Eternals ★★★★

Eternals is a strange beast.

On the one hand it features some of Chloé Zhao's sensibilities as a filmmaker, something other indie directors weren't able to or allowed to do in previous Marvel movies. On the other hand it also carries the DNA of the MCU. Ideally Eternals should be the best of both worlds, a big franchise movie with artistic merit.

It doesn't quite succeed, yet it is by no means a failure. Eternals is wildy ambitious, a sprawling narrative that stretches over thousands of years. Instead of focusing on character and action driven plots like usual, the story revolves around the ethical dilemma of our heroes - they have the power to prevent mankind from taking wrong turns, but should they? Or is it better in the long run to let mankind figure it out on their own?

That the film doesn't delve in as deeply as possible as such an issue offers the opportunity to do, shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, unless they forgot that they're still watching a $ 200 m blockbuster that is part of cinema's biggest franchise. In that context Chloé Zhao managed to let her film be its own thing. For the most part Eternals is a standalone story that only ties in very loosely to the events of the MCU.

I like that none of the characters have that larger-than-life air about them that most Marvel characters typically come with. To some that probably makes them boring, but it worked for me. I found it quite refreshing to have a set of less extroverted protagonists. Zhao imbued her characters with a different kind of sincerity than we are used to in the MCU.

Also I didn't mind the movie's fractured structure at all. It's still easy enough to comprehend when and where we are and what is going on. Same goes for the action. Superhero movies are almost never not action-focused, so when the action isn't particularly outstanding, that's a problem, right? While in many cases the answer would be yes, not in this one. In that regard Eternals reminds me of Edge of Tomorrow. There too I don't think the aliens (deviants here) look very interesting and the action is probably my least favorite part. It's literally everything else why I love watching that movie.

Ok, I don't actually love the humor here, but it also didn't bother me, which, sadly, has to count as a bonus these days. But I did love the score, very unexpectedly so. There's an occasional Game of Thrones vibe to it that surprised me. When the credits rolled I looked out for the composer's name, and what do you know, it's the guy from Game of Thrones.

Cinematography-wise this is probably the most appealing the MCU has ever been. A rather low bar to clear for sure, but Zhao's contemplative approach to visuals is very present and sets Eternals apart from its insipid brethren.

Gauging the reactions, it appears that Eternals is rattling quite a few people's cages. Zhao's film, despite featuring familiar elements, is not your bog-standard Marvel product. Which is a good thing, given the franchise's formulaic nature many, myself included, so dearly love to bemoan. Does it swing for the fences? Yes. Is it flawless? No. But I'd prefer for the MCU to keep on swinging.

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