Eternals (2021)


The most recent movie I watched was Marvel's Eternals. It's about a race of immortal beings with superpowers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years, reuniting to battle evil life forms known as Deviants. The 3rd film of Phase 4 is the 26th film in the MCU with more coming well into next year. This is a SPOILER-FREE review. Is the newest installment an epic worthy of the name or just an epic fail?

Director Chloé Zhao has made a name for herself with several independent films. This gave her the ability to focus on more character-driven, simplistic stories on a small scale. She shows her skill here to an extent. Most of the heroes have hopes, fears, and various degrees of love for humanity. Zhao humanizes characters very well, as with most of her films. One flawless too many characters leave little room for each one to be fully explored. Her ambitious vision gives a grand sense of scale to showcase thousands of years of history. It reminds me of classic sword and sandals epics like Lawrence of Arabia or Spartacus but on a cosmic scale.

Written by Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo, this film was laden with symbolism and shares thought-provoking ideals like existential and philosophical questions about life. I love the inclusion of folklore and mythology like how they were the ones who inspired the legends and history we know. A good character-driven story is told with a steady slow burn. Not predictable or formulaic making for a very different MCU film in a good way. It has plot holes but they don't ruin the film because it was so successful having characters I cared about despite not knowing much from the comics beforehand but the pacing is off because some characters get relegated to the sideline because of time constraints. The ending is rushed too, with some subplots not fully panning out. Perhaps if they had fewer characters to focus on, certain aspects wouldn't feel forced or too convenient sometimes.

Gemma Chan is Sersi. Unfortunately, her flat performance seems like she didn't know how to play her. I don't understand why she's the main character. She has no distinct point of view and no leadership qualities. She thinks Earth is pretty and she loves people. That's it. It's a shame such an accomplished actress isn't properly utilized. Richard Madden, Game of Thrones, is Ikaris. He's stoic as I'd imagine an Eternal would be, but his compelling perspective makes him more interesting than others. The chemistry between the two leads worked for me as well. They're the heart of the film and he's a definite highlight.

Kumail Nanjiani, from Silicon Valley and the Big Sick, is Kingo. He's excellent as the comic relief. He's paired with Harish Patel, from Run Fatboy Run, as Karun, Kingo's human valet. Together they hilariously provide many laugh-out-loud moments. While using humour to keep things light-hearted, this is a much darker, more serious film that doesn't rely on it. It also doesn't cheapen any dramatic moments with quips.

Lia McHugh is Sprite, with her quirky personality and playful demeanour, she quickly became my favourite of the team. She's more sympathetic in my opinion with her heartfelt background. Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos is likeable but not enough time is spent with him. Lauren Ridloff as Makkari. As much as I appreciate seeing someone deaf/mute in a major Hollywood film, it doesn't make sense for the narrative. It could have been used as a plot device but instead, they do nothing with it. Originally being depicted as a white, hearing male in the Marvel comics, her character is touched on so little I wonder why she is in the film at all. She doesn't do anything and has no role in the plot. She's just there because it's progressive and feels forced. Barry Keoghan as Druig is intriguing. He has very different opinions than his companions so he adds conflict to the mix. Unfortunately, his ideas are only touched on, not explored exclusively. Don Lee is Gilgamesh. He suffers from underdeveloped characterization, therefore, doesn't have much impact on anything.

Angelina Jolie is Thena. Her complex background could have served as the main plot but is touched on only briefly and the amazing actress is severely underused. Salma Hayek as Ajak is also a confusing casting choice aside from being culturally diverse. I don't understand why she's in the film and is miscast here. The character being there makes sense however her casting is a confusing thing. Lastly, Kit Harrington, in Game of Thrones, plays Dane Whitman. He's fine in the role but it's hinted he'll matter more later so why not wait to introduce him in the sequel that's probably already planned to make room for others?

The Deviants looking like something right out of Final Fantasy is a nice touch. It gives them this otherworldly, completely alien feel. Their fight scenes have some of the highest calibre CGI seen in the MCU so far.

Ramin Djawadi is a German composer known for Iron Man(2008) and Game of Thrones. His music here superbly suits the grandiose scale of the new film.

Overall, I really enjoyed it despite its faults. I recommend it because it's an epic film made to be seen in theatres. It's not in my Top 5 but there have been worse MCU movies. I'd put it in my Top 10 for sure. I needed some time to process the densely concentrated character-driven, historical drama because so much is involved. It will certainly require repeat viewings to absorb it all. I feel like this film will be appreciated more with multiple viewings. I was spellbound by most of the characters and the astonishing set-pieces. Sloppy writing aside, I was still invested in the history of the world according to the MCU. For example, I like how they explain why the Eternals haven't participated up until this point. Among the film's many plot holes, this explanation makes the most sense. It would have been nice if the side characters had a role in the plot. Most characters don't have time to shine because their so many characters involved. The end drastically diminishes all the characters anyway making it worse but that's all I have to say about that. Make sure you stay for BOTH post-credits scenes too. And remember, which came first at the beginning, the Celestial or the Infinity Stones?

Grade: Large Popcorn



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