“I refuse to hurt any of you for my beliefs.“Kumail Nanjiani, Eternals
Release Date: November 5th, 2021 | Director: Chloé Zhao
The purpose of the Eternals movie is to introduce the most powerful beings in the universe to the MCU. The movie starts with the birth of the Eternals, beings that are created to protect Earth from the deviants. There are ten of these individuals: Ajak, Ikaris, Sersi, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Gilgamesh, Druig and Thena. Each of these individuals has a power that is unique to themselves and they have been on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, aiding the human population in development and inspiring countless tales about each of them (i.e Icarus flies too close to the sun or (A)Thena being the Greek goddess of wisdom and battle strategy). After successfully eradicating the last of the Deviants, the Eternals wait for five centuries for their call back to their home planet, but when a new generation of Deviants arrive on Earth and one of their own ends up dead, the Eternals have to reunite in order to put an end to the Deviants so they can return home.
When it comes to Marvel movies that were released in 2021, this was the movie I was most excited for. Not only did the movie have Chloé Zhao locked down for directing, but the cast included both Richard Madden and Kit Harrington (Robb Stark and Jon Snow respectively), Gemma Chan (Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians), Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. The hype around this movie was enough to make anyone crazily excited for it (so much so that I dragged my parents to see this movie opening night on their wedding anniversary). The introduction of the characters seemed to promise that the movie would take the time to effectively characterize all of the Eternals, not just Gemma Chan and Richard Madden’s characters, even though they were “the main characters”. Then, the sixteenth minute of the movie began and the rest went downhill.
My biggest grievance with the movie is the fact that we spent too much time watching the characters receive big news and watch them all collectively agree on steps that we were told were going to happen anyways. The movie feels as though it spends too much time waiting for every single character to agree before anything exciting happens. This movie also really wants its audience to suspend their disbelief, which most people do anyways when they’re watching a Marvel movie, but this was too much. The biggest example of this is that the event that the Eternals band together to stop is a cataclysmic event, even more so than Thanos and while I’m aware that the Eternals are collectively more powerful than the Avengers, it seemed really odd to me that the remaining Avengers (especially Captain Marvel) wouldn’t even notice that something unnatural is occurring when the Celestial is being born. Even despite the fact that the creators wanted this movie to focus on the Eternals, the audience is more or less going along for the ride and being told to worry but not being shown why they should. The movie is neither character nor plot driven which serves to leave the movie extremely convoluted in terms of what is happening on screen and how the Eternals will connect to the MCU in the coming phases.
I mentioned earlier that the cast was what primarily convinced me to see the movie and this is completely true. The cast was phenomenal and even at times when the writing felt forced or the dialogue was downright ridiculous, I felt as though I could genuinely feel the fear and the confusion that the Eternals were going through with every single character. There are two caveats to this and none of it really has to do with acting, but more or less with the character development. The first caveat is that Sprite never really is someone that the audience should sympathize with. At first glance, the audience probably does sympathize for her, but ultimately when she gives this monologue about how she felt like she didn’t belong in this world because she never ages past being a child, there is no explanation as to why Sprite is the only Eternal to remain a child and the rest of them are born as adults. Also, the unrequited romantic attraction between Sprite and Ikaris creeps me out in terms of logistics because Richard Madden is thirty-five and Lia McHugh is seventeen. I understand having a crush on someone you have known your whole life but I really can’t understand this and I’m eternally grateful that nothing happens between these two characters besides some pining.
The second caveat with the acting was the fact that as attractive as they are, Richard Madden and Gemma Chan had no chemistry, let alone chemistry and love that survived through centuries. Instead, I almost felt like they were convincing themselves that they had some great love story in order to justify a sex scene in the MCU. While I understand that there are several raunchy scenes in the Marvel comics, was this really the couple that Feige wanted to introduce sex into the MCU with? With the ensuing plot issues, the lack of chemistry between the two “main characters” and the overall questions about which aspects of the MCU the Eternals belong in, the movie fell flat.
Overall, this movie was enjoyable but not necessarily as poignant as some of the other Marvel content that was released in 2021. The plot felt oddly drawn out and rushed at the same time to the point that the movie itself was lower in quality than what it should’ve been. As a director, Zhao brought what she could to the table and filled the movie with beautiful shots but the CGI over the Deviants seemed like something that could’ve been done twenty years ago. While the movie was an impressive concept, it flew a little too close to the sun and the result was a master class in mediocrity.