Eternals ★½

A misfire of monumental proportions. It’s shocking that I have only seen criticism levelled towards Marvel for ‘flattening Zhao’s style’ and while it’s obviously one of the (many) issues here, Zhao’s directing doesn’t work either. We will never truly know how much creative control Marvel gives its creators (any number of directors who have left their respective project early due to ‘creative differences’ indicates very little), but this big marketing narrative of Zhao being in control of Eternals leaves one looking for her mark more than normal. On paper, she’s a great choice; after all, this is a film that tackles the realities of mortality and our own existence, which on smaller scales is absolutely Zhao’s wheelhouse. Buried under franchise obligations of sequel setup, big CGI fights that leave me feeling nothing and humor that stops the entire pace of the film, however, and the story seems to slip out of her fingers, her trademark slow burn character study and gorgeous cinematography glossed over way too quickly as a result of an overstuffed story.

It’s also super damning that this film is over two and a half hours long and yet I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the characters except their names, nor do I care about them either. The Celestial story would’ve worked much better in a future instalment, and instead this film should’ve let the characters and their dynamic breathe a bit more so we get a chance to bond with them, and then could’ve been paired back with a slightly lower stake action conflict. Perhaps if the more talented actors on the bill were given more to do (how do you nab ANGELINA JOLIE and sideline her?!), and if the less impressive performances weren’t so bogged down with delivering the bulk of the films necessary but bland exposition (Chan, Madden and McHugh are god awful), Eternals would feel like far less of a chore. Even Marvel’s often fun post credits scenes are extremely dissatisfying, with the major one feeling like an SNL skit. I’m praying they give Barry something to do in future instalments, as his character has potential to be a great villain - just look at the scene set in his forest community. The major dialogue moments take place in a church-like building for his citizens (who have major gun-toting, conservative American South cult vibes) to no doubt worship him in.

The film is not without some good moments, but these are so fleeting and bogged down by everything else it’s hard to really appreciate them. I also, for reasons still unknown, really liked the final fight sequence?

I’m honestly unsure where the MCU is going, and if they keep it up with muddled messes like this it’s clear they have no idea where it’s going either. At it’s core, Eternals is two films in one, a high-stakes epic and a film begging to explore existential issues, and neither of them work like this.

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