The Eternals, a new breed of superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), flew into theaters and landed on Disney+ this week. With a lot of negative feedback in early screenings from press and fandom alike, I went in with little expectation. Well, I’m happy to report, Chloe Zhao (Academy Award Winner for Best Director of “Nomadland”) absolutely blew me away in her Marvel directorial debut.
“Eternals” is a fresh new look at the Marvel Universe, so as a longtime fan of the universe and movies that came before, I can understand fans being wary of change. Zhao brought her cinematic-filmmaking eye to the movie, which had more exposition and build up than action; though when the action did hit, it was fantastic.
The setup: After supposedly eliminating all the Deviants years ago, Sersi (Gemma Chan) and the other Celestials have settled into life on Earth.
The Players: Sersi is a teacher, with Sprite (Lia McHugh), her friend, posing as her sister due to her young appearance. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) has become a legacy Bollywood star by posing as various male family members throughout the centuries. His faithful valet Karun follows him on his journey unflinchingly. Thena (Angelina Jolie) and Gilgamesh (Don Lee) have isolated themselves from modern society after the last battle when it appeared that Thena was losing her mind or possibly remembering past lives. This is a key revelation at this point in the movie. Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) works as an inventor and is responsible for massacres that haunt him as his technology is used for war instead of advancing humanity. Ikaris (Richard Madden), Druig (Barry Keoghan), and Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) round out the main cast.
As we catch up with our heroes, the Deviants make a very public comeback in New York City where Sersi and Sprite have been living. They make a decision to reunite with the others, who are spread out around the globe. They all hold different philosophies concerning their mission after Ajak (Salma Hayek) released them following the supposed defeat of the Deviants the first time.
While trying to reunite the group, Sersi uncovers secrets that change her views on her role as an Eternal and the ethics involved. Once again, they have to decide to fight, or if in fact, they even should fight, and they question whether or not they are even heroes. As these decisions shake them to their core, the Eternals find out that one of their own has betrayed them, and they are resistant to go against what they have been told.
Now my thoughts on the movie: The plot was simple enough and this movie is clearly setting up the Eternals to be integrated into the main MCU, because they have very specific knowledge of Marvel characters and talk about them throughout the movie. The cameo at the end also brings in a teaser voice which was spoiled by the cast to be the new “Blade,” so that will be interesting to see play out. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous and every shot could be framed. While there’s a lot of action, it does have a slightly more X-Men feel than Avengers, with the style of action and movement, etc. The movie did seem slow at parts as there is a lot of exposition to get through, but overall it is very well done. I would have loved to see more background information on some of the peripheral main characters, but I expect this to happen in later movies.
I enjoyed the movie very much and if it is any indication of what the next phase of the MCU is going to bring, I am definitely here for it. The diversity of characters, including main characters who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and those who are Deaf, made the film richer. Being able to see more of the world instead of just New York City or L.A. was refreshing. Major side note: Angelina Jolie still kicks ass with the best of them, and I hope she returns for more MCU appearances in the future.
Overall, I highly recommend this movie, but don’t expect it to run full throttle the whole run-time. There is definitely some down time and background information that could be overlooked that is just as important as the main action. As I stated before, I am very interested in seeing how this plays out as Phase 2 of the MCU unfolds.