No hyperboles are in the title for the review of this movie. As someone who is against clickbait, I only speak in truths. When you look at the cast and crew assembled for Eternals, it has the makings to be the best Marvel Studios project since Avengers: Endgame. Seriously, go to IMDB and look at everyone in this movie and tell me I’m wrong. Instead of an epic rivaling the latest Avengers movie that could make a statement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Eternals is repetitive, filled to the brim with dull moments and exposition, and is almost void of joy. Brace yourselves for the most disappointing movie the MCU has ever offered.
Eternals tells the story of characters who are gods amongst men sent to earth to protect the world from evil creatures known as “deviants.” However, the Eternals are not supposed to interfere in any conflict unless these deviants are involved. Recounting the events of its characters over thousands of years, the movie begins to feel like a prologue as the story progresses, given all the set up for the threat the Eternals eventually face in the present day. And after a promising start beginning with scrolled text that gives audiences an idea of what to expect followed by the opening sequence, all promise quickly evaporates as the movie becomes boring by way of numerous dialogue-heavy scenes containing flashback sequences that make everything feel depressing. These depressing scenes, like most of the movie, are repetitive and almost void of joy or happiness as the Eternals reminisce about the past and what they could have done in any real-world conflict that occurs. These “what if” scenarios bog down a movie that already is trying to establish numerous characters with various powers and personalities in a bloated 165-minute runtime, which definitely can be felt as the movie carries on.
Marvel Studios needed a movie with a fresh perspective from another filmmaker and Eternals certainly feels like something we haven’t seen from the MCU (for the most part) thanks to director Chloe Zhao; if there’s anyone who can make you feel emotion or gravitas behind characters in a movie, it’s Zhao, who made one of the best movies in the last five years (The Rider) and is coming off another that just won Best Picture at last year’s Oscars (Nomadland). Zhao’s stamp can be felt in the movie’s quieter moments and beautiful landscape shots. However, a clunky script and forced humor do nothing to benefit its all-star cast and characters as familiar moments from other MCU movies feel forced as evidenced by the movie’s villains who offer no weight, a CGI-filled third act, the ending, and its post credits scenes. Credited as one of five writers, along with Kevin Feige producing the movie (and the one who oversees the MCU), it doesn’t feel like Zhao is the one to blame for this blemish as it is more of a problem of a studio trying to make this story and its characters fit as pieces of the puzzle in the overarching-landscape of its entire cinematic universe. Time will tell if any creative differences behind this project come to light. But it goes without saying that Zhao, one of the best filmmakers in the world right now, deserved better than this.
The cast of Eternals is one of the best assembled in any genre in recent memory, as it is filled with familiar actors we’ve seen in recent properties spanning all sorts of genres and mediums. Leading the cast is Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians), a terrific actress who does not benefit from a script that is supposed to bring out her all loving and caring character and what it means to lead a team of superheroes. It’s nice to see Richard Madden and Kit Harrington try to propel their careers post-Game of Thrones, but their characters are either trying too hard or teasing. Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), who put on so much muscle for no apparent reason since all his character does is shoot stuff out of his fingers, was brought in to provide comic relief. Added to attempt to make you forget the movie’s depressing moments, his schtick falls flat due to how forced it feels. Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) is given a character who is supposed to provide a celebratory moment as the first openly gay character in the MCU. However, his character is given arguably the worst moment in the entire movie and can be seen as a slap in the face to LGBQT community. Why Marvel Studios decided this was OK to show in a movie will certainly be the subject of controversy in the weeks ahead. Other actors you might be familiar with in other properties–including Salma Hayek, Barry Keoghan, and Ma Dong-seok–aren’t given much to work with either. But if there’s one cast member who stands out, and not in a not good way, it’s Angelina Jolie’s character. Not because of the character she portrays, but because the A-list actress stands out in a crowd of a moderately-known cast.
Marvel Studios hasn’t had a blemish in so long, so it is a credit to the studio for being so consistent for as long as they have. However, Eternals isn’t just a blemish, but it’s also a massive letdown in spite of having so much going for it due to its filmmaker, cast, and the characters from one of Jack Kirby’s greatest creations. As the studio continues to move forward with heroes to replace Iron Man and Captain America among the Avengers in the most lucrative movie franchise/universe by far, Eternals makes no case for being in the same boat as the other superheroes we’ve seen come from the MCU. Maybe that changes in a sequel to Eternals, but that also means we may get another copy and paste director running the show rather than a creative visionary like Zhao.