Eternals is the latest film in the MCU, and it has been an interesting week leading up to its release. It is officially the worst (critic) rated Marvel film thus far (it was bound to happen), but would audiences think the same? Well, for this viewer…?
I LOVED IT.
Let’s dive in.
1: Talent: Not only is this the most diverse cast for a Marvel movie but it is damn sure one of the most talented. For a group of characters that are showing up in film for the first time, AND being a group of characters with very little comics “pull,” I was amazed at how quickly I was emotionally drawn in.
Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek really stood out to me in their roles. Thena’s chemistry with Gilgamesh consumed me? From the jump we are told the lovers story is between Sersi and Ikarus, but I could honestly could have cared less after the first few moments with Jolie and Don Lee on screen.
Kumail Nanjiani and Bryan Tyree Henry are great comedic performers in this movie. As a gay man myself I was anxious going to see Henry’s performance as Phastos, but, to my joy, he killed it. Not only in the comedic aspect but in the emotional as well. More on that in a bit.
2: Chemistry: A true ensemble film. Sometimes movies get presented as that and end up being more about two to three characters with everyone else serving as background dancers. Eternals takes its ten characters and does good work at introducing them, developing them, and giving each moment(s) to stand out.
Though there was emphasis on romantic relationships, and great chemistry in some of those, the group of eternals together really sold that feeling of family. If nothing else, if you’re just looking for a worthy batch of new MCU characters this film 100% delivers.
3: Visuals/Action: Early reviews mentioned lack of action and that the film was boring at times. I highly disagree there. To me the film had great action sequences. The usual amount you find in any other Marvel movie, really. What made the action sequences in this particular film stand out was the hidden benefit of this being such an unknown comic property.
The film took many liberties with the source material and likely felt able to do that because of the lack of awareness for this IP. That lack of awareness meant that the fate of the ten eternals was free game! I found myself experiencing tension in this movie that I hadn’t really experienced in any other MCU film other than Endgame; my heroes could die and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Superb.
4: The Conversation: I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea… But you give me a film with some existential elements and religious allegory? I’M LOCKED IN. I appreciated this recipe where Ajak serves as the mother to these nine eternals. They all protect humanity from the deviants until the last is killed and at that moment she decides to let her children go. They have the right to go and live their own lives among humanity and decide for themselves what the value in all of it is.
The characters in their own arcs get to show us so many aspirations for living; Kingo and fame, Gilgamesh and Thena through protecting what means most to us, Sprite through the desire of experiencing a complete life, Phastos for family, Druig for justice and a better world, Makkari through the embrace of the simple pleasures, and Ikarus and the commitment to dogmas for purpose.
Through the exploration of the characters’ quests among humanity the film was able to deliver thought provoking scenes throughout. Ikarus’ blind faith proves itself to be dangerous and serves as a loud message to the audience; one that seems to particularly resignate today. His being the most powerful in the group has strong sway over the others when it comes time to make a decision about what to do about Tiamut. Though I was annoyed by some decisions and hurt by others, the variety in reactions grounded the third act for me beyond just the action.
5: Step in the right direction: Early buzz said that this was NOT a Marvel movie. For me, this is VERY much part of the MCU formula but it is certainly the most deviant (see what I did there?) from it.
Eternals stepped into some darker spaces and took a few new risks. I applaud Phastos being a character who happens to be gay and allowing that element of his character to breathe in the movie rather than just popping up for ten seconds so the studio can edit it out for international release.
Sure, the first sex scene in the MCU appears in Eternals. Sex is natural; awesome!
Ultimately its a movie that reflects inwards rather than being the standard rise of a hero punching the villain and rolling credits. the MCU has done that already. Many times. Eternals takes creative steps in the right direction and does something that we should see more of in blockbusters; risks.
(bonus): I don’t mean for it to be a woke thing, but Ikarus is front and center of every promo for this movie as our white hetero Superman. The fact that it was the black, gay, and bulky hero that ultimately was able to thwart him gave the kid inside of me so much joy. I’m sure many will roll their eyes at that but Phastos being the one to subdue the dogmatic makes me feel it couldn’t have been a coincidence. Chef’s kiss.
1: The centerpiece: It pains me to say it… The weakest part of this movie was the character at its center; Sersi. There was nothing that was really anchoring me to the character or the performance. Yes, there is the conflict between herself and Ikarus but, again, I was so much more enamored with the few moments I had with Thena and Gilgamesh. The sexual tension between Druig and Makkari was fantastic. Sersi just overall fell a bit flat. Fortunately, it did not hurt my experience with this movie but I can understand how it may for others.
2:We may have missed some opportunities: The powers of the leader deviant absorbing the eternals and thus evolving was a fascinating concept to me. Being able to absorb Ajak was the most beneficial as it allowed itself to be formidable against the heroes and also forced the team to lose their healer (you always kill the healer first).
However, I felt it was just the WRONG decision to kill Don Lee’s Gilgamesh. First of all, taking his powers does nothing to really amplify Kro’s position against them. It also forced us to lose the strongest romance in this thing (as you can tell I can’t shut up about it).
Druig can literally control the minds of humans…?! Like…?! Alas, the deviants were more than anything just a red herring. A red herring that was too well set up that by the third act Kro’s appearance is a bit out of place? Come back later? The movie successfully gave us two worthy plots for attention; the dichotomy between the experiences of the deviants and eternals as creations of the celestials and the rise of Tiamut and the moral struggle to determine what the right thing to do is.
The third act didn’t have enough space to do them both justice and unfortunately Kro suffered for it. I will say that I was pleased Thena was the one to kill him and I appreciated the narrative choice on how to make that happen.
I give Marvel’s Eternals an 8/10