by Therese Askarbek
December 17, 2021
Recently, the newest Marvel movie, Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao (of Nomadland fame) came out. A lot of controversy has surrounded this film: it is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie to receive a rotten Rotten Tomatoes score of 48%. The 157-minute movie follows ten “Eternals”—Ajak, Sersi, Ikaris, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, Gilgamesh, and Thena—who are sent to Earth by a mysterious Celestial being, Arishem, to kill all of the monsters, or Deviants, terrorizing the humans. The Eternals finally exterminate them all in 1521 and spend the next five-hundred years on Earth apart, waiting for Arishem to give them further instructions. The film spends some time giving context, introducing the Eternals and where they are in the present day, before it establishes the initial conflict: the Deviants have come back. Plot twists, impressive displays of skill, and visually stunning action scenes ensue. In this sense, this film follows the typical Marvel movie structure.
I’ll start off by saying that this movie does not deserve such a low score across the board. That being said, there are aspects of the film that seem underdeveloped and lacking. The comedy in the movie consisted of easy one-liners sprinkled sparingly throughout. Most of it occured in the interactions between Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, and Karun, played by Harish Patel. It wasn’t set up well like in Thor: Ragnarok, or sarcastic and dry like in Iron Man, or endearingly funny like in either of the newest Spider-Man movies. It didn’t bring anything noteworthy or distinctive in terms of humor to the table, which is something that I personally enjoy most in MCU films. Another aspect that I found lacking was the progression of the movie. It seemed very slow in the first half and only started to pick up a little in the second half before the abrupt and anticlimactic ending. The action scene had no real “Wow, that was awesome!” moments and wasn’t memorable.
The cinematography was aesthetically pleasing, and Zhao’s insistence on filming in real places rather than using computer-generated imagery (CGI) definitely was a great artistic choice. Faced with the daunting task of introducing and developing ten new characters while also progressing the plot, Zhao gave each character their moment to shine and clearly developed each and every one of them. The plot also stayed cohesive and didn’t stray far from the goal, which kept me captivated throughout. The all-around diversity is very important, and it didn’t seem forced. One of the reasons the movie got such a low score was because people had an issue with the representation, whether they thought it was forced or unnecessary. Because the Eternals don’t technically have human ethnicities, and they aren’t mentioned at all throughout the movie, it seems that reviewers might just be projecting their own discomfort with seeing people who aren’t as represented in mainstream media on the big screen. I also enjoyed the fact that this movie, more than previous MCU films, focused more on the emotional, heartfelt moments of the human experience. It dealt with questioning identity, finding a purpose, coping with loss, and other non-otherworldly matters.
Overall, the new perspective that Zhao brought to the MCU and her execution of it was a great addition to this year’s Marvel catalog. The movie was enjoyable, had a great star-studded cast, and had me rooting for the protagonists. I would definitely recommend watching it over the holidays with family or friends, if for no other reason than to watch Angelina Jolie stab a Deviant.