Here’s our review for “Eternals,” which is undoubtedly the most ambitious Marvel movie created in quite some time…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There’s no doubt that “Eternals” will end up as the most divisive Marvel Studios movie since Kevin Feige took over and decided to start world-building between franchises.
In the lead up to the film’s release, all of the talk has been how the movie has the lowest score ever for a Marvel Studios production on Rotten Tomatoes — even worse than the often panned “Thor: The Dark World,” which really wasn’t very good.
Of course opinions vary and it’s safe to say there will be a portion of fans who will love the dazzling visuals and apocalyptic storytelling that highlights “Eternals” under the watchful eye of recent Oscar winner Chloe Zhao while others will bash the plot while calling it a waste and declaring this the worst Marvel movie of all time.
Those are two very different opinions on this film, and neither are necessarily wrong, but here’s a huge part of the reason why this particular is causing so much dissention among critics, who almost universally praise Marvel whenever the studio has a new release — “Eternals” looks, feels and acts like nothing that Marvel has ever done before.
It’s the first time Marvel has taken a very wide swing into a truly cosmic story, which is a huge part of the comic books but has never really crossed over into the movies before. While films such as “Guardians of the Galaxy” explore the deepest reaches of space and “Captain Marvel” starts out as a film set in a galaxy far, far away, those movies never really went too deep into the cosmic-god like stories that Marvel has been telling in the comics for decades.
“Eternals” takes a deep dive into that side of the Marvel universe and it’s going to cause a lot of people to tune out because the stories are definitely harder to follow and rarely feature characters with famous names like Captain America or Iron Man. That’s why a film like this will split audiences down the middle but this is one critic who will stand up, shout and applaud Chloe Zhao for a truly brilliant piece of filmmaking with a wonderfully complex story that features interesting and dynamic characters all set against a visually stunning background.
With that said, let’s get to our full review for “Eternals”…
“Eternals” is a story that actually starts thousands of years ago after a Celestial named Arishem — Celestials are God-like creatures that help create life in the universe — dispatches a group of super-human immortals to Earth. These Eternals are meant to nurture and help mankind evolve while also keeping them safe from a dangerous group of creatures called the Deviants.
While on Earth, the Eternals interact with mankind and even live among them but they are forbidden from interfering with humans, which is why they haven’t gotten involved in any past wars including when Thanos showed up with the Infinity Gauntlet and erased half of life in the universe.
After thousands of years, the Eternals have split apart while blending into the background amongst humanity — the best one being Kingo (played by Kumail Nanjiani), who has started his own Bollywood empire — but they are soon called upon to reunite after the Deviants suddenly emerge after being dormant for thousands of years.
Why did the Deviants suddenly return to cause havoc on Earth again? The Eternals are destined to find out and it’s to say the reasons won’t be good for anybody involved.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
Marvel picked Chloe Zhao to direct “Eternals” before she won an Oscar for “Nomadland” but it’s clear the studio already saw her as a visionary who they needed to invest in right away.
Zhao pays off Marvel’s investment with her striking style of filmmaking, especially in the gorgeous scenery that spans across several continents with this movie. Zhao captures every possible element of the surroundings with her characters while also spending more than enough time introducing a wide and diverse group of heroes that make up The Eternals.
Now the script — particularly the main plotline — has been arguably the most controversial aspect of this movie but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you really start to dissect what’s happening. The problem is the story isn’t exactly easy to follow — without prior knowledge of the Marvel cosmic universe, it can get flat out confusing at times.
That said, “Eternals” does a good job of laying out that plot in detail through flashbacks as well as conversations between characters. It’s those long blocks of exposition that might bother some moviegoers because this particular film isn’t non-stop action and that’s certainly a departure from many Marvel favorites.
When it comes to the acting, “The Eternals” absolutely kills it in the casting department, particularly with Gemma Chan in her role as Sersi. She serves as the centerpiece throughout the film and she can stand toe-to-toe with some real heavyweights sharing the screen with her.
Richard Madden gives a stellar performance, which should be no surprise for anybody who watched the former “Game of Thrones” actor in his Golden Globe winning role in the series “Bodyguard” except this time around he’s playing the most powerful Eternal in the entire group as the Superman-like Ikaris.
As previously mentioned, Kumail Nanjiani is definitely having the most fun in his role as Kingo, the Bollywood superstar who also happens to be an immortal Eternal.
Two of the biggest names amongst the cast — Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek — are actually not the main featured stars, which some will see as a detriment but in reality they both just let the cast members around them shine throughout the movie.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
Two things in particular — first, there’s a whole lot of world building happening in “Eternals” and while that absolutely pays off when it comes to character development, it does slow the movie down to a crawl at times.
Considering the team runs 10 people deep, it’s actually quite wonderful that Zhao makes sure to give each member of the Eternals their own spotlight so it doesn’t feel like any one character takes priority over another but that also requires a tremendous amount of effort in a movie that already runs around two and a half hours.
The second gripe is minor but might seem major to the devoted Marvel audience.
One thing that this studio does so much better than Warner Bros. manages with most of the DC films out there is that Marvel movies still manage to inject a lot of fun and often times plenty of comedy to go along with the overall story being told.
While there are a couple of laughs to be had in “The Eternals,” this is a very serious movie where you’ll rarely see anybody crack a smile. It’s so dour at times you’d think Zack Snyder directed it.
For a typically fun-loving studio like Marvel, that’s a big departure, even when compared to movies like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” which both deal with death, loss and in some cases half the universe being blinked out of existence.
By no means does the gloomy mood ruin the movie — if anything it actually sets the stage for the high stakes at the center of the plot — but there won’t be many giggles or good time moments during “Eternals.”
Some people will hate this film but for my money, “Eternals” is the best Marvel movie so far in 2021 — a year that already includes “Black Widow” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (still waiting on “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to come out in December).
The film deals in really heavy subject matter with a real cosmic overtone but the overall story is still great, the action scenes are top notch and the direction is award worthy. In other words, bravo Marvel for taking a chance with a movie like “Eternals” because this truly feels like something special.
“Eternals” gets 4 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale.