Eternals ★★★★

Like the gears of some ancient, enormous watermill, it takes a little while for Eternals to get going. The action intro set in pre-civilization Mesopotamia is an underwhelming showpiece, and then we're swept away to meet Gemma Chan's Sersi, Lia McHugh's Sprite, and Kit Harrington's... guy who works at a museum (that's not a slight, he's actually quite charming and aloof, which is a nice change from the broodtastic Jon Snow) in modern day London. Here we learn that the Deviants, thought to be long defeated, are back, and the biggest flaw with Eternals is that the Deviants are resoundingly uninteresting, even as they evolve over the course of the movie. Chloe Zhao once again makes nature her bitch, offering one stunning vista after another, so these loud, squiggly monster jerks are by and large unwelcome. A good chunk of the film is the classic team assembly plot, and sure enough, the Deviants are at every turn. It's not an exactly an eyesore or a bore (in fact, the battle in the Amazonian jungle is quite excellent), they're just too busy, not unlike those alien critters from The Tomorrow War. Thankfully, the Deviants aren't the only forces creating friction amongst our heroes. Arishem, the massive celestial in the sky, is a feast for the eyes. I was drooling anytime an Eternal was summoned to hear his dictation. Please, Marvel. Please give me Galactus. It's time. You done good with Dormammu, You done better with Arishem, now let's have it!

Eternals gradually and slyly develops emotional traction, and that's ultimately why it succeeds. There's so much heart and soul here. It's a very good story, and the international ensemble is stupendous. While watching Richard Madden's tightly wound performance, I remembered that I had watched the miniseries Bodyguard and thought, "Oh yeah. He's really good at this." I love Angelina Jolie in a supporting capacity. She's a great lead too, but she brings so much heat that she makes her limited screen time as rich and dense as possible. Kumail Nanjiani is an absolute riot. For as heart-rendering as Eternals can be, it absolutely nails the comedic uplift, and it's largely due to his adorable vanity.

It's a long ride, but it's a good one. Much like Shang-Chi it feels like its own thing, its own world, and that is so welcome. Marvel keeps pivoting, and I admire the hell out of that.

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