This review is written specifically to be spoiler free (I know, aren’t I considerate?) – if you’ve seen the film or don’t mind major spoilers, why not listen to our Eternals Breakdown episode of the Corner of Film Podcast?
Expanding the scale of the MCU by a considerable margin, Eternals tells the story of the team of titular super-powered beings sent to Earth to protect mankind from the Deviants, a race of predatory CGI beasts intent on… something.
After the resounding success of the MCU’s previous team-up movies – The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – Eternals has fallen a little flat with both critics and audiences. The reasons why are fairly complex, but ultimately, it all boils down to the film essentially having ten distinct protagonists, and the difficulty it has in balancing them all and giving them the attention they require. Whether or not Eternals does this successfully is a matter of much debate.
Eternals‘ representation is spot-on, featuring both the first openly gay superhero and the first disabled superhero. The perceived difficulties with this representation are shattered in Eternals, which manages to be as simply inclusive as all blockbusters should be. Each member of the team feels unique and has their own motivations over the film’s 7,000 year story, and the attempt to capture the sprawling scope of human history as experienced by the near-immortal Eternals was incredibly ambitious of Chloé Zhao. Still, Zhao is able to tell an interesting and exciting story that widens the scope of the MCU, even if it does feel a little like an outsider in the franchise.
There are precious few references to the events of other Marvel films, and while this isn’t overly important to the narrative, it does set Eternals apart from the web of interconnected stories that fans have grown accustomed to. This makes for a very different type of viewing experience, and that break from familiarity is one that proves jarring to many Marvel movie fans. Eternals also has a much more serious tone than most other MCU films, with its comic relief characters lost among the epic sci-fi story the film attempts to tell.
In terms of its general narrative, Eternals is solidly enjoyable and even somewhat surprising, if a little forced. It requires a few leaps of logic in order to suspend disbelief, but ultimately, it’s a rewarding experience.
Eternals makes extensive use of CGI, but for the most part, its visual effects are impressive. The characters’ general design is excellent, as is the fresh take on their story – Eternals uses elements from various comic arcs, as well as making a few innovations of its own, in order to make the film as impactful as possible.
Eternals touches on some deep themes, although it isn’t able to fully explore any of them to any satisfying depth. This is fortified by numerous exposition dumps, mostly through the film’s increasingly exhausting flashback sequences, which in turn deals a major blow to Eternals‘ overall pacing.
By the time the credits rolled, I wanted to know more, but I also wanted desperately to get away. That’s Eternals in a nutshell – the general premise and presentation are exciting, but it lacked in the execution in a few key points. It does set up a handful of exciting characters for future MCU films, though, which, while exciting, cements the idea that Eternals was a film made to set up future films as opposed to stand proudly on its own two feet.
Summary: This over-ambitious early entry into the MCU’s Phase Four is essentially undone by its own scale. There’s somehow both too much and not enough, and it doesn’t make for the most satisfying MCU experience, but there’s still plenty to enjoy about Eternals.
Highlights: Excellent casting leads to solid performances from the film’s ensemble cast. Any time Kit Harrington is on screen though, he thoroughly steals the show.