Eternals is the riskiest MCU movie in years, but also one of the most ambitious. It is Disney’s latest attempt to recreate their past successes at bringing long-forgotten comic book characters to mainstream audiences, much like they did with the once unknown Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Coming from the mind of Marvel legend Jack Kirby, The Eternals are a team of immortal beings tasked with shaping the course of human history over thousands of years, whilst also protecting mankind from monstrous creatures known as the Deviants. It is by far the most out-there concept to be adapted by Marvel Studios.
I did not expect this film to work, with it having the unenviable task of introducing a completely new team of heroes into the already packed MCU. With so many new faces, it seemed inevitable that they would all be extremely underdeveloped as characters. Luckily this wasn’t the case for the most part.
The performances are good across the board, with each character having their own unique personality. Some standouts include Gemma Chan’s likeable Sersi, Richard Madden’s stoic Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani’s egotistical Kingo, and Brian Tyree Henry’s humorous Phastos. However, some characters are unfortunately side-lined and feel more one-note, such as Angelina Jolie’s Thena and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari. I was also disappointed at the lack of development given to the more cosmic plot elements like the all-powerful Celestials and vicious Deviants, who both play major roles in the source material. There are many instances where Marvel embraces the Jack Kirby weirdness of the comics, but sadly don’t go far enough.
The century-hopping story tying everything together is surprisingly engaging, however, letting you watch humanity develop through different eras over hundreds of years. This allows for a wide variety of settings throughout the film’s lengthy runtime, from the Stone Age to Babylonian times to the modern-day. We also get to see the characters evolve, with director Chloé Zhao using certain Eternals, such as Barry Keoghan’s Druig, to tackle some deeper themes and thought-provoking questions. There is also a strong familial bond between the Eternals, which results in plenty of fun dialogue and powerful emotional moments.
Chloé Zhao really shows off her talents as a filmmaker, with some of the most spectacular shots to ever grace a Marvel movie. The sheer scale of everything is mind-blowing at times, and it made parts of this movie a feast for the eyes. I hope Marvel will keep experimenting with new visual styles like this in the future.
However, most of Eternals is heavily dependent on its CGI to depict such ambitious visuals. In a lot of cases, it looks phenomenal, especially when the towering Celestials are filling up the screen with their booming presence. On the other hand, certain effects, in particular during action set pieces, do not hold up near as well.
In the end, I enjoyed Eternals a lot more than I expected going in. It is by no means the best MCU entry, with some disappointingly undercooked aspects, but the fun new characters, striking cinematography, epic scale, and general Jack Kirby-isms meant that I still found a lot to like.
Image credit: Marvel Studios