Rating: B- (Okay)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has depicted god-like beings and all-powerful characters before. So, it’s understandable Marvel Studios would seek to add Jack Kirby’s Eternals to the ever-expanding world. In introducing these characters, director/co-writer Chloe Zhao certainly displays a lot of ambition through the over two-and-half-hour runtime. Most of the time, Eternals doesn’t even feel like it shares the same space as Iron Man and Captain America. However, there are too many characters and the film struggles to make them compelling enough to follow, especially when we launch into the force that seeks to destroy the world.
The film jumps around a lot as we go back-and-forth between the present day and the Eternals’ earlier lives. While there is a lot of information to take in, including via the use of an opening scroll, the plot is fairly straightforward. The idea of monsters arriving on Earth and these immortal beings being the only ones who can stop them is intriguing. Unfortunately, most of the characters aren’t fleshed out or are written in the dullest way possible. Only a few manage to stand out and they thankfully do liven things up. The most enjoyable is Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo. He gets some funny lines and the way he takes advantage of his immortality to become a Bollywood star is amusing. He’s joined by Harish Patel in a likeable turn as Kingo’s manager. It’s sweet how excited he is to be there with these heroes and getting the chance to see them at work.
Sprite, an Eternal who is stuck at age twelve forever, has the most intriguing arc as she struggles with never being able to age. Lia McHugh captures her frustrations and sadness at not being allowed to experience the same things as her fellow Eternals. Sprite also fits with one of the more interesting themes in Eternals, on how it’s okay to question the spiritual and religious lessons you’ve long been taught. Gilgamesh, as played by Don Lee, stands out as an Eternal with a big heart and he gets some solid interactions with the others. It’s the other members of this superhero team who largely disappoint.
The two main leads Sersi and Ikaris serve as boring protagonists with not much personality between them. Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie aren’t given too much to do, either, and are largely forgotten whenever they’re off-screen. Then there’s the mind-manipulating Druig, who Barry Keoghan injects with a little too much jerkiness and it makes one wonder why any of the Eternals would want to hang out with him. The villains mostly consist of roaring computer-generated monsters and the action scenes just have the usual choreography of characters flying and hurting things. It’s difficult to care too much about what’s transpiring during the battle sequences.
Many of the Marvel movies don’t have proper conclusions. Some kind of character arc is finished, but they always end with promise of new adventures on the horizon. One of the key ingredients in the MCU’s success is they make you care about these superheroes and have you look forward to what they will do next. There is an excitement about where Shang-Chi or the Guardians of the Galaxy or the Incredible Hulk will go. By the end of Eternals, one feels empty and not all that interested about the next phase in their story. Even the credits scenes don’t provide more than a shrug. While Eternals has moments of beauty and creativity and a few enjoyable characters, there is little to latch onto over its lengthy running time.