hayden’s review published on Letterboxd:
It is with my whole heart, and all of my being, that I say this:
I wish Eternals was not in the MCU.
Perhaps getting Chloé Zhao to direct your science fiction epic that covers concepts as deep as human existence, creation, existential being and the futility of being is a fantastic idea on paper. Her visual style is gorgeous, her tender approach to world building is not like many others in the game right now, and she’s a name to milk the hell out of in promo. Look, I’m not saying this is my favourite MCU film since Far From Home, because that sounds weird. Eternals is my favourite Marvel film since The Winter Soldier - I just wish I could sign the franchise divorce papers myself.
There’s a lot of beauty in this film. These characters are all three-dimensional past the point of it being for the sake of it, the action set pieces on hand are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a superhero film, this films looks naturally phenomenal, and the thematic work is intrinsically fascinating. This is the most like a team any of these comic book supergroups have looked on-screen since maybe Age of Ultron, with the third act’s action giving me serious thoughts of “Wow, this would be even cooler if these characters were the Justice League.” Yet in saying that, Eternals does a lot to get me to care about a bunch of C-tier supers. Every single performance is fantastic (with the exception of the frightfully annoying Lia McHugh and the woefully sleepwalking Angelina Jolie) and, as stated above, they are all written pretty well. Yes, a few introductory scenes are repeated twice or even three times for different characters, but I’m willing to overlook it.
The biggest gripe with this whole piece comes with the territory I’m afraid, and it’s a frustratingly unavoidable reality. Feige needs to get over his romance with Iron Man, because the fucking formula doesn’t always work. As is the case with Black Widow and Shang-Chi (subjectively speaking, homies), the quips, in-universe references and never-ending references to bygone pieces is so regressive. Everything that Zhao and her fellow writers do here is stepping in the right direction, but the constant saddling down of pathetic consumerist bullshit seriously doesn’t help anyone. Marvel is enough of a staple for this film to work on its own, man. The studio title brings in people, or at least it should. This may be the most widely accessible MCU film in a long time, in the sense that non-believers in the franchise that still love vast worlds and contemplative stories could gain a lot from this experience. Yet, they’re gonna be turned the fuck off by shit trailer jokes and the most irrelevant references to Captain America. We fucking get it, the Avengers exist in-universe. Also, what the fuck is with talk of these DC references? It’s so stupid.
Look, if Eternals was a standalone science fiction piece that didn’t have the wrestle with its identity in a wider cinematic universe, it would be one of the best of all time. But because of this harsh truth, it’s going to have to settle as one of my favourites of all time. This is a fantastic film that has a lot of depth, a lot of heart, beauty, soul, and purpose. I’m unapologetically a big fan of Chloé Zhao and what she has created here, and I’m all the fuck in for a sequel. This was awesome, feel good science fiction.