Jared Jacoby’s review published on Letterboxd:
“We have loved these people since the day we arrived. When you love something, you protect it.”
Eternals takes place in present day in the MCU. It is about an immortal alien race that has been living among humans for centuries without interfering in their conflict. Their main enemy as they know are Deviants which can exterminate humanity and even kill the seemingly immortal Eternals. One Eternal, Sersi lives in London with another fellow Eternal Sprite as they try to enjoy what human life has to offer. Once the Deviants return however, they along with Ikaris stop it from destroying London. They decide to search for the other Eternals around the globe to stop the Deviants’ return and await Arishem’s return.
Eternals was a movie I was excited for the moment I heard about it. The more I learned about it, the more I was looking forward to it. It just seemed so different from all of the other Marvel films that I wanted to see how the story would unfold. Also, I loved Chloe Zhao’ as last film, Nomadland. There was a lot for this movie to deliver on. Does it deliver on the story and material?
I don’t know how Eternals fares as an adaptation to the comics so my review is solely based on how this movie operates as a movie. As a movie, it is a huge mixed bag. Let’s talk about the good stuff. First of all, the cast is terrific. This is one of the most diverse casts I have ever seen in a blockbuster and I appreciate how Chloe Zhao makes sure every single character gets some limelight throughout the film. Some characters are more developed than others, but they all feel like they have at least some hidden depths and chemistry. Some particular standouts are Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo who is as charismatic as he is funny, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Don Lee as Gilgamesh and Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos. They brought their characters to life and made them feel like people with conflicting emotions rather than just soulless robots of an alien race. Another standout for me is Harish Patel as Karun. He made for an amusing comic relief, but when he had serious scenes, he executed them perfectly. He knew when the tone got more serious and he has some great emotional moments in the film. Finally, I liked Richard Madden’s performance as Ikaris. He plays the stoic character with some insecurities very well. This is a great ensemble cast and they deliver some great performances.
I also thought the movie was great on a technical level. The cinematography is solid, the visuals are stunning and the action scenes are outstanding. They flow so well and the camerawork is some of the best in the MCU. The final battle features this camera work in action. It uses the powers of all of the Eternals at the scene. I thought the costumes were pretty good as well. However, this is where things start to go south for this movie…
My biggest problem with Eternals is the script. It’s a hot mess. This is easily one of Marvel’s most ambitious films because of the huge cast and the themes of humanity, pleasures and compassion, but the movie has a lot more exposition than it should have. It also has some jarring tonal inconsistencies. This film has many out-of-place comedic moments that kind of fall flat for the most part. I did get a chuckle here and there, but I think this had the worst humor in an MCU film. A lot of it has to do with the timing. There were so many times I feel like the movie was starting to take a serious direction and then a gag randomly pops up and spoils the mood. When the film tries to be dramatic and intense with the Eternals reflecting on how they can influence and impact humanity, it comes off as melodramatic. The scene in Hiroshima particularly standouts as does the scene right before they split up.
The pacing is what really frustrates me. The movie is two and half hours long. While that is a long runtime, it makes sense for a movie like this that has a lot of material to cover. The problem is that it feels like the story progresses so slowly. It takes forever to move from one country to another and some of the flashbacks can be pretty confusing. I feel like there were a lot of scenes that could have been sped up such as Arishem’s conversation with Sersi or one of the dinner scenes with Gilgamesh.
While I liked most of the characters in the film, I do think they could have been better developed in some areas. Particularly, Sersi ends up being the most vanilla character in the movie despite being the focus. She has very little personality traits or depth aside from being an all-loving and altruistic hero and being fascinated with iPhones. Every other character in the film has more interesting traits than her. Ikaris could have also been more interesting as well, but there is a twist that helps him. Sersi on the other hand? No offense to Gemma Chan who does her best with what she is given, but Sersi is probably one of my least favorite protagonists in a comic book movie. I just never got attached to her at any point.
Eternals has its ups and downs, but ultimately, it is a letdown. I think it could have been overhyped after Chloe Zhao won Best Director at the Academy Awards but even then, there are too many problems with this film. There is a lot of good in here and I was always curious to see what would happen in each scene, but it is not enough to save the movie entirely. I hate to say it because it is clear Chloe Zhao and everyone else who worked on this film were trying to create something truly special and unique from Marvel and in some ways they did. However, this movie shows why ambition alone does not make an amazing film.
Despite all my problems with this film, I am happy that I saw it. It helped me clear my mind of stress and rebuild my excitement for films.
Just like any Marvel film, stay through the credits.