Eternals ★★★★

Movie #3254: Eternals

There may be major issues with Eternals, but damn I was enthralled by it.

Along with End of Evangelion, this film reminded me of a comic from DC known as Kingdom Come. Both are brilliant pieces of material to dissect the power of gods, the worth of man and the order of the universe. So this film is in good company, right? Well... mostly. I am a new fan of the Eternals having begun their 2020-2021 run and researched them prior to the film's release, I had a lot of time to become acquainted with the heroes to be at least an amateur when it comes to these characters. The film, while not necessarily an accurate adaptation of the comic books, there are quite a few things shuffled around in terms of the Eternals/Deviant's origins/healing powers, their roles within the group and their purpose on earth. This film, much like Dune, has impeccable world building that fascinates those obsessed with history and alternate history as seen within fictional media. Now, while it isn't comparable to Dune in sophistication and storytelling, there is a lot here to like. Eternals expands the MCU beyond the boundaries of what is known, with terrific cosmic sequences featuring "answers" about the origins of the universe itself and how the world comes to be. As someone who loved the discussion of free will and determinism/intelligent design from Loki, this is just another layer to adore about this franchise. Those attempts of world building do not come without cost. As a result, exposition pours from the mouths of the film's characters as they grapple with such large concepts. These concepts, though fascinating, will divide the crowd undoubtedly making some viewers laugh or roll their eyes. I, for one, only took issue with the delivery of this exposition. While mostly necessary to the understanding of the overall story, the film's characters are dry in delivery. Characteristic to Zhao's and another modern auteur Yorgos Lanthimos' filmmaking, the characters come off as distant and alien as they should, but after having lived thousands of years amongst humans, some still haven't adapted to emotion. Some overdo it or are just flat. Characters like Ikaris and Sprite (comparable to Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in her solo film) in particular feel the least connected. This may seem to be the point given their relation to the plot, but it does make moments silly that really shouldn't be. It distracts from and undermines the story Zhao tells. Not to mention, the humor here comes off as more forced than other MCU entries. Some of it hits hard, while others miss the mark by a mile. But that's as far as my issues go with Eternals. The pacing for a two and a half hour film is quite impressive and under the circumstances of having to introduce 10+ characters, it did a well enough job at crafting a compelling origin story. It's not nauseating like other blockbusters I've seen this year. Now, does it succeed at having the emotional impact of other MCU features that have developed characters? Of course not, but as an ambitious tale of Gods and Immortal beings, it does a good enough job. I did find one of the twists to be quite shocking considering my knowledge of the comic books and in that was given a great arc for one character that made me smile. As for the actors, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry and Kumail Nanjiani stand out among the rest giving it their all and providing great moments of depth given how little two of them have to do with the actual film. Whether or not they interact or crossover with the other MCU characters, as a standalone, this film works wonders with only passing allusions to the universe Marvel has and the conclusion providing wondrous places for the Eternals to go beyond. And beyond is looking mighty promising. Side notes, the technical aspects of the film are solid with the VFX being competent, the sound being engrossing (could have been that Dolby sound) and the music also containing excellent tracks filled with numerous instrumental tones and shifts. Looking at Eternals as a whole, it's easy to understand why many don't love the film, I definitely get that, the Deviants are weak, there's a lot of exposition and yeah, some of the acting is fairly wooden, but Eternals has it where it counts. The story is thematically impactful and complete, the actors who do express (at least) some emotion do a great job and the technical aspects give us something unseen from most Marvel film. After 30 film and TV shows, much like Shang-Chi, it's a breath of fresh air.

PS- It's not the best MCU film, but it does have astounding highs that outweigh those larger issues the film has. Those Celestial scenes floored me, the third act (though familiar) is a great twist on the MCU formula and I quite enjoyed getting to know this family of superheroes. Cheers to what comes next...

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