One Liner Review:

The movie that proves Marvel can make some pretty big stinkers, this one is jam packed with characters, not very exciting, and way too complex and long for its own good.

Brief Review:

Eternals is a movie that does too much. Or it tries to do too much. There are ten main characters here (double the Guardians of the Galaxy amount,) and a story that is incredibly elaborate. This one involves so much about different races and rules and names that it becomes very difficult to follow, right from the start. And then there’s the way that the movie lacks in action and also breaks its own rules whenever it feels convenient. The movie does deserve credit for trying something big and trying to be creative. It just does these things in all of the wrong ways. And the references to the Justice League, and way these characters are basically versions of those heroes, are unnecessary. This is the greedy movie that doesn’t know limits, and for an audience that is just trying to make sense of it all and maybe have a little fun along the way, this movie does not deliver.


The biggest question I had after seeing Marvels Eternals is why. Why did we need this? Did Marvel really need to make its own version of Justice League?  And the answer, of course, is no. Eternals is the movie that tries to do it all and definitely does not succeed. For a while now, people have been complaining about the Marvel movies following a similar formula and more or less all being the same. It’s a ridiculous claim, other than to say that they all build up the stakes and lead up to a giant end fight. Sure, there’s the idea that the hero and villain square off early on and the hero loses, only for the hero to come back and kick butt at the end (Iron Man 2, Thor Ragnorak) , but that’s a standard formula for most action movies. It goes back to the Stallone Rocky movies, and maybe even proceeds those. Still people say Marvel is just doing the same thing again and again, and The Eternals is Marvel’s attempt to answer those criticisms by trying something vastly different. The result is pretty much a mess. Here’s a movie about alien creatures and gods. It’s a movie about the creation of the earth and a being that is currently being born inside of our planet. And it’s a movie that features ten main characters.


If there was ever a story that was ripe for a Disney Plus show instead of a movie, it was this one. Some might look at The Guardians of the Galaxy and say that Marvel pulled it off with that one… giving us all new characters that had not been introduced to the MCU before, featuring a team of superheroes that nobody had ever really heard of. And all of that is true. But there are some pretty fundamental differences between the Guardians and the Eternals. First, there were five main characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Eternals features double that amount. Secondly, those characters in Guardians were incredibly unique and memorable. You had one tree man, one raccoon, one blue-skinned character, one green-skinned character, and only one human. In Eternals, all ten characters look human. Let’s start with those differences right there.


So there are too many characters and not enough time devoted to each one to give us a full story. That’s why a Disney Plus show would have been better. Because it could have explored these characters and taken the time to let them develop. But then there’s the difference in directors. James Gunn was absolutely perfect for Guardians, from his raunchy and smart-ass sense of humor to his ear for classic songs that could be composed together into a single, lively soundtrack. Chloe Zhao, on the other hand, the director of Eternals is not a very good fit for this kind of movie. Zhao has directed exactly three movies before this. Two of them were little unknown super-independent artsy films, and the last one was Nomadland. That, of course, was last years best picture winner at the Oscars. Only Nomadland was not very good. It was slow and boring and everything that a Marvel movie should not be. And Zhao clearly brings that same level of energy (or lack of it,) to this movie.


For a movie about god-like superheroes, this one is pretty slow and dull. There isn’t a whole lot of action. And that’s despite the movie having a two-and-a-half hour running time. The characters are meant to be Marvel’s version of the Justice League heroes of DC. Look at Icarus, flying around and blasting lasers out of his eyes like Superman. Look at Thena creating sharp, ancient-looking, giant weapons in thin air, complete with armor to look like Wonder Woman. Look at Makkari as the deaf character who runs as fast as The Flash, and in a manner that looks very similar to the way he runs as well. And if you think the references are just coincidental, notice that this movie makes two different jokes about those DC characters, first calling one man’s relationship to his butler a take on the relationship between Batman and Alfred. And then having a kid call Icarus Superman, and joking around with him about how he doesn’t wear a cape. They even call him Clark. The reason why this is all worth noticing is because director Chloe Zhao loves DC, and probably wanted to make a DC movie, but Marvel came calling first. Marvel is the bigger, better studio, and not only should they not be throwing references to DC movies into their films, but they really shouldn’t be trying to make their own version of Justice League. There was no reason for it. The thing that made Marvel’s heroes special was that they were grounded. This is just crossing over in the exact wrong direction.


So now let’s get into the story. From the very opening moments, it seems like a lot. They begin with an opening crawl about the creation of planet earth. There goes the grounded idea of Marvel movies. The crawl starts talking about three different races or groups of creatures…The Cellestials, The Eternals, and the Deviants. Then it starts mentioning individuals. Ajak. Harishem. And we are meant to remember all of these names and what they represent in the universe, all at the same time. The basic idea is that the Cellestials created the Eternals and the Deviants on earth. In fact, the Deviants got out of hand, and that’s why the Cellestials created the Eternals. To stop the Deviants. Ajak is the leader of the Eternals. Harishem is the leader of the Cellestials.


