Eternals was always going to be the Marvel movie that had the slimmest chance to fail. It’s not likely to “bomb” at the box office because the Marvel juggernaut is behind it. However, this film feels the least like a Marvel film for better or for worse. If you’re going into this one expecting some of the same formula we’ve seen regarding superhero origins, you’ll be surprised or disappointed. With a roster of eleven new characters, little connection to the current MCU, and a script that breaks under it’s own weight, Eternals is easily the biggest disappointment in the MCU since Thor: The Dark World.
For all the faults with the film, it’s still immensely beautiful. They did a wonderful job making this a film that’s at least great to look at. The visual style doesn’t really match up with any other film in this now 25 movie deep saga of Marvel. Director Chloe Zhao doesn’t give this one a look or feel like any other film in the MCU. A script by Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo provides the bare minimum needed for such a wide ranging and gargantuan scope. This story traverses thousands upon millions of years, but doesn’t really make you feel for the characters very much. It doesn’t help that the Eternals aren’t among the most popular comic book characters in the first place.
The Gigantic Cast Is Definitely A Highlight Of Eternals
Eternals stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Rifloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee/Ma Dong-seok, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. That’s eleven members of the Eternals that you have to care about and want to see. Some of them get more run and care than others, among the true highlights are Nanjiani’s Kingo, Lee as Gilgamesh, Ridloff as Makkari, and Tyree Henry’s Phastos. The rest of the performances aren’t bad by any means, but these four really separate themselves from the rest.
Nanjiani and Lee handle 95% of the film’s lighter moments and they’re much needed across the film as it would be rather drab and dreary without those lighter moments. There are plenty of firsts in this film. Ridloff is the first deaf star in a Marvel film. Phastos is the first gay character in the MCU. Both characters get moments where these traits shine and with Ridloff in particular, the ASL signed in the film feels absolutely natural. Her scenes of super-speed are breathtaking and among the most action-packed in the film. This is the most inclusive film in the MCU and it gets points there at least.
Don Lee is the emotional and physical backbone of the team. He’s got the most weighty feeling action with his super-strength as an Eternal. Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek do well as the “leaders” of the Eternals. Gemma Chan’s Sersi, even though she’s the star of the film, doesn’t really get a lot to work with as the secondary leader turned leader.
Immortal Gods And Evolution
For a film with so many new characters and great performances, the script does a poor job of making you truly care about them. They’re immortal gods. It’s really hard to imagine some of them being in absolute peril as an audience. Whether that’s making some of the team outright useless in a fight with a good portion of their powers, or drama-filled scenes that don’t feel human at all. The Eternals are above human trivial BS right? That’s why they didn’t intervene when Thanos or any of the other tens of disasters occurred during the course of the MCU?
Another issue with the film is that a lot of the dialogue is muted, heavily. I could barely understand certain lines in the theater and had to really strain at points to hear. This wasn’t because of a loud premiere crowd either, they had the sound cranked up. A lot of the most impactful moments are lost because of this.
Finally for the script, there are moments where people get powers and then those powers mean absolutely nothing in the end. Evolution and stopping evolution is a big point in the film, but that doesn’t show itself in the final climactic moments of the film. We get something that the character could do all along as the solution. So why did they get a certain power that was made a big deal in the middle of the film?
The Least Marvel Feeling Movie In The Bunch
This isn’t a terrible movie by any means. It has a strong cast that does a great job with the material they’re given. The action scenes are breathtaking and fresh. Traveling throughout time, you’re gifted visuals of some of the most beautiful areas in human history. The comedy in the film lands pretty well, and both the post-credits scenes are exciting. But this film should be more than those post-credits scenes.
For some out there, a Marvel movie not looking and feeling like a Marvel movie is a godsend. After so many origin stories and big-team-up movies, this might be a breath of fresh air. Instead, it’s jarring and besides a couple passing mentions of Tony Stark, Thanos, and “The Snap”, this might as well have not been a Marvel film. Post-credits scenes set up future installments, but the actual film doesn’t really connect to the present MCU at large. Eternals isn’t an outright failure, but it’s needlessly long, and once you see it, it’s probably not an MCU film you need to see again.
Overall, this movie has eleven new characters for us to care about as an audience. It throws them together and they all end up feeling like one-note exposition machines more than anything else. If Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gave us a new character to care about in such a spectacular and fun way, Eternals gives us too many characters, time periods, and dense material to truly care for.
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