MickeyBlog Movie Review: Eternals
Imagine if someone handed you a mystery box 18 months ago. Each day, you stared at the box, imagining the wonders it contained.
Then, you finally opened the box one day, only to discover something you like but nothing world-shattering.
That’s how many Marvel fans will feel after watching Eternals, a solid movie that never quite reaches its promised heights.
The Story of Eternals
A few years ago, Marvel extended its cinematic universe (the MCU) into the far reaches of the universe.
Now, Academy Award-winning director Chloé Zhao attempts to do something even more remarkable. She has positioned a superhero team across eons.
Apparently, these overpowered beings have lived on Earth for millennia, unbeknownst to most of humanity. This is their tale.
That’s the setup for the story anyway. In execution, Eternals takes place across several different moments in human history.
We watch the first villagers gaze in awe when an alien ship arrives. Later, one of the Eternals brings harmony to a village, albeit at a high cost.
Most important, a portion of Eternals takes place in the present, by which I mean a time after the Avengers have negated The Snap.
At this time, one of the Eternals falls for a human just as something nefarious happens.
The presumed dead Deviants appear and start snacking on humans. Did I mention that the sole purpose of the Eternals is to stop Deviants from destroying civilizations?
Yup, any chance of romance gets pushed to the back burner so that the now-separated Eternals may reunite and discover the cause of the Deviants’ return.
The oddity of this sweeping screenplay is that I’ve covered the basics with this brief summary. If I went into detail, it’d take thousands of words.
Suffice to say that plenty happens in Eternals. Still, the primary story focuses on a disbanded team of superheroes suddenly forced to interact again.
The Characters of Eternals
Sersi and Ikaris function as the leads in this film, although Ajak is ostensibly the Eternals’ leader.
Sersi lives among humans and is fascinated by their development. She’s even a smartphone addict like so many of us.
Ikaris is…I dunno? Powerful and conflicted? People will spend the body of the next year defending Ikaris as a character. Still, the reality is that he’s poorly written.
Game of Thrones actor Richard Madden delights on a BBC series known as Bodyguard and once served the role of the groom at the Red Wedding.
In this, he’s woefully miscast as a kind of Marvel knockoff Superman. And I’m saying this as someone who looooves Eternals comics.
Better performances come from Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Angelina Jolie as Thena, and Lia McHugh as Sprite.
Kingo can shoot energy bolts from his hands, yet he spends his days as a Bollywood actor now.
Sprite remains perpetually trapped in the body of a young girl, even though she’s thousands of years old. She can create psychic projections that blur the lines of reality.
Thena, the literal Goddess of War, wields an energy sword and an accompanying bloodlust.
She’s the lifelong companion of Gilgamesh, which will mess up plenty of history books. Even so, Don Lee and Jolie share tremendous chemistry.
In fact, Lee’s a treasure in every scene where he’s the focus. Still, he’s not the most likable Eternal.
That honor belongs to Makkari, a speedster who can sense all vibrations.
Even More Characters
The most fascinating member of the team is also the one who treads between light and darkness. Druig can control people through psychic manipulation. And he does.
Finally, Phastos acts as the most human of the Eternals. After a time, he takes a human husband and adopts a child.
He’s the only one brave enough to develop a relationship with a non-Eternal until Sersi meets Dane Whitman.
As for Whitman, he’s smitten by Gemma Chan’s Sersi because…who wouldn’t be? However, he disappears from the movie for long stretches and adds little.
Game of Thrones fans should watch Eternals simply because the Stark brothers are in it.
I’m also reducing a wide cast of characters to paper-thin caricatures, and I’m doing that for a reason. Unfortunately, the movie spits the bit on several of them.
Simply stated, Zhao tried to include too many Avengers and didn’t have enough time to make them all engaging…in a movie that’s 157 minutes long.
The Highs and Lows of Eternals
I would never describe Borat as a movie that has aged well. However, Eternals riffs on arguably the best aspect of that film.
Remember the heavyset gentleman named Ken Davitian who portrayed Azamat?
Well, veteran Bollywood actor Harish Patel plays a character named Karun who encountered Kingo many years ago…and it didn’t go well.
Since then, Karun has worked as Kingo’s Bollywood manager and all-around manservant.
Somehow, Karun evolves into the heart of this film in what’s mostly a throwaway part. He earnestly demonstrated the highs and lows of humanity.
The interactions between Kingo and Karun amused me even when the plot quirks left me shaking my head in either annoyance or disappointment.
I also quite like the scenes between Whitman and Sersi, as the actors possess terrific chemistry. But, unfortunately, there aren’t many of them.
Instead, the film vacillates between extended scenes of exposition and haphazard fight sequences.
I quite like the action in Eternals, even though some of it is hard to follow. My companions all agreed that it feels more like a DC movie, though, which isn’t great.
My Review of Eternals
The problem with the film is that it overreaches. I’m generally more forgiving of features that try to do too much than too little.
As such, I’m not as negative about Eternals as you might expect. I even put some math into it.
Out of the 12 main characters in the film, I liked ten and adored four. Unfortunately, the Starks didn’t do anything for me, and Sersi’s story got a bit lost along the way.
Also, Eternals runs painfully wrong. I’m a firm believer that no movie should run over two hours unless the story 100 percent justifies it.
This one doesn’t. Frankly, the screenplay doesn’t make enough hard choices about what to leave in and take out. So, it tries too hard to please everyone.
In the process, the message gets lost. Like, to this moment, I’m not totally clear on the story arc of Ikaris and Sersi.
Eternals never connected their dots enough. Conversely, I care deeply about Druig and Makkari’s and Thena and Gilgamesh’s relationships.
Both of them leaned hard on subtext because Ikaris and Sersi were sucking all the air out of the story.
You’ve never told a story well when the two leads are among the weakest parts…and I’m a Gemma Chan superfan (watch Humans!) saying that.
Still, there’s plenty of good in Eternals. Sprite’s plight apes the best ideas from Claudia in Interview with the Vampire.
Also, the platonic warrior love between Thena and Gilgamesh inspires.
I care about these characters…but not the Deviants nor the head Celestial.
Eternals never once had me looking at my watch, but it felt overly long, underdeveloped, and too messy.
I can only give this one a B. I must have stared at the box too long.