‘Eternals’ review

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

A film centering on comic book characters that hardly anyone has read, it’s “Eternals.” This is seen by many as Marvel’s attempts at branching outside of their standard formula to do something outside of the general norm. When it was first announced, people didn’t know what to think. There were certainly elements to be excited about as the cast lineup looked great, the idea sounds interesting, and we’ve seen Marvel’s do well with less popular properties in the past. However, despite this, it doesn’t seem to be landing with many people including critics. In fact, this is the first MCU movie to have a rotten critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. So what is it about this movie that seems to have people split down the middle? Let’s take a look and see.

The film focuses on the Eternals, an immortal alien race created by the Celestials who have lived on Earth for over 7,000 years. Despite their presence, they take no part in historic human events as their sole mission is to defend humanity from a race called the “Deviants.” Now, in the modern day, they are forced to reunite once again to battle their ancient foes once more.

 Courtesy of Marvel Studios

With all the buildup and bad reviews going in, this begs the question if the criticisms against this movie are warranted? In my opinion, yes. This is definitely one of Marvel’s lesser offerings. With that said, I don’t get the impression that the creators weren’t giving all their effort, or that it was different visions colliding with one another. 

You can see there are good ideas strewn throughout here. The setup had potential where you have these immortal superheroes who lived on Earth since the dawn of time and have influenced our history and mythologies. They bring up the moral issue of if they should have acted during the terrible events in our history, and why they didn’t. Ideas like this do have potential as this gives the opportunity to explore how these people would react to living through such events and how they would turn out. Unfortunately, one of the biggest issues with this film is that most of the characters don’t have much personality. In that, most of the people here have that same level of acting where they look and emote the same way. They have a specific way of speaking with large amounts of dialogue and exposition. From a certain point of view that would make sense, as people who have lived for thousands of years would act this way as they have lived through so much. The downside to that is there is no variety of performance between these characters with the exception of a few. The best way I can describe this film is Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” if most of the characters were Cyclops, with dialogue written by the Architect from “The Matrix Reloaded.” 

This film is established in a routine of exposition between the characters, where every now and then they would fight some random evil that pops up. The action scenes in this are pretty underwhelming. A lot of that does come from the fact that we aren’t given a good idea of what their individual powers are, and their enemies are these CGI monsters. On top of that, you aren’t given time to get to know most of these people because the film jumps back and forth so much. When I think of characters I enjoyed here, actors like Kuman Nanjiani as Kingo come to mind as he lives in the modern day as a Bollywood star, and has some funny moments with his valet Karun played by Harish Patel. I also liked Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos who has a passion for inventing, but also wishes to move on with his life when he starts a family. Characters like this are more memorable because they are given a distinct personality that people can relate to. This is not to say the other actors aren’t trying, as they are clearly giving their all. It’s just that most of them have the same type of performance. In certain scenes, this can work really well. But when it’s throughout the majority of the film, it gets to a point where you have trouble remembering their names, powers, and even personalities. If this aspect was going to work, they needed to give these people more distinct identities.

 Courtesy of Marvel Studios

The other major issue in this film is the editing. This is a movie that cuts back and forth between past events and modern day. I’ve seen this type of story done before, and was interested to see how they would handle it. The editing is inconsistent in a way where you make random cuts to past and present, and stay in certain parts for long periods of time with characters that hardly go through any form of development. It also doesn’t help that these scenes are put together in a way that feels out of order, and causes your suspension of disbelief to hinder. For example, they are sent to protect humanity from these Deviants, but don’t act upon any of the larger events of human history. They do give a reason for it, but even then it’s not a good explanation to begin with.

However, I will say this is an impressive looking movie. They went out of their way to give it a large scale, massive power levels, and even some big landscapes. The people behind it did say this was going to be a different kind of Marvel film. You can tell they wanted to be more serious and address certain issues. The problem is that they didn’t have any interesting characters to latch onto. The movie was also jumping around so much that people didn’t have time to connect with any of them. Even some of the ideas that you think would get more attention are left behind fairly quickly. For example, these Deviants have the ability to absorb the Eternals’ powers and their memories. On paper, this is a cool idea. However, they don’t explain it and it’s set up just to have a pointless antagonist for the climax. You also have Angelina Jolie as Thena who has a condition called the “Mahd Wy’ry” that causes her to forget where they are in time. This could have been an excellent way to explore the dangers of longevity in these characters, but it’s not explored much and is practically forgotten by the end of the film. This is a shame because I can easily see these ideas being done well, it’s just that they are not given much detail and aren’t conveyed correctly.

It’s strange, because if you were to see these scenes of any part of the movie on their own, you wouldn’t necessarily see any problems with them. But the more you watch it as a whole, the more you notice certain elements not connecting. This film feels off in a way that it makes you question whether or not these scenes were meant to be edited that way, or if they forgot to insert certain details along the way. But as the film continues, you start to see numerous inconsistencies to a point where you’re scratching your head asking how this connects.

I wish I could have seen the filmmaking process of this, as Chloe Zhao is a good director. This reminds me a bit of Ang Lee when he did “Hulk,” in that the studio brought in a talented director to work on a movie outside of their medium. I’m curious if this was the film version that either Marvel studios or the director wanted. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the director’s vision. Mainly because there were times where I forgot I was watching a Marvel movie. But unlike something like “Black Panther” or “Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings” that had interesting ideas and characters, this one feels too scattered and even dull at times.

 Courtesy of Marvel Studios

If any of this does not interest you, you’re most likely going to find this film really boring. Most of it is because there isn’t much character here. I understand the idea they were aiming for with these immortal beings. But in terms of personality and how this movie is edited, it doesn’t really amount to anything. While it’s not a run of the mill film, it isn’t something I’m going to be returning to quickly any time soon. But who knows, maybe there is a crowd out there that will get into this film. I have yet to hear from any of them, but a big world means a wide variety of opinions. If you’re looking for a Marvel movie to pass the time before the next Disney+ series, this is fine for a sit through. But if you’re looking for something with more identity and character, then it doesn’t look like these Eternals will stay eternal for very long.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails


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