Eternals ★★★★

Perhaps having expectations throughly diluted since the response upon its original release I was incredibly surprised by Eternals now that I've finally seen it. Sure, the film is unwieldy, messy and cluttered but it is also vibrant, original and full of life and personality. Something that as an MCU fan I can say has been lacking within the franchise. All those accusations of every one of these movies looking and feeling the same are warranted no matter how largely consistent I find them. The MCU is built up mainly on solid blockbusters, one or two duds and the rare few absolute bangers. It is greater than the sum of its parts and the never ending potential always fuels excitement for the next upcoming project. Massive props must be given to Chloe Zhao for imbuing a unique look within an MCU film for the first time since 2008 when this grand experiment was in its early days and Feige and co were still figuring out what stuck. I love how unashamed this is to get wrapped up in its lore. There are overwhelmingly large exposition dumps but it somehow adds up to create something truly epic. Endgame et al are mammoths through and through and yet Eternals feels epic in a more old school Hollywood sense. Its world hopping and various looks back into the far past imbue the film with a true sense of time and weight between the characters. Each of which I was amazed were individually sketched and easy to tell apart. The performances also struck the right balance between gravitas and alien. These monumentally powerful beings who are way above humans would struggle to relate to us ants despite how fond of us they might have grown. Each one of them that strives for more outside of their interplanetary roles wants to feel the way humans do. Those that shy away from their adopted homes predilection for emotion are doomed to follow their alien gods/masters to cold and meaningless oblivion. I loved the Eternals technology and how it throws so much at the audience and expects them to keep up. This goes deep into sci fi and through this it uses its concepts to discuss fate and identity. I also enjoyed the larger discussion about humanitys inherent need for self destruction.

Zhao keeps a surprisingly sure footed hold on the action and each Eternals power is interestingly conveyed and used. There are also some stunning frames and shots. As someone with a fascination with unfathomable large behemoths this has images in it that I have had in my head for years from a teenager. It gets its huge sense of scale perfectly.

What is left is as flawed as it is interesting. I get why it has been devisive - that Marvel humour occasionally pops up and underscores some of the drama (however as a fan of Kumail Nanjiani, generally this didn't bother me) and some of the nods to the larger universe feel a bit forced. The motivations of the Deviants also feel lost amongst all the Space Gods and laser eye-beams. It feels outside the rest of the movies up to now and that's OK. Marvel needs movies like this in order to keep people in theater seats. The audience might crave the same thing again and again but what they don't realise is that ice cream every day of the week will become sickening. I hope the general lukewarm response hasn't scared Marvel off attempting such an endeavour in the future as it is the most fascinating thing they've done so far. I might have been overly generous to lesser Marvel movies that have the feel of being made by committee but this feels entirely the creation of Zhao. It knows what it is and commits and that is bound to turn a few people off who aren't on board with it. I'm on the fence between 3 and a half and 4 stars but I believe a reappraisal will be due in the coming years and when Marvel finally truly nail the more original and thought provoking film that they were going for with Eternals then it will be traced all the way back here.

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