WillDraugelis’s review published on Letterboxd:
Going into this I was pretty skeptical; Marvel has never had a negative reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes according to critics. And for me at least, I think that about half of the MCU could probably have a “rotten” score. Coming out of the film, I just must wonder if those same critics have never seen: Iron Man 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Ant Man and the Wasp, or Thor: The Dark World. While I would actually probably slate Eternals right around mid-tier MCU, those four films I just listed have absolutely nothing redeeming in them, bottom of the barrel bad. This film has clear and obvious issues with it, but I still can’t imagine someone who gave this a negative review sat in the theater years ago and thought “Thor: The Dark World, now this is cinema”.
Eternals could probably best be compared to The Avengers (2012), both being the first real time these two teams are formed. I would slate them very close together in terms of overall quality, except almost for opposite reasons. Avengers benefits greatly from most of the characters either having a solo film or appearing with a significant role prior to the movie. So, they already had built in backstory and character development, we weren’t just being thrown into this already formed group. This film gives us this incredibly talented and diverse group of characters and doesn’t give them the development they deserve throughout. I believe there was 10 members of The Eternals (along with numerous side characters) and we don’t really get to know any of them, besides a flashback scene for each. Which, that just isn’t quite enough time to get me at least to care about these characters and their journey. When a dramatic scene hits, it doesn’t have that same feel as when it is with Cap, Tony, or any of the other Avengers. It felt like all those characters at times almost got too much backstory and we just wanted to see them in the action, as opposed to this which felt very rushed. Then the very few characters we did get a little more idea of who they are, Ikaris and Sersi, they were probably the two least interesting Eternals as compared to the rest.
On the positive side however, this was significantly better shot than all other MCU films combined. Special effects have gotten really good now-a-days, but still something shooting on location does just look and feel better than something that isn’t. That alone is able to get you more invested in what is going on around these characters than when it is just all CGI. As for the rest though, it kind of did what the MCU movies have done, for better and for worse. While I think it might aspire to call itself a fresh breath of air in the MCU, I think that is happening much more on the T.V side, with shows like WandaVision and Loki. I actually thought that this followed the checklist that the other Marvel movies have pretty much to a tee. I don’t think anything you see in this will catch you completely off guard or surprise you, unless this is your first entry into the superhero genre. I will say though, something that did surprise me was this was the first MCU in a while (probably since Ragnorak) where I thought the humor kind of worked. Not every joke lands, but they aren’t coming in as fast and loose as usual, each joke feels like it serves more of purpose than the typical MCU banter. Also, like most of the stuff in the MCU, this was well cast throughout and the chemistry was like usual, good between all of them. I just wish that some of the time would have been better used throughout to give each one of them the time they deserved to shine.
It’s funny, one of the main characters in this film is named Ikaris, which is pretty similar to Icarus, or the legend of Icarus. In the tale of Icarus, that character flies too close to the sun and ends up losing his wings. I wouldn’t say this movie really ever takes a chance and does fly to close to the sun. It feels like its wings were almost clipped prior and maybe if they would’ve just given an Oscar winner like Chloé Zhao a chance to really make a movie like she did with her other features, then we would’ve gotten something truly different. Maybe as a result she would’ve flown too close to the sun, and it would have crashed in spectacular fashion. Or maybe it would have been a true game changer in the genre and everyone, critics and fans alike would be buzzing about it. Instead, I think we are just left with a pretty average movie and something you won’t be mad you saw, nor rushing to tell others to go out and watch.