Eternals ★★★½

Eternals is probably the hardest Marvel has ever zagged in tone. As it plays, how different it is from the rest of the MCU is keenly felt. There are touches of the universe, like the unmistakable Marvel humour, but thematically Eternals is very different from everything before it.

Zhao has the massive task of introducing the Eternals to us, a group of superheroes that don't seem to be particularly well known even in the comics. Condensing centuries of story into its runtime, Eternals can feel like its skimmed through a bit too much. The film attempts to shell out the relationships between the heroes but because of how bloated the film is, we never really get to know any of them and their relationships feel superficial.

The film places a greater importance on character moments than on action sequences and this gives it a very different pace from anything Marvel has put out prior. While I appreciate this change of pace and the contemplative mood the film runs in, it can get a little long in the tooth. There's a big exposition dump in the middle of the film but the pace picks up from there as the plot really starts going.

But this is a Chloé Zhao film, we knew it was never gonna be like anything else from the MCU. As many people critique it for that, I find it to be the film's greatest strength. Its been awhile since I felt like there was real stakes to a Marvel film and I got that here. Being a pretty self contained film, it didn't feel beholden to setting up another movie. Each character's motivations and goals all drive towards an end point, one that left me actually wondering which of them was going to make it.

The moral dilemma every character grapples with gave the film a lot more thematic weight than it would otherwise have. Eternals does play into some superhero tropes but the film feels way more substantial than anything else in this universe. It feels purposeful, like it actually has something to say.

I really enjoy Zhao's subtle approach to the film, the effects were weaved in beautifully with those outstanding visuals and did not overwhelm. Again, this is in sharp contrast to the maximalist approach in pretty much every Marvel film. Some action sequences were great and some were kinda medium, they weren't all high octane but I did really like seeing how they used their powers to complement each other in battle.

Eternals is one of my most anticipated films of this year. While it was a mostly medium movie, I still think Zhao is an incredible director. The cast is also amazing and big kudos to Marvel for finally zagging after so many zigs. The film's biggest "flaw" is that it feels very very different from anything Marvel has ever put out. Being so self contained, it doesn't "justify" its existence in this universe so to speak, which is bound to disappoint fans. But let's be real shall we, we've given Marvel pass for way worse before.

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