Anthony’s Written Review
Eternals is a world building exercise of eternal proportion.
The time has come, Marvel Studios newest release is one many including myself had their eyes on. An entirely new cast of 10 Hero’s (Eternals), A director coming off from historic Oscar wins (Chloe Zhao), AND the hype of finally getting to see and learn about the celestial beings in the MCU-verse. So, the question becomes Does Eternals break under its massive weight?
Ehh. Not really.
Surprisingly for me the greatest flaws of this film are the exact same flaws that haunt the majority of MCU films for me. But more on that later.
So, what is Eternals? Well, a short synopsis is this. The Eternals, immortal god-like beings, were sent to earth to protect humanity from evil beings called deviants. This film is about their struggles and desire to protect humanity and even question if they are worth saving. That’s about all you need to know.
So, let’s begin with the scope of this film. It is bonkers big. Probably the biggest MCU film ever. It’s not only the second longest film in their filmography and boy does it feel it, but it covers the entire human living timeline. Which if that wasn’t enough, it introduces and establishes a whopping 10 new characters and sets up the entire history of their kind, and the celestial beings that put them here. As a wanna be screenwriter myself, I can feel my heart palpating at the impossibility of the task of getting all this done in a sub 3hr film.
And amazingly, they do a well enough job. The set-up and backstory all make sense, and they gave each of the 10 characters some basic motives, stakes and development. So, before I get into the negatives. I just wanted to take a second and admire the gargantuan feat that any of this made any sense and flowed in any way and had characters that had some driving factors. We all know and remember the Comic-book films that introduce one too many villains and unravel due to it. (Spider-man 3)
Now, I do think the film falters because of its weight. There are simply too many things to check off in this film that makes it lose momentum many, many times. I think you can really feel the run-time drain on you during a few key moments. I think that’s more of a pacing issue than a run-time issue, as I love 3hr+ films. (I am a weirdo). The issues with pacing all derive again from the number of characters and stake building and the ‘pay-offs’ the film must do. No spoilers of course, but the way the film is structured is also a detriment in my eyes. It plays out jumping back and forth between literal thousands of years, and it also continually holds information and key moments from us only to be revealed later. Just from my brief experience writing, this is usually the worst way to handle a narrative of this size, it really blunts any emotional growth or build up because you’re constantly having to re-learn or re-establish characters feelings or motives and ideas. Which of course took me out of the film.
I think a simple change of just playing this film chronologically would’ve helped a ton. Let me experience their lives as eternals first, then let me see how they have adapted, not the other way around.
Speaking of characters, I think at least half of this cast should’ve just been cut out of the film. It’s just too much. Though I did grow to like many of the eternals by their unique traits and personalities, I didn’t really care or grow to feel for any of them. And I think that is from a direct result of not having enough time with any of them, and like in most films, frustratingly, the central main character is the most bland of them all. I love Gemma Chan, but her character, Serisi, here was just so bland and uninteresting and even her powers were lackluster honestly if I had to cut any eternal from this film it’d probably be hers, and the entire narrative is anchored on her. They try to play some sort of love triangle, in two different ways? With Richard Maddens, Ikaris. Who I feel has a lot more meat to chew on, but his character is tied to Serisi who is bland, so it blunts his character?
Speaking of them, all the actors do a fine job with their performances, none of them having enough time to really shine in my mind, but the standouts are Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, and Ma Dong-Seok. The last two have the best emotional arc in my opinion.
This leads me to the issue that almost all MCU films suffer from and is the most frustrating for me in this film. The villains. The deviants in this film set a new low for bad monster design. I mean most of the MCU films have always struggled with weird moments of choppy CGI and especially CGI baddies but WOW these look horrible. They have the typical, giant, alien, big mouth, teeth, Dog-like creature design. And to have the entire narrative hinge on a monster design that not only looks generic, but graphically looks bad. I was shocked to see how uninteresting every single fight was in this film that involved those creatures. It was probably the most checked out I have ever been in a MCU film to date.
It’s such a staggering problem, coming off Shang-Chi which had an undeniable great villain. And then even more shocking when the film introduces other villains, that are far more interesting and dynamic. Like why not have that be the antagonist for the whole film?
The other issue for me is the way film tackles its themes and ideas about humanity worth or not worth saving. It’s a challenging and wonderful question to tackle, but I feel like this film asked the question then simply answered it with no real debate or struggle, which given the amount of time they had, was predictable, and again, this is Disney, so I wasn’t expecting existential thought about humanity, but one can dream.
One last major problem is of course the direction. I love Chloe Zhao’s visual eye in her previous work, and I feel like a lot of her creative eye is missing here, I could not tell a single frame from her or the typical MCU machined look. The only difference is a few real locations shots, that look plastered with CGI.
I think for a 200-million-dollar film it is quite ugly for my taste, bad CGI, nothing really felt real or believable set, costumes or world wise, specifically the world-building of humanity’s past, all those moments felt staged to a boring degree. Which is weird cause I usually don’t notice these kinds of things in MCU films.
So, in ending.
5/10 – Average
Eternals is MCU at its brink. Introducing a whopping 10 eternal beings, spanning all of humanity, and somehow it doesn’t break so if you’re a fan of the MCU you will enjoy this. But its problems are as numerous as its cast of hero’s. Horrible and boring CGI villan’s, an awkward pace and structure, too many ‘elements’ to check off, not enough time to spend with characters, a central character who is bland, The typical machined MCU visual aesthetic (no Zhao flairs here) and a boring score.