Eternals

Eternals ★★

As many of you know, I have been following the MCU since its inception with Iron Man back in 2008, so I have 13 years of experience and memories built into this franchise, but I'm always going to be honest about my thoughts on each entry and not let anything get in my way. This is why it pains me to say that Eternals is not only not a good film, but probably my least favorite in the entirety of the MCU to date.

There's a lot I can say about Eternals in terms of both its pros and cons, and how some of them feed into each other. The film is an ambitious mess, with Chloe Zhao right at the center lending her unique style to the MCU. That being said, that's where a lot of my problems lie, but we'll get there.

Starting off with the positives, the film is breathtakingly gorgeous. This has some of the best camerawork in the whole MCU, with Chloe Zhao's fingerprints all over it. The use of handheld cam and a lot of pans and camera movements make it really feel like a Chloe Zhao film stylistically. It's undoubtedly her film, and nobody can protest that. The film looks absolutely stunning, and between the lighting and camerawork, it builds an authentic and sumptuous atmosphere that is palpable in every sense of the word. It's certainly one of the more moody, atmospheric chapters in the franchise, and it feels incredibly unique and distinctive. But admittedly, that's where a lot of the film's faults lie.

There are a few standout characters, with Gemma Chan's Sersi leading the pack as a vulnerable heroine with a lot of compassion and warmth to her. Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos is also compelling and remarkably likeable whenever he's on screen. Angelina Jolie's Thena is also a standout, despite only having roughly a combined 9 lines of dialogue in the whole film. Kumail Nanjiani's Kingo has his moments as well, but he's saddled with probably the worst jokes in the film, and Nanjiani can only do so much to save it with his delivery. As for the rest of the characters... they're just kind of there. They're not terrible per se, but they're just not very interesting nor compelling to follow. And this is where a lot of my problems start to come in.

For as unique as Zhao's vision is, the film is such an exposition-heavy, dull mess. This isn't all Zhao's fault, as the film's script (co-written by Zhao and 3 other writers) is a structural mess, with a character-driven story that reaches for themes of humanity's worth and the dangers of blind following that could be incredibly compelling yet feel so emotionally-hollow and bland in execution. It also time jumps back and forth a lot, and it rarely feels natural, causing a jarring sense of cinematic whiplash that often took me out of the film. Zhao really bit off a lot more than she could chew with this one, and it never once feels like a Marvel film, lacking that unique magic that only these films have.

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the characters (with a few exceptions) and the overall story, while grand and epic in scope and pathos, is so dull and lifeless, and I never found myself truly caring by the film's generic third act finale. I (and most Marvel fans) come to these films to be not only in a world that we love, but with characters that we love and want to follow, and it's always exciting when new ones are introduced. But for a new cast that's so wonderfully diverse in so many ways, very few of them stand out or get a chance to shine, and I can't really say that I'm super excited to see them return, although I wouldn't say I am dreading their return either. They're just kind of there, which is by far and away the biggest crime a Marvel film can commit. At least with something like Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 2, I cared about the leads despite the messy films around them. But here, I just found myself feeling very empty and unfulfilled by the characters and story as a whole.

I can see where there was a great film in here; something wholly unique and compelling that we haven't seen before in the comic book movie genre. There are hints of greatness here, but I don't think Chloe Zhao was the right fit with the material, and the script just doesn't know how to juggle all these characters and the exposition needed to set up this branch of the MCU. The end credits teasers have some potentially interesting ideas, and I can't say I'm not entirely uninterested to see where it's going in that respect. But for the movie at hand, I can say that I was devastatingly disappointed with Eternals, and while it's still completely watchable and well-crafted in some respects, I can't say it's one I'm excited to revisit and it's probably the worst in the MCU in my opinion.
GRADE: C

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