Eternals is Marvel’s latest superhero offering in the MCU to hit our screens. Directed by award-winning director Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), expectations were high, and as an ensemble, the Eternals have big shoes to fill. However, despite a trailer that showed some promise, Eternals is lacking in everything that has made the MCU what it is today.
The film follows the Eternals, a group of aliens created by cosmic gods known as Celestials 7000 years ago, sent to Earth to protect it from an evil race known as the Deviants. They’re led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), the Prime Eternal acting on instruction from a Celestial known as Arishem. After living on earth for thousands of years, they eventually vanquish all of the Deviants and the Eternals go their separate ways, on the basis that they must never interfere with the lives of humans unless deviants are involved.
Jumping to the present day, Sersi (Gemma Chan) is living in London with fellow Eternal, Sprite (Lia McHugh), and attempting to maintain a normal relationship with human Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington). On their way home from a night out, they’re attacked by a deviant and rescued by Eternal and Sersi’s old flame, Ikaris (Richard Madden). Linking the return of the deviants to worsening earthquakes across the globe, the trio realises that a bigger event is unfolding and decide to seek out the rest of their family.
In addition to Ajak, they seek out Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who’s been living the high life as a Bollywood star for over a century. Druig (Barry Keoghan) who has used his mind control powers to rule over a jungle community. Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), who has been living a normal life with his husband and child in Chicago. Thena (Angelina Jolie) and Gilgamesh (Don Lee), who have been living in the Australian outback, and deaf Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) who has been residing in the group’s spaceship hidden in the Iraqi desert. Once reunited, the group must work together to stop the deviants and protect the world they’ve come to love.
Following on from the likes of the Avengers films is a tough job and unfortunately, Eternals just isn’t up to the task, to the point where this doesn’t even feel like a Marvel film or part of the MCU. It’s lacking in everything that has made other Marvel films so successful and is especially devoid of the wit, heart and humour we’ve come to love from the MCU. Instead of a witty, intelligent script, here we’re given cheesy, stilted dialogue with every cliché you could think come up with for a superhero film. There are some funny moments, mostly courtesy of Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo and his valet Karun (Harish Patel), but otherwise, it’s a very serious, and often dull, affair.
The cast does their best with what they’ve got to work with, but they’re hampered by their wooden, underdeveloped characters and the troubled script. The likes of Barry Keoghan, Don Lee and surprisingly Angelina Jolie, are by far the most charismatic and showed promise, had they been given a better opportunity to shine. Kit Harrington’s character was entirely pointless except for furthering an end credits sequence, although when on-screen he was by far the most engaging. Unfortunately, it’s Gemma Chan and Richard Madden that suffer the most as the leads, having to dish out most of the clunky dialogue and resulting in characters that are pretty uninteresting. Of course, the Eternals aren’t helped by the fact that not all of their powers are particularly interesting. Thena, Druig, Kingo and Gilgamesh have fun or intriguing powers, but the others less so. Also, there are a least 2 characters here that are far too reminiscent of other superheroes from the DC universe (namely Superman and The Flash) so it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Although I did really enjoy a rather meta-reference to the former in the film, and not something I would’ve expected.
There’s no doubt that Eternals looks good. The cinematography is beautiful and the majority of the action scenes are graceful and well done. However, with a runtime of 2 hours and 37 minutes, this film is far too long. It spends too much time in the past giving us a drawn-out history of the Eternals that isn’t entirely necessary. It says a lot when the scene I enjoyed the most out of the entire runtime was the first end-credits scene – no spoilers but I enjoyed it a lot more than anything in the rest of the film.
As the first ensemble film in Phase 4 of the MCU, Eternals had a lot to live up to and I’m afraid it just didn’t deliver. It wasn’t a bad movie, but compared to everything that has come before it in the MCU, it just doesn’t meet the grade. There is a lot of promise though, so I really hope this can be utilised in future films and that the tone set here isn’t a sign of what the MCU is moving towards.
See all photos >>
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!