By: Annilee Hampton
Marvel’s newest offering “Eternals” surprised fans in all the wrong ways when its Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score was revealed to be only 47%; Marvel’s first ever film to have a rotten score. However, the audience score differed strongly from the critics’ score, settling at 80% –at the time that this article is being written. This disparity may leave potential viewers wondering whether “Eternals” truly is the worst Marvel movie ever.
One of “Eternals’” greatest strengths is its diversity, not only in its cast but in its settings. The present-day storyline takes the characters from London to Iraq to the Amazon Rainforest, while flashbacks show ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Babylon and the Aztec Empire. In addition, a wide variety of different languages other than English are used throughout the film, including Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and even American Sign Language. This serves to highlight the massive scale of the film, taking place across thousands of years and spanning the entire Earth – and beyond.
The film makes sure to give each member of its ensemble cast a chance to shine, however, audiences may be left wanting more from certain characters. For example, Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari, the first deaf superhero in the MCU, is the last of the group to appear in the present day. Makkari’s power of super speed is among the most interesting depicted in the film, leading to a thrilling fight scene in the film’s climax. Also of note is Makkari’s relationship with fellow eternal Druig, played by Barry Keoghan. While the two have very few interactions, their romantic chemistry is palpable, perhaps even more so than the film’s main couple, Sersi — Gemma Chan — and Ikaris — Richard Madden. Other standouts among the cast include Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, an inventor and technopath whose primary motivation comes from his desire to keep his husband and child-safe, and Angelina Jolie as Thena, a warrior struggling with an illness called Mahd Wy’ry which causes her to forget who and where she is.
Visually, “Eternals” is one of the most spectacular Marvel movies. Director Chloé Zhao has infused the film with a unique style similar to that of her previous film “Nomadland”, which won Best Picture and Best Director at the 2020 Oscars. Much of the film was shot on location rather than through the use of green screens. This gives “Eternals” a much more grounded feel than many of Marvel’s other films, complementing its wide global scope. The film’s visual effects are also notable, particularly the golden cosmic energy that appears whenever an Eternal uses their powers. This looks especially striking on the weapons that Thena conjures out of thin air. Also notable is the design of the invasive species the Deviants. Each creature is unique, with some appearing amphibious, some appearing birdlike and even a Deviant that is more humanoid. The Deviants’ design appears intentionally incomplete and flawed, further emphasizing their monstrousness and establishing them as true threats. Perhaps most striking is the appearance of the Celestial Arishem, whose size is appropriately intimidating and emphasizes the Eternals’ contrasting humanity.
“Eternals’’ weakest moments tie back to one thing – its runtime. Clocking in at two hours and 37 minutes, the film struggles with pacing, seeming rushed in some places and dragging in others. The beginning of the film, featuring Sersi, Ikaris and Sprite traveling the world in order to assemble the rest of the Eternals, feels particularly repetitive. While the film picks up speed in its second act, it is not quite enough to prevent audiences from feeling its runtime.
Marvel fans will surely be looking for ties to the rest of the cinematic universe, and Eternals gives them much to think about. The most clear sequel hooks appear in its mid-credits and post-credits scenes, both of which include cameos that no one will see coming for very different reasons. However, throughout the rest of the film, small details tie the Eternals to the Marvel universe both past and future, from mentions of the Global Reparations Council (last seen in Disney+ series “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”) to the appearance of Dane Whitman, played by Kit Harington, who is sure to have a large role in the universe’s future. The film offers multiple opportunities to speculate about the Eternals’ involvement in other films, with one fan wondering if there is a connection between Phastos’s technological abilities and the titular objects in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.
Overall, “Eternals” is a very different film than its predecessors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While its ambition can sometimes be its downfall, especially in the areas of inconsistent pacing and its lengthy runtime, stellar performances from the cast and outstanding visual effects prove that Eternals is worth your time, even if it might be asking for a little too much of it.