Eternals ★★★½

Chloe Zhao’s take on the Eternals, an ancient race of super beings who were assigned to defend Earth from the Deviants - a race of creatures and monsters - is possibly one of the most unique MCU films to date. Whilst there are CGI action theatrics (of course), they are not the prime focus, and instead it is the character journeys, the history, and the lore that the film explores.

The Eternals have been on Earth since the dawn of mankind, and over the centuries have guided man spiritually and technologically, helping humans grow to their full potential. However, they had strict rules of what they could not interfere with - any man vs man wars must be allowed to play out. Any non deviant external threats must be left alone. Some of the group disagreed with the rules, and over time the Eternals grew distant to each other. Now, however, a new deviant threat has emerged, and the group begin to gather once more.

When a film can be over 2 and a half hours long, and despite having been awake for 14 hours before watching it I still find myself so immersed in the story that the run time feels much, much less, you know that it is well told. The film looks beautiful, from the location choices for non-green screen shooting (something Zhao championed for realism, when most MCU films use effects heavily), to the actual CGI designs of the Celestials, everything looks grand and epic, giving a completely different tone to typical MCU. Indeed, the film is lent a darker filter - gone are the vibrant colours of The Avengers, replaced by an almost DCEU feel - and the humour is also toned down. It is usual in a Marvel film for every character to be quippy with remarks, but here that is saved for the few characters for who it feels natural (Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo for example). The film feels very grounded and personal as a result, even though the cosmic tale it is telling is ambitious and epic.

However, it is the ambition here that is a letdown - the scale of the story, which nods at how depictions of deities throughout the world, and myths and legends over the centuries were likely inspired by actions of these Eternals) the film tries to tell too much of a story in one outing. There feels like there would be enough material within here to bring two or three films to life, but in rushing to get to the present day we skip over what could have been really interesting moments in human history through the eyes of immortals.
But the core story works, and indeed surprises with turns that come unexpected, but feel deserved, and the film asks us to question right and wrong, posing some moral quandaries that leave you thinking what the right action would have really been.

Whilst this is an initial upper-mid tier MCU film, the more I weigh on it, the more I feel I will appreciate it on revisits, and want to revisit.
This new post-Endgame phase for the MCU is proving to be quite a fresh direction so far. Shang Chi brought us Wuxia and Chinese mythologies, this expands the myths to tap into grand scale themes. Here’s hoping we don’t drop back to formula any time soon.

Grand ambition which feels a little rushed given the epic scope of the story it is telling, but it holds together well enough. A different feel than other Marvel films, it looks beautiful, is well cast, and has a well crafted soundtrack to convey the emotion and drama.

I didn't feel bored at any point, and the run time seemed much shorter, which has to be a good sign.

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