Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Rudolf, Kit Harrington, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, and bill Skarsgard.
Directed By: Chloe zhao
Where I Watched it: Disney Plus
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Inexplicably set in the same marvel Cinematic universe as everything else that has been happening, there are these celestial beings that travel all throughout the universe, and on Earth there is a specific group, The Eternals, that are here for a reason not even they fully understand… nor will the audience.
What Works:…I’ll get back to you on that.
What Doesn’t WWork: Wow. I knew I was in for a clusterfuck of exposition and world building when the film just kind of realizes it can’t even explain itself in 2 and 1/2 hours, so it has to open with a Star Wars scroll detailing some key things you need to know before anyone has even set foot on camera.
And that’s really important, because remember that unlike with other Marvel offshoots, these characters are getting the cold open treatment. This is not Black Widow, it’s Shang Chi or Guardians Of The Galaxy. Two films, by the way, that introduced us in much better fashion than Eternals manages to pull off.
This film suffers from needing to consistently explain itself, or validate its existence in some fashion. Early on there is a casual name drop reference to Dr Strange, just so that the audience is aware that these characters know who the pre existing Marvel characters are, though despite being 7,000 years old, they haven’t bothered to encounter them…ever? Supposedly because they are supposed to be hands off observers, though that proves itself to be “we intervene when we feel necessary’. So, Endgame/Infinity War wasn’t a good time for you?
Other Marvel movies have successfully managed to create characters we immediately connect with, and Eternals, which definitely suffers from having too many Eternals, doesn’t do a great job with that. To be fair with what I’m saying, having absorbed what Marvel has put out for me to absorb, Chloe Zhao had a tremendous task ahead of her, as this is an overly complicated series to begin with.
By suddenly revealing that there’s this group of super powerful being that has been living here for 7,000 years, in.addition to the existence of the bad guys they have to fight, they are doing it in a world where we’ve already been absorbing a massive amount of content and world building, now including the Disney Plus shows. There’s a lot of content, and where Shang Chi felt like a guy who could get away with not being someone we would have heard of, The Eternals absolutely come across as somewhat lazy for not being introduced prior.
And that’s not something that the cast or Chloe Zhao can overcome. That’s just a fundamental problem Marvel features now with every new entry. How do you make them fit in this world that’s over 20 film deep as well as the TV shows. And it just keeps going further with each new entry. It either feels organic, or it feels like it did when Dawn popped up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer all of a sudden.
Not to mention, seriously, there is an overly complicated backstory to the existence of The Eternals, as well as the development of their current problem, and just too many damn characters to properly develop. The entire thing feels like an introduction to something more fun and substantial coming down the road, yet it also fails to connect you in.any sort of way that would make you continue to follow these characters on a future journey.
The film is not paced well, dragging for periods of time, as it attempts to explain everything. And some of the length problems are self inflicted. At some point, Chloe Zhao should have taken a step back and realized that what she had in front of her was largely incoherent and a storyboard mess. In an effort to keep the pacing stronger, there needed to be a different version that managed to explain The Eternals, without the ‘getting the gang back together” route it chooses to follow. All that did was take a film that felt like it was intentionally stretching itself out somehow, and making it longer, as we hop from Eternal to Eternal and recruit them back into the core storyline.
If there had been a version of this film that managed to embrace the fun, which this film never does, was tighter, and somehow managed to organically introduce you to the world of The Eternals instead of very obviously using heavy exposition, flashbacks, and a wholly unnecessary opening title scroll, we might see more adventures from The Eternals. As it stands, I don’t expect to see from them again, at least not in their own films. It’s been a minute since the Hulk has had a solo effort, and The Incredible Hulk is a better film than this.
What Works: OK, back to this.Well, I now have to rewatch Thor The Dark World to see if that still remains the worst MCU film. I’m pretty sure Eternals is now the worst, but I look at what was presented, and not knowing the source material well myself, I don’t know what Marvel needed or was pushing Chloe Zhao to make happen in the duration of this film, and this series is seemingly the most complex they’ve attempted. Making matters worse, it’s not the first entry in the MCU, though timeline wise, it probably should have been.
So what does that leave? Not much. The cast isn’t all that memorable. I like these actors, but their roles, I couldn’t care a less about. And poor Kit Harrington is wasted here. Probably more so than any other actor in this ensemble, Harrington drew the shortest stick. If i picked a winner, it would either be Gemma Chan’s Cersei, who hands down has the most screen time, therefore the most character development, or Kumail Nanjiani, who offers some comic relief in an often far too serious movie that drags on for too long. Every once in a while, Nanjiani comes up with just the right way to deliver a line, in a scene that is slowly bleeding out, and it breathes temporary life into a movie that is struggling to get to the end credits.
I suppose I could also be happy that the film cast Lauren Ridloff, who is a stand out on The Walking Dead, and is also a deaf actor. Representation matters, and seeing someone like her could be a huge deal for deaf kids who have been watching the Marvel films and TV shows, and not really getting much representation until this film and the Hawkeye series.
The Blind Perspective: Obviously, this film is a visual feat, as most Marvel films are, or action/science fiction films in general. I have to be honest and say that I feel like the description was just OK for what was obviously really intricate visual effects, even within the characters themselves, and their abilities. It took me a while to figure out what was up with Pixie, and why she was different than the others. And this film also does that thing where you follow someone that is clearly an important character or lead for an extended period of time with just a bland generic description denoting who they are until another character in the film bothers to audibly announce their name. Then suddenly, the generic character is named, despite being a lead for the entire movie. Just go ahead and name the leads. When you list a character in a bland description, it tells me that I don’t really need to know who this is for the long term, but that very much wasn’t the case here.
Final Thoughts: look, I really came into this with an open mind. I was ready to jump all over the haters for not appreciating this. The truth is, I was somewhat let down this year by Black Widow (mostly having to do with the Taskmaster character), but Eternals set a new low. It just seems like a film that should have been a Disney plus series, since it clearly has a lot of explaining to do, and even though it crammed a ton of world building into an overly long movie, it still wasn’t enough for this specific set of heroes. Nothing really worked here or came together. It’s just a film that seemed like it would be another Guardians Of The Galaxy on paper, but when actualized, was far less fun, and I won’t remember these characters a year from now, but I will always remember Star lord, Groot, Dead, Gamora, and Rocket. One bright spot is that even after all of this, I’d still rather sit through this again than be forced to watch Ang lee’s attempt at a comic book film with Hulk.
Final Grade: D+