Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), an unexpected tragedy forces the Eternals, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years, out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s most ancient enemy, the Deviants.
Could superhero fatigue be on the horizon when it comes to comic book films? With Marvel Studios/Disney producing over 25 films with the same familiar formula, one might assume so. Especially since the mentioned production house isn’t the only business making superhero films. However, there’s something fresh and new about the 26th Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, the Eternals, from Academy Award-winning director Chloé Zhao (Nomadland). Whether fresh and new will appeal to wide audiences around the world is up for debate, but at least the auteur behind the camera left her signature stamp of filmmaking style within the most successful franchise in history. That opens up possibilities that are beyond your wildest imagination.
Within this overarching comic book story, half the universe was wiped away by Thanos, then suddenly brought back five years later by the heroes of earth. There has to be something special said about these people achieving such an amazing feat that no other group was able to accomplish. With universal ending catastrophes as this that have come and gone, what other threats in the cosmos could possibly measure up or supersede it? One of the best aspects of Eternals is it answers that question in a vast number of ways. Eternals treats the MCU as if everything that came before is meaningless! It makes you feel as if everything done so far was only scratching the surface. There’s a feeling that these stories can continue to unfold for decades, crossing over different species of life, civilizations, planets, and galaxies without feeling too old or repetitive. The most exciting thing is knowing that there is so much more to explore.
Zhao knows how to shoot a film too. While this may not be the best overall MCU film, it has some of the best cinematography that’s out on the market even outside of the MCU. This is a remarkably beautiful film to look at, especially on a giant IMAX screen. The wide shots of rural landscapes and the contrast of colors were some of the best eye candy. This is especially noticeable when each different Eternal is using their unique powers. One of the highlights of the film is the old gold that stands out like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz.
The colors from the characters’ costumes pop out at you even more. Marvel is known for having a great make-up and costume department, and it looks like they stepped it up a couple of notches this time around. This could easily be a new fashion statement down the runway from looking as great as they did. Though while I did love each Eternal’s costume, I don’t feel that way about each of their personalities. They’re all very difficult to attach yourself to or feel as if they’re relatable. This may be by design since they’re not human, but I’ve had more of an emotional connection with previous MCU characters that weren’t human either. On the flip side, it does make sense to take this route from a story point of view, being that our lives are perceived meaningless to individuals whose powers are on a completely different level than the ones on earth, but it felt like a missed opportunity to connect with the audience or get them to care about the main cast of the film.
Not only that, but the acting also suffered tremendously from at least four out of the ten main Eternals. This is something Marvel has never had an issue with in the past and was a big surprise while watching the film. Of course, that aspect is completely subjective, but the delivery from the characters of Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Druig (Barry Keoghan) were not horrible, but did stand out as the weakest in the bunch. I found myself not caring about them as much as others. Druig is an exception, however. There was something worthy about him, but again the acting was a misfire.
The action however was not a misfire. That aspect was a true hit. I enjoyed every moment of that especially the end when all the Eternals show up for the final showdown. Plot within action is necessary so that all of the kicks, punches, and explosions amount to more than pointless visual noise and they knocked those moments out of the park.
The film is also very long, running over two hours and thirty minutes, and a second viewing may be necessary to get a full comprehension of the story to even see if it all makes sense. This may seem like a delight for some, but a chore to others, which is a testament to how the pacing of the film could’ve been much better.
Though the absolute most astounding moments of the whole film were the depiction of beings known as the Celestials. My goodness gracious did they look amazing! These massive giant thousands of feet tall space gods beings were dominant, powerful, and outright scary looking. The sheer mass, scale, and scope of these tower houses of sentience were mind-blowing. It’s just another example of how much more of the MCU there is to dive into before it’s all over.
Eternals will raise a ton of questions as far as what Marvel has next up their sleeve planned for release. While Eternals is different than any other MCU film, it’s still an achievement. Most audiences won’t feel that way, due to its foreign nature, but mixing up the pot just a little may be beneficial in the long run. It is surely debatable whether the subject matter is entertaining, but what is completely unobjectionable is the technical achievements that Zhao was able to deliver.