Eternals is the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I entered in having no prior knowledge of the characters or the concepts around them. Even with movies for characters like Shang-Chi and Guardians of the Galaxy I did have some preconceived ideas of who these characters are from the few comics I read about them before their respective movies. So going in not knowing anything about the Eternals created a new level of excitement I didn’t have for other movies in the MCU.
But now that I have left the movie theater after watching the two and a half hour long movie I’m not sure if I became a fan of the Eternals as other MCU movies made me a fan of other Marvel characters. The compliment I can give the Eternals movie is that it does get over the idea of these characters. At least we get an understanding of the MCU version of the Eternals, as I can’t speak to how comics accurate this is. Which in the end likely will be the legacy of this movie.
In many ways Eternals reminds me of Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is a movie that in the grand scheme of the MCU will be one of the more important films in the post-Avengers: Endgame era. Future MCU movies that explore the concepts introduced in the Eternals will make it looked back on in a better light. Especially considering the end credits of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings there are a lot of clues in this movie that expand on that sequence along with the greater Multiverse concepts being explored during MCU’s Phase Four.
All of that said, Eternals is a bottom tier MCU movie. Its ambition was to great for what the movie tried to accomplish. Specifically, the worry that many had with Guardians of the Galaxy introducing us to a whole team of new characters is what the Eternals ran into a vibranium reinforced wall. Because unlike Guardians of the Galaxy that did keep the roster small, in the Eternals we are introduced to ten main characters. No matter how talented of a director Chloé Zhao, the actors portraying these character, and writers of the movie are that is way to many characters to introduce all at once.
The weight of getting all of these new characters over is felt throughout the first 75% of the movie. It isn’t until the final big battle of the movie that it felt like the characters were relatively fully formed in terms of where they will be within the MCU. But because of how long it takes to get to that point there are a lot of moments where you feel how much of a slog it is to get through all the concepts we are being presented with.
Now I do have to credit many of the actors for doing their best to get over the material they have to work with. The diversity of the cast really does shine because it is not just about the characters skin color. There is a wide variety of representation that allows the characters to be presented as real people instead of another group of action figures brought to life.
Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, and Angelina Jolie as Sersi, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, and Thena, respectively, are by far the stands out of the movie. Their character motivations and how it feeds into where their arcs take them turn them into the most fully fleshed out characters of the movie. Which in turn makes the material that Richard Madden as Ikaris and Salma Hayek as Ajak get stand out as extremely weak in comparison. Which all goes back to how there are just way too many characters to develop that everyone ends up suffering due to screen time.
The screen time needed to develop these characters makes the structure chosen to get all these characters over even more disjointed. There is too much of a reliance on flashbacks throughout the film that they get in the way of the flow of the story. The cuts made between the present and flashback scenes are all awkward as they lacked structure that would benefit these characters.
All that said, where Eternals really drops the ball is the antagonists of the movie. Eternals is the best example of how the MCU really does have a villain problem. Because rather than letting the Deviants show the imagination of the Marvel Universe they are just the same muted color palette we’ve seen from villains like the Dark Elves in Thor: Dark World. It is such a wasted opportunity to create unique looking villains that are multi-dimensional. You even see how the Deviants lack of imagination made it so there needed to be a change with the additions to the villain side and subtractions to our heroes to make the final fight have greater interest.
The Eternals also has the oddest ending of any MCU movie. It gets to a point where everything seems to be over but then there is one more big thing. That one more big thing happens and the Eternals ends in what felt like a “To Be Continued…” cliffhanger ending you would get in a comic book. For a movie it just leaves things in an awkward spot that leaves you scratching your head rather than being excited for a possible sequel to the Eternals.
Overall, I went into Eternals hoping that I would fall in love with a new part of the Marvel Universe I had no familiarity with. But when all was said and done with the Eternals it just a movie whose ambition was to great for its own good. Its unfortunate because there are concepts introduced that will clearly be important to the MCU moving forward. Which will leave Eternals to fill the role Avengers: Age of Ultron filled for the previous three phases of the MCU. And maybe that is all it could have been.
MOVIE RATING: 4 Night Girls out of 10
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