"Eternals" stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. Released on November 5, 2021, the film is about an alien race seeking to protect humanity from its evil counterparts.
The film is directed by Chloé Zhao, who also directed "Songs My Brothers Taught Me", "The Rider", and "Nomadland". It is based on the Marvel Comics characters created by Jack Kirby and the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Superheroes have come from every corner of the galaxy to protect us from dangerous threats. These heroes come from a different part of the universe and have been around for a very long time. We just didn't know it until now. Marvel's fourth phase continues yet again with another superhero film that introduces another lesser-known team and a scope that's as epic as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. This has been one of the highly-anticipated films of the year for quite some time, and with good reason. It's from Marvel (obviously), the studio's successful attempts at making unfamiliar heroes relevantly popular, and the involvement of Chloé Zhao, who became the first Asian woman to win a Best Director Oscar. I was highly interested in this film for those same reasons, especially Zhao, who impressed me with her gorgeous vision and storytelling in "Nomadland". Her involvement in "Eternals" serves as an actual test to see if she's ready to take on anything beyond her small-scale dramas and gain more recognition in the process. Now that it's finally here, was it able to impress the Marvel fans with its epicness and visual splendor, or was it a faltering superhero film that couldn't handle its massive scope? Let's find out.
The film chronicles the Eternals, an immortal alien race who have been living on Earth for over 7,000 years. They live their lives throughout different parts of history while protecting the humans from their evil counterparts, the Deviants, without interfering with human conflict as commanded by their creators, the Celestials. One day, the return of half of the population as seen in "Avengers: Endgame" ignites the upcoming "emergence". After discovering the truth about their purpose, two Eternals, Sersi (Chan) and Ikaris (Madden), seek to reunite the other members of the team and protect Earth and its people. Like "Shang-Chi", "Eternals" sees the MCU team facing the challenge of introducing an unfamiliar cast of characters while providing enough superhero spectacle for its audience. You might be wondering how they're going to pull it off with a team of beings that can live forever. Well, I'll tell you: by exploring their time on Earth with a beefy length, plenty of exposition, and a typical save-the-world plot taken from other superhero movies. Exposition works well in providing more depth in the characters and the film's immortal history. However, "Eternals" shows that too much exploration can be as problematic as too little. This is due to its two-hour-and-36-minute runtime and non-linear structure. The film occasionally flashes back and forth in time to deliver more clarity and understanding of the characters' motives and plot to its audience. It's great for those who want a deep connection to these immortal beings, but it can also be a bit of a drag for people who want non-stop superhero action. Watching this narrative structure is like binge-watching a series on a streaming service in a single day. You feel more attached to it with its expanded narration, but you'll also feel a bit exhausted at the end of the day. While I can agree that "Eternals" did overstay its welcome by a few minutes, it offered enough moments in its pacing and characterization to make this unique side of the universe more welcoming than weary. Its storytelling did feel pretty restrictive regarding its superhero formula and pointless antagonist, even by Chloé Zhao's standards. However, its ambition, diverse cast, and Zhao's direction managed to deliver another immersive experience that's best seen on the biggest screen possible. Zhao has been known for capturing the majesty and scope of the locations in her filmography, and "Eternals" is no exception. Her filmmaking style was perfect in envisioning the human drama, production design, and enjoyable action sequences on the grandest scale. Combine that with its gorgeous visuals and cinematography, and you get the most beautiful superhero film that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. As for the cast, they all did pretty well in making their respective characters complex and believable. Gemma Chan and Richard Madden were both solid as Sersi and Ikaris, respectively, while Kumail Nanjiani delivered some decent charm into his character, Kingo. The film also introduces more representation in the MCU, mainly Makkari (Ridloff), a deaf member who possesses super speed, and Phastos (Henry), an inventor depicted as gay. The filmmakers made the right choice in casting Lauren Ridloff, an actual deaf actress, in the role of Makkari, primarily because of her talent onscreen and its accurate depiction of deafness. These representations in "Eternals" work for me in a way that wasn't too pandering for its audiences. Of course, the film isn't without a few instances of humor because we want to make sure it's also suitable for the kids. Even though it puts itself in danger of overshadowing its tone, the comedy was able to deliver some well-executed chuckles, especially Phastos' IKEA reference as seen in the marketing. Unfortunately, it will also depend on your recent tolerance towards the humor in the previous MCU films.
Overall, "Eternals" is far from a superhero classic that'll be remembered for eternity, but it compensated with its massive scope and engaging storytelling. It's Chloé Zhao at her finest regarding her visionary grandness and fondness of characterization. Unfortunately, it didn't soar to greatness like her previous works, primarily "Nomadland". It's not the worst film she's done, but it does falter in the shadows of her classic dramas. Despite that, I appreciate the filmmaker for taking on this massive challenge in her career, even though the final results were far from spectacular. Hopefully, if this film does well, she'll get another chance at directing something like this in the future.