After years of mounting success and popularity, the imminent arrival of any new Marvel Cinematic Universe — or MCU — movie is highly anticipated. “Eternals” is no exception, especially with its impressive star-studded cast. With beloved actors like Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, a diverse new group of superheroes and a plot that will play a large role in the MCU’s Phase Four, how could “Eternals” go wrong? In some ways, it certainly doesn’t, and makes for an entertaining theater outing. However, it’s no secret that “Eternals” has disappointed audiences in a surprising turn of events. With such mixed reactions, how does “Eternals” fare as the newest Marvel movie — and is it worth the watch?
Where Does “Eternals” Go Right?
“Eternals” is still a Marvel movie, which means it has the large budget and impressive array of directors, writers, actors and other professionals needed to make a good movie. Because of this, there are inevitably some great aspects to this two-and-a-half-hour epic. For starters, “Eternals” boasts an impressive and diverse cast. The 10 Eternals introduced in this film are Ajak, Thena, Sersi, Ikaris, Druig, Gilgamesh, Makkari, Phastos, Kingo and Sprite. Makkari — the Eternal with super speed — is played by Lauren Ridloff and is the first deaf superhero introduced in the MCU. Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is a gay, Black superhero with a husband and son, while Thena, played by Angelina Jolie, openly struggles with mental illness and repressed memories throughout the movie.
With such progressive characters, “Eternals” introduces a refreshing group of superheroes who represent real-world demographics, making these god-like individuals relatable and lovable. Each Eternal is a one-of-a-kind, both in their personalities and their powers. In this way, director Chloé Zhao rids her film of typical, cookie-cutter superhero archetypes.
“Eternals” also gets its humor right, especially via Kumail Nanjiani’s character, Kingo, and his hilarious sidekick videographer. It’s no shock that Nanjiani’s character is the heart of the film’s comedy given his well-known and lengthy success in the comedy industry. These two eccentric characters bounce off of each other throughout the film perfectly, providing ridiculous but genuine commentary and behavior that refreshes audiences in the midst of otherwise heavy, cliché dialogue and epic battles. So, if viewers choose to watch “Eternals,” they can at least look forward to a universal humor that has everyone in the theater laughing out loud.
Of course, two constants of the MCU that fans can look forward to in “Eternals” are amazing CGI effects and stunning visuals, as well as post-movie scenes that are tiny, shocking and captivating themselves. “Eternals” contains two surprise scenes, and both are well worth the wait. They introduce cliffhangers, new characters and plot twists that any good MCU post-movie scene should contain.
In addition, “Eternals” possesses numerous beautifully crafted battle scenes. The main villains of the film, the Deviants, are CGI monsters that are a sight to behold, and seeing each Eternal reveal their awe-inspiring powers is equally enthralling. Watching Sersi change a red bus into a sea of butterflies, Ikaris shooting Deviants with his Superman-like laser eyes or Sprite creating illusions so thick that the audience is deceived creates immersive sensory experiences that are a joy, especially on the big screen. And of course, “Eternals” is a pivotal movie for avid MCU fans, as it will play a crucial role in Marvel’s Phase Four, which will mark a new era for the MCU, introducing new villains, characters, cosmic catastrophes and more. As such, it’s safe to say that the Eternal superheroes will have a large stake in this new phase of adventures.
Where “Eternals” Goes Awry
With these positives in mind, it’s a shame that “Eternals” goes off track in other ways. For starters, clichés and cheesy moments plague the film. With a character named Ikaris, one can only imagine the puns and innuendos made regarding the old legend about the boy who flew too close to the sun. These mythological clichés aren’t only reserved for Ikaris, as the originality of characters like Thena and Gilgamesh are often tarnished by too much focus on well-established, real-world legends that pertain to their famous names. MCU’s first ever love scene is another cheesy, over-the-top moment that isn’t actually a love scene — the promise of this first was underwhelming in actuality.
Having such a large, star-studded cast is also a double-edged sword. Balancing well-seasoned narratives and character development for 10 new superheroes simultaneously is too ambitious for this two-and-a-half-hour-long movie. While this seems like an objectively long runtime for any film, it’s still not enough to give each character arc the attention it deserves. Because of this, audiences may finish the movie feeling vaguely entertained, yet not completely attached to any of the characters.
Overall, the speed of the story is inconsistent. Some stretches of the film are strangely long and take a lot of time to go over details or side events that end up stealing from the main crisis at hand. These long stretches are often followed by battle scenes or plot twists that are so rapid that they leave viewers confused and dazed rather than pleasantly surprised. Given that the “Eternals” plot is already convoluted enough, a steady pacing of the film would have been helpful in balancing out both character development and the arc of the story itself.
Part of the confusion of “Eternals” is inevitable though, as these god-like individuals are dealing with a problem so cosmic and unsolvable that viewers may find themselves questioning what the point of the story is anyways. It’s dissatisfying for the heroes, because it seems like what they’re fighting for is futile and impossible.
On top of that, although the Eternals briefly mention other superheroes and villains in the MCU, how exactly “Eternals” will neatly converge with other storylines in the franchise remains unknown. This is an especially disappointing aspect of the film, given that the Eternals are set to play a pivotal role in Phase Four; with this in mind, it would have been nice to see a clearer, more concise connection between this group of superheroes and others, like Dr. Strange, Loki or Wanda.
It seems that the greatest downfall of “Eternals” is that it tries to juggle too much at once. Perhaps if the plot had been simplified a bit or if the characters were each given more time to blossom and shine, this film would have been received much better. Regardless, if viewers are looking for a generally entertaining superhero movie with humor, satisfying sensory experiences and an array of excellent actors and diverse characters, “Eternals” is still worth the watch, despite its lack of balance or cohesion.