular story, it feels inconsequential next to the main event.
Which, in some ways, also links to Marvel’s villain problem. There are two distinct antagonsits (not unlike Shang-Chi, actually). One of whom has stakes in the story, and whose fight with our heroes is honestly pretty cool. It feels climactic. And then there’s the other villain – the head of the Deviants, played by Bill Skarsgård – who after a point, like Jolie’s character and story, feels rather superfluous. He’s not given enough time to actually be a character, and seems like a waste of Skarsgård’s capabilities.
This occurs on different levels throughout the film. Chan and Madden are the clear leads of the piece, and get the most screen time. Then others, like Jolie, Hayak and Lee often fall by the wayside. Their characters are intriguing, but by the end of the film, we still don’t know that much about them.
In many ways, this film is also like Dune. Big, spectacular, ponderous, and predominantly focused on set-up. But Dune is part one of a two-part story. Eternals, while still a part of the larger Marvel tapestry, has told it’s (initial) story. There are teases for future films of course, but the main narrative is over. It sometimes feels like the film relies more on the names connected to it than the characters it wants to explore. This is also very evident in one of the post credits scenes, where yet another character is introduced, but the ‘wow factor’ doesn’t come from the character on screen, but the actor portraying them.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of this film will depend on how much you appreciate the in-universe history being crafted here. If you like learning about the MCU’s Gods and how the Eternals have influenced humanity and their myths, then you’ll find enjoyment here.
If you’re here for another round of fun, Marvel Studios banter and excitement, you might find yourself disappointed. But the excellent realisation of the Eternals powers, and some of the more otherworldly special effects might be enough to keep you invested.
It’s got cool action sequences, interesting lore, but isn’t as snappy or entertaining as it’s peers. It’s characters aren’t as loveable, and it’s story not as enrapturing.
Overall, I found it more interesting than Black Widow, but not as entertaining as Shang-Chi, a position that I think also reflects the film’s placement in the series as a whole. Mid-tier.
As such, all-in-all, I give Eternals a…
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