I went into Chloe Zhao’s Eternals with an open mind; despite the negative critical and commercial reaction that greeted the film upon release – which was enough to dampen my anticipation for this MCU entry and just await its arrival on Disney Plus – I was determined to form my own opinion of the film regardless.
The Eternals are a group of superpowered individuals created to protect the world from ‘Deviants’ – a race of malevolent creatures who the Eternals believe they’ve eradicated in the 1500s – who have lived on Earth for thousands of years, forbidden from meddling in non-Deviant related human affairs no matter how dire circumstances may become. When one of the Eternals is found dead, the Deviants are suspected to be responsible – but it soon becomes apparent that there’s a much bigger problem on the horizon. Will the Eternals side with their creator or will they choose to rebel?
I guess, more importantly – will anyone care? Eternals drags on interminably, with viewers spending in inordinate amount of time getting to know a group of boring personality vacuums with little to distinguish them, across thousands of years of history (and boy, does it feel like you’ve spent thousands of years in their company by the end). Though the cast is impressively and admirably diverse, unfortunately there’s little of interest done with any of the characters – and even a few heel turns that kick off the third act don’t elicit much of an emotional response from the viewer.
Everyone is just so dull; from their sullen, detached performances across the board to their uninspiring costumes and powers – all of which feel as if they’re knock-offs of far more interesting superheroes in much more exciting stories. There’s also the repeated hammering home of the Eternals not being ‘able’ to intervene no matter what, which of course means no action taken during numerous wars and atrocities or even over the events of Infinity War and Endgame; none of which is particularly convincing when the third act kicks off and they just decide to intervene anyway. The final battle is a real letdown too, especially given the slow build up to it.
It’s not all bad though. It’s a beautiful film from a visual standpoint, despite there being some surprisingly terrible special effects for an MCU film. There’s that admirable diversity too, which results in the first real same sex relationship shown on screen in an MCU movie (and the first MCU sex scene between two other characters, but this is just as awkward and oddly emotionless as much of the rest of the film).
Yet it just feels so pointless. The characters feel detached and uninterested even when they’re declaring feelings for each other – and even when there are a few moments of emotion, they somehow don’t ring true. There’s some attempts at humour which – perhaps due to the overall dour tone – also just fall really flat too, which is certainly unusual for an MCU entry.
By the end of the film, I could barely even remember the names of each character – though half the script seemed to be characters saying ‘Sprite!’, so there’s one that stuck in my mind – which is certainly not a good sign, especially in a film with such an impressive cast.
It’s a pretty big disaster. Though the MCU has seen numerous missteps – three which immediately come to mind are Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron – I could never accuse them of being boring or inconsequential in the ever-growing tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The same thing can’t be said of Eternals, unfortunately. A colossal disappointment and massively wasted opportunity to expand the Marvel Universe in interesting new directions.
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