As Marvel Cinematic Universe goes into uncharted territory with their latest slate of films for Phase Four, Eternals continues that path by introducing audiences to a whole new team of superheroes and another section of the Marvel mythos. Coming off her Oscar win, director Chloe Zhao comes in with a humongous task in bringing these otherworldly characters on the big screen as she adds her signature style to film while also reminding audiences that it is a Marvel film all the way through. With that in mind, this superhero flick is unlike anything that the MCU has put out so far.
Eternals is a sprawling film that jumps back and forth in time as we explore the origins of these Celestial beings and their history with humanity since their first contact with Earth over 7,000 years ago. Beginning in 5000 BC, we see the Eternals tasked with protecting Earth from an evil alien race known as the Deviants. Throughout history, this team has been battling with these creatures until they are all eradicated from the planet. After their task is done, the Eternals take a step back and avoid interfering with any human conflict. The film takes us to the present day as much of the team has split up. We see Sersei (Gemma Chan) living in London dating an ordinary human named Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington). Once the Deviant is spotted on Earth, Ikaris (Richