In the beginning...
Eternals is a 2021 superhero film directed by Chloé Zhao, written by Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo, prodocued by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film is based on various Eternals comics by Marvel Comics. It stars Richard Madden and Gemma Chan. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the twenty-sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is the thirtieth project overall. It acts as a sequel to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but, chronologically, it was preceded by Avengers: Endgame.
"We should have stayed together." -Kingo
Thousands of years ago, the legendary Eternals were sent to Earth by the Celestials to battle a group of monsters known as the Deviants. After defeating all of the Deviants, the Eternals split up around Earth to go and live their lives. Now, the Deviants have returned, and the Eternals must reunite to save humanity once again.
Group Dynamic / Expanding the MCU / Trying Something Different / Certain Characters / Plot Twists / Story and Non-Linear Format / Underdeveloped Characters / Generic / Exposition / Pacing / Contradicting Themes
Going into Eternals, I wasn't super excited. The trailers didn't really do it for me, but Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao gave me hope. However, Eternals opened with a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. After a few days, that plummeted to a 47%, the first rotten score in the MCU. And movie critics did not like this movie. So my expectations weren't that high for this movie.
The best thing about Marvel's Eternals is the dynamic between the Eternals themselves. Each of these characters have different power sets and different beliefs, making for a feeling of camaraderie between the group, but also some tension. I loved seeing them fight together and also loved seeing them argue. They all had solid chemistry with each other and felt like a legitimate family.
Eternals also barely connects to the outside MCU, therefore expanding it with its own mythology and history. The Eternals have been around basically since the beginning of time, so this movie covers a lot of ground when it comes to history and mythology. They travel through real events that are important to the plot, which I thought was cool. It really did a great job of building out more of the world of the MCU, which is impressive, because we are twenty-six movies in and we are still expanding this world.
And I give this movie props for trying something different. The Infinity Saga is an absolutely incredible achievement and a great set of twenty-three movies, but, to be fair, they are all relatively safe. Even Guardians of the Galaxy relies on the usual MCU humor and spectacle. Eternals feels completely disconnected from the rest of the Marvel universe. Sure, they mention Doctor Strange and Thanos a few times, but this movie could easily stand on it's own outside of the MCU. It is a different kind of Marvel movie and a different kind of superhero movie, which is a good thing.
I also think certain characters are used really well. My favorite of the Eternals was Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry. I thought his motivations and his backstory was the most powerful part of the film, and I really connected with his character. Some of the other Eternals, such as Makkari and Ikaris, were pretty cool, too. They were just charming and likable characters that happened to be balancing the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Finally, there are multiple plot twists and reveals inside of the movie. There's one reveal of who the true main antagonist is that I thought worked really well. That was probably my favorite part of the film, and one of the only logical parts of the movie.
I love the MCU. It's easily my favorite movie franchise of all time. But this is the worst Marvel movie of the past five years.
One of the biggest problems with Eternals is the story itself and the way it is told. The story is told in non-linear fashion, because it has to develop all ten Eternals, but it also still tries to have its own story. Because we are going through and meeting all the Eternals, the first two hours sets up all the characters...and the last thirty minutes is where the plot actually comes to fruition. That's a big problem. You have two hours of attempted character development and thirty minutes of actual story.
Speaking of character development, this movie tries to do it...with ten characters. To actually develop these characters, this movie needed to be Eternals 2. The flashbacks shown in this movie should've been the first Eternals and this film should've been Eternals 2. You cannot expect all these characters to be interesting and have a good story. But Chloé Zhao thought that they could do that. And because of that, the story and characters are both bad.
And this film, although it is different from the rest of the MCU, veers very much into generic territory at times. Chloé Zhao won Best Director and Best Picture last year, but none of her flavor is on display here. I expected some beautiful, epic shots. Instead, there was loads of CGI and bland Marvel action. That was really disappointing. The story is also about the end of the world. So, yeah. Generic.
The film is also loaded from top to bottom with bad exposition. Once again, because of the non-linear format, characters need to tell the audience what's going on because we haven't gotten a flashback about it yet. And that was just boring. There is a scene where Sersi talks with Arishem that was literally all exposition. The visuals were meant to be interesting, but they weren't. So it made for a boring slog of a scene.
And because we've never met any of the Eternals, Zhao tries to give us as much information as possible. From the beginning (which is a rip-off bad Star Wars title crawl by the way), they are just ramming info down your throat. The pace is so fast yet so slow at the same time. It tries to break up all the information with character moments, but since we don't know these characters, the character moments don't mean anything. Ughhhh. This movie is so frustrating.
The plot of the film also changes near the middle, because there is a big plot twist involving the Celestials and the Eternals. If you have seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Because we learn about the true nature of the Eternals, the themes about whether or not to save humanity become very contradicting. By the time the third act comes around, you aren't sure if the heroes are right or if the villains are right. And that's a huge problem. There can be relatable villains, but the movie needs to have the heroes be right. And even the heroes question if they are right at the end. The movie needs to pick a side, and it doesn't.
Should you go see Eternals?
If I am being completely honest: No. It's not a game-changing MCU movie. It's not a necessary watch. And if you are tired of CGI battles and stupid fantastical monsters, this movie is not for you. Don't spend money on this movie. Wait for it to hit Disney+ and watch it one day when you are bored just to catch up on the MCU.
Analogy and Final Score
Eternals is like if all of Phase One was squished together into one, two and a half hour long movie. Or if Zack Snyder's Justice League didn't have Man of Steel and Batman v Superman leading up to it and was two hours long. It just shoved together a bunch of solo movies with the group movie into a two-hour mashup.
Unfortunately, Eternals tried something different and did not stick the landing.
I gotta go Sour here. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Fun Factor: 5/10
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Rated PG-13 for superhero violence and action, sexual content, minor language, disturbing themes and images
Released on November 5, 2021
2 hours and 37 minutes
Gemma Chan as Sersi
Richard Madden as Ikaris
Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo
Lia McHugh as Sprite
Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos
Barry Keoghan as Druig
Angelina Jolie as Thena
Don Lee as Gilgamesh
Kit Harington as Dane Whitman
Salma Hayek as Ajak
Bill Skarsgård as Kro
Dave Kaye as Arishem the Judge
Harish Patel as Karun