Because they were created only for the purpose of stopping Deviants, the only thing Eternals are allowed to do is stop Deviants. They are not allowed to interfere in human affairs. That’s why they didn’t get involved with Thanos or with wars fought by humans against each other, or anything else. Only, they actually did. We learn later that one of the Eternals, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry,) has actually created things throughout history and given them to humans. These include the plow, the steam engine, and the atomic bomb. If this is starting to sound like world history a little, it’s just the beginning. The first time we see the Eternals is in clips of them during times of early civilization. There they are in Messopotamia. There they are in Babylon. There they are in Tenochitlan, the great city of the Aztec Empire, watching the Conquistadors take over and destroy.


All of this is meant to show that the Eternals have been around, on earth, for thousands of years and have been fighting the Deviants all of this time. And then they reach a point where all the Deviants are dead, and so they go their separate ways. Most of them go off to live lives of their own. Some small groups stay together. Thena stays with Gilgamesh, in a strange relationship where he is really into her, but says he is staying with her to protect her and help her from her dementia (known here as mad weery.) Sprite (the little girl,) stays with Sersi, with Sprite always wanting to grow old and fall in love, but being cursed and condemned to a non-aging child’s body. There’s Druig who stayed in the Amazon and used his mind control powers to start a sort of cult, and there’s Kingo who became this big Bollywood actor by pretending every generation that he was another member of his family… his grandfather, then his father, and so on. All of these stories are interesting. None get enough time or attention. Some are used for punchlines, others just for glimpses of what could have been. The Sprite wanting to be an adult story is reminiscent of Anna Paquin’s Rogue in the X-Men movies, wishing to be normal and desiring to feel human touch. Even there, in another movie packed with characters, the story worked and the characters were interesting.


So why does X-Men work when Eternals doesn’t? Probably because it stakes are grounded in reality. Sure, there are mutants and powers and all that, but to take it to the level of gods and planet destroying and the beginning of time and creation of earth goes a little far. In X-Men, we mostly got to know the characters when they were together as a team, on a single mission. Here, in Eternals, everything feels kind of disjointed. First there’s Sersei and Sprite and the guy Sersei is dating (played by Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones,) being attacked by a Deviant on a public street. They are saved by Ikaris. Now these three Eternals need to spend the next half of the movie finding all of the other Eternals and getting the band back together. That’s pretty much the premise of the whole first half. In the second half, we learn of the Cellestial being born inside of the earth, and the Eternals try to stop it. All the while, we get the threat of Deviants possibly coming out to attack.


Let’s talk about the Deviants for a bit. They are giant CGI monsters. Nothing about them looks real or interesting. And they are in this movie just to give us action scenes from time to time. You see, they aren’t the big bads or real villains of the film in any way. The villain story comes from this Cellestial that is being born inside of the earth, as if the earth were a giant egg, and how if it happens (an event known as the Emergence, just to give us even more terms to try and balance,) then the entire earth will be destroyed. So the villains are the characters who want to help this happen. The Deviants have nothing to do with that. In fact, they really don’t have a whole lot to do with anything. They give us the action scenes in the beginning, where we meet the Eternals as they fight off Deviants,) and then one action scene in the middle, (where the Eternals are attacked at Druig’s compound.) Finally, Athena has a moment with their leader (it could hardly be called a fight,) at the end. Now, for a very long movie, that is just not enough action.


To it’s credit, there are lots and lots of ideas here. And Marvel is definitely trying something new, swinging for the fences with this one. But too many of the ideas are too elaborate, don’t seem to care whether the audience can follow them or not, or just don’t make sense. Like if the whole idea of the Eternals is to stop the Deviants because the Deviants were killing humans and the Cellestials need humans on the planet because when the planet has enough population on it, then a new Cellestial can be born inside of the planet, then you would think that Thanos destroying half of the population with a single snap might be on the Eternals radar. It might be something the Eternals would get involved with. Maybe that would be an occasion to break their “only stop the Deviants,” rule. But here, the rules work only if and when the plot wants them to. So Phastos can give weapons and tools to humans, but the Eternals have to stay out of Thanos’ affairs. And yet, when the movie wants to evoke Thanos, to say that it is because of the snap that brought everyone back, that the planet got so populated that now a Cellestial can be born inside of it, there is no hesitation. So it creates elaborate rules just to break them when it wants and evoke them when it wants. As if this movie needed more problems. What a mess.