📼 Jonathan Mike 📼’s review published on Letterboxd:
Chloe Zhao really said: “You know what this superhero film needs? References to real life atrocities.”
The Eternals is an ambitious superhero film that bites off way more than it could chew. On a technical level, it’s pretty damn good. Gorgeous cinematography, decent special effects, & a solid cast. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the script, tone & pacing are incredibly lackluster.
First off, let’s talk about the good. Chloe Zhao is able to get genuinely good performances, well choreographed action & she also is able to capture the massive scale in a very great way. Everything that has to do with the Celestials looks phenomenal, & creates some jaw dropping moments. The cinematography by Ben Davies is gorgeous, he gets massive wide shots, a naturalistic color palette, & some great fluid camera movements. The music isn’t anything mind blowing but it gets the job done. Then you have an excellent cast that all do a great job with what they’re given. The digital effects are also fairly well done but the Deviants looks a little weightless sometimes. I also appreciate this film for trying to tell a massive story that spans thousands of years, & involves gigantic Celestials watching over a planet’s growth.
Now, the bad. The script by Zhao is just bizarre. I’m not an expert on The Eternals, but I’m familiar with Jack Kirby & Neil Gaiman’s interpretations of the characters & story. This version of the story is somewhat similar to the comics but changes up story elements…and not for the better. I don’t usually compare books (or in this case comic books) to their film counterparts because film adaptations are their own creative mediums. However, the script here tries to rework characters & plot points to fit in the MCU when it shouldn’t have been concerned with trying to fit in. Also, there are creative changes that just make things way less interesting. The villain in this film is the worst villain the MCU has had since Thor: The Dark World. It’s just a generic CGI Monster man who only really gets his motivation two thirds into the film. Also, I know I don’t get into design all that much, but the design of the Eternal’s costumes & The Deviants aren’t that great in my opinion. In Jack Kirby’s art, each character looked incredibly distinct & with striking colors. The Eternals costumes here vaguely look like their comic book counter parts. You get similar color palettes to the comics, but all the outfits just look the same. Same goes for the deviants, Kirby’s art made colorfully outlandish aliens with warped facial features, varying heights, & most of which were humanoid creatures that had actual lines of dialogue. Here though, it’s just gray quadrupedal monsters that all look and sound the same. Then there’s the actual story, which tries to really play up the angle of them not interfering with humans. The film could’ve just nonchalantly played off the idea to instead give an interesting science fiction film about two immortal species fighting over the territory of earth like the original comics. However, it’s almost the entire plot of the movie. The story tries to do WAY too many things at once
but still manages to be a slog to get through. There’s one scene that comes across almost laughable, where one of the Eternals realizes that he helped humans progress so much that it led to the creation of the atomic bomb & led to the destruction of Hiroshima. This isn’t even the first scene referencing a real life atrocity because earlier in the film we see Spanish Conquistadors with rifles firing at Aztecs. It’s baffling that they would reference real life atrocities for a superhero movie. I know that the X-Men films controversially uses the Holocaust as a major plot point but it fuels Magneto’s character arc because he’s seen the evil of humanity first hand. In Eternals, it’s just thrown out there in a brief ‘this happened by the way’ type of way. I guess you could say that it was part of Phastos’ character backstory, but the scene with Hiroshima is so fleeting that you could’ve just had any random (or fictional) disaster take its place. Lastly I’ll talk about the tone which fluctuates between incredibly serious to quirky MCU action film within the span of minutes. It’ll go from mourning the leveled city Hiroshima to ‘I got this table from IKEA’.
Overall, Eternals is fine, but it just didn’t click for me. It’s tonally all over the place, it’s dull, & it’s overlong. I appreciate Zhao & crew trying to do something really ambitious with the MCU but it just fell flat for me.
Unsure whether or not to give it a 2.5 or a 3