Marvel's latest action-packed epic follows a bunch of immortal beings as they re-group to defend humanity from ancient enemies.
Despite director Chloé Zhao's name at the helm, Marvel's Eternals has always had the whiff of being a tad too ambitious for its own good. While new additions to the MCU always is a tricky proposition, introducing a team of celestial beings, all-consuming in their power, but remaining hidden, even with Thanos bearing down on the universe with a glove filled to the brim with Infinity Stones, it's basically a tough sell, all-in-all.
But from the off-set, it looked as if Eternals could be Marvel's classical adventure tale, leaving behind some of the specific mythology of Shang-Chi, in order to be more straight-forward in its form. And again; with Zhao at the helm, an Oscar-winning straight shot, well that didn't seem too bad.
But if you ask a good portion of American reviewers, Eternals misses its mark, dropping to a narrative knee under the heavy weight of overwrought exposition and tired tropes. A spectacle? Yes. But an effective introduction to these game-changing beings? Nah - at least according to now established wisdom.
So; that bad, huh? Well, not really. Eternals is a good fantasy epic, content with hearing its heart on its sleeve, its priorities completely nakedly exposed after just a couple of minutes. It's a naïve, almost childlike action opera, and there is blatant charm in that. But there's also a lack of finesse here, or perhaps there is, but it buckles under the weight quickly, and never quite recovers.
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The Eternals are, in essence, guardians, put here on Earth to protect us from Deviants, whom have never appeared in the MCU until now, but ranks among the more uninspired punching bags Marvel has come up with. They've been here for 7000 years, and have since dispersed across the globe, but Thanos' snap reignites the so-called "Emergence", and the eight (!) Eternals are forced to re-join forces to protect Earth, and come out of hiding once and for all.
Of course, there being eight completely unestablished characters in a movie 157 minutes long is a tall order in and of itself, and the movie does favour a few select few, like Gemma Chen's Sersi and Richard Madden's Ikaris, leaving Angelina Jolie's Thena, for instance, with only a few scenes to her name. However, it's not screen time that hampers Eternals, nor is it its pacing. In fact, Eternals remains one of the better performed MCU epic's in recent memory, completely shaming similarly constructed films like Thor: The Dark World.
No, it's simply because there isn't enough room, narratively speaking, to create and execute a coherent creative vision fit with introduction, dissection of each of the eight Eternals, establishing a cohesive threat and antagonist, and building naturally towards a climax. So the movie slithers and jumps through hoops to fit these pieces within too small boxes, resulting in a story often bursting at the seams.
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Zhao tries. Her cinematography is beautiful, and her eye for landscapes and colour make for distinct viewing, and despite the Deviants, and overarching antagonists looking about as generic as they come, the Eternals themselves and the environments in which they found are beautifully shot and produced. In summary; the movie looks great, again despite boring villains all-round.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for composer Ramin Djawadi's score, and anyone hoping for tones inspired by the first trailer's beautiful symphonic interpretation of Skeeter Davis' The End of the World, will be sorely disappointed. It's boring, generic and as run-off-the-mill as it gets. More should have the courage to create truly ethereal scores, like we just heard in Dune, or in The Mandalorian.
But, in broad strokes, Eternals is one tight-packed fantasy epic, providing all the visual spectacle, the well-choreographed action, the emotionally impactful moments and the splendour that a film of its ilk must. Zhao steers one uneven ship though, one that occasionally topples, as it becomes clear to the viewer, that there really isn't enough time here to do what is needed.
I know people don't want two-parters, but The Eternals could really have used that treatment.