Eternals Review: An Ambitious Mess

Image Credit: Variety

Eternals marks the twenty-sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directed by Academy Award Winner Chloe Zhao, and based on the comics of the same name by Jack Kirby.

The film tells the tale of immortal aliens with superpowers known as The Eternals, created by a god-like race known as the Celestials, who created the universe and all life in it. The Eternals are sent to various planets to protect intelligent life from an alien race known as the Deviants, however they must follow one rule: never interfere in a conflict involving deviants.

The film features an ensemble cast starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, and Kit Harrington.

The cast of characters that guide this film were sent to Earth thousands of years ago, and after wiping out the deviants on Earth they settled down on the planet for hundreds of years. This all changes after the events of Avengers Endgame, where half the population came back after Thanos had snapped them out of existence. The sudden return of the population triggered an event known as the Emergence, and it threatened all life on the planet, and only Earth’s Eternals could stop it.

Chloe Zhao did an exceptional job of bringing new life into the franchise. Another positive of the film is that everyone in the cast did a great job with their performances; there was not one bad performance. The standout to me was Kingo played Kumail Nanjiani, who has some hilarious lines and high-action moments.

With the positives out of the way, several issues with the script bring this film down. The biggest problem the film had is that it was way too crowded and boggled. At 2 hours and 37 minutes, Eternals is just behind Avengers Endgame for the longest film in the MCU, but it feels like a film that could have used more time.

The Eternals are a group that has ten members in its roster, but a good chunk of them do not feel as developed as they could have been. Compared to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, another MCU film that had a much smaller team than Eternals, Guardians is a noticeably shorter film. In Guardians, it took the team to establish each member and make the audience care about them while creating fun, family-like chemistry between the cast.

In Eternals, multiple members felt underdeveloped, and some feel like they had entire arcs off-screen, along with with two main villains, loads of world-building, and thematic elements. This film feels like it makes some of the mistakes of other superhero films like Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Batman v Superman; films were boggled down by trying so many things at once. The film might have been better had the cast been cut down a bit and limited itself to just a single villain, or save the present-day aspect for a sequel and have this film take place hundreds of years prior where the Eternals were battling the deviants non-stop.

With the MCU now creating shows like Wandavision, Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I cannot help but feel this film would have been better if Marvel decided to make it a Disney Plus show instead. If this were a six to nine-episode television show, we would have more time to truly flesh out and develop every cast member and explore each of the show’s themes to its full potential. On the other hand, it can get a sequel to help flesh out these things now that the groundwork has been laid. As a stand-alone film, I cannot help but feel making the Eternals a film was a poor choice, and I can see a sequel filling in gaps and smoothing things out, such as Captain America the Winter Soldier did, which is still my favorite MCU film to this date.

Unfortunately, for all its ambition, Eternals does not live up to most of it. While Eternals is not a bad film, and I did enjoy it to some extent, it does not reach the potential it has. I do appreciate aspects of the film, such as the cinematography and set designs. I also like how this film feels different from the typical Marvel norm, especially coming off stuff like Black Widow, which felt very stale and formulaic. Eternals is an okay film, and I cannot help but think that making it a movie rather than a tv series was a poor choice.

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