The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continued its expansion with the feature length film Eternals in November 2021. It is yet another strong addition to the epic slew of new Marvel movies that were released in 2021, which included Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The film was directed by Chloé Zhao who is known for her work on Nomadland starring Francis McDormand that won three Academy Awards including one for Best Achievement in Directing. While Eternals is certainly a big change from the indie films Zhao is known for, her immense talent shines through this blockbuster action film. Not only did she direct Eternals, but also she wrote the screenplay with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo.
For a movie with such talent behind the camera, there is also a large and diverse cast in front of it including: Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Lia McHugh (American Woman), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead), Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), Don Lee (Train to Busan), Salma Hayek (Frida), and Angelina Jolie (Changeling).
The movie focuses on each character’s growth as they come to terms with their immortality.: Eternals are immortal superheroes each with their own distinct superpowers that were sent to Earth thousands of years ago by the Celestial Arishem, one of the creators of the universe. Their mission was to defend the Earth from the Deviants which were monsters ravaging the Earth. The Deviants were eventually defeated by the Eternals hundreds of years in the past, but have now returned in the present for reasons unknown. The film is a globetrotting adventure as the Eternals try to reunite and figure out why the Deviants have returned, risking everything to save the planet.
As a whole, Eternals is Marvel’s next attempt at an Avengers style superhero team movie. While it is a strong addition to the MCU, it does have several faults that are simply unavoidable with a movie this big. The Eternals has 10 members, and all of them are brand new to the MCU. The film had to juggle with telling an effective story while also providing enough background info about each character so that the viewer wasn’t completely lost. This led to some characters barely being fleshed out making it harder to connect with them, especially during emotional plot developments.
Additionally, there is a lot crammed into this movie that it feels as though it should have been split into two movies or perhaps a mini-series on Disney+ similar to how Netflix re-released The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino as four episodes, each one an hour long. Creating a mini-series isn’t new to the MCU as they have released multiple action packed shows in 2021 alone including Wandavision, Loki and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
While we, the viewers, may have trouble connecting with the characters on a deeper level, the actors do truly convincing portrayals that make it seem like they have known each other for thousands of years. The Eternals aren’t all best friends, they harbor mixed feelings for each other that individuals that have lived that long would probably have. The love story between Chan’s Sersi and Madden’s Ikaris, which is third-wheeled by McHugh’s Sprite and, more minorly, Sersi’s non-Eternal boyfriend Dane (played by Kit Harrington) is something very unique to the film. While Sersi and Ikaris share this epic love that lasted literally thousands of years, Sprite has also loved Ikaris for just as long. She has trouble expressing this, however, because she has the appearance of a child. The Sprite-Ikaris-Sersi storyline is truly unique, and hopefully in future films they will further develop Sprite’s character and her unrequited feelings.
Not everyone loved the film. For some, it just didn’t stack up super well against other MCU movies. Eternals was even “review bombed” by both critics and audiences alike. He also liked how it
Although Eternals does not develop its characters a whole lot, putting some strain on the story overall, it has a very special romance in store for viewers, in addition to great actors that really feel like a dysfunctional family on screen. It expertly laid the groundwork for later movies with its spectacular worldbuilding, planting the seeds for new stories in its ending and credit scenes. That is especially true with Dane, who I cannot wait to see more of.
The ending and credit scenes are epic and open up so many new avenues so maybe the audience can form a better relationship with these characters down the road. Eternals may be rough around the edges, but still worth a watch to start the journey down that road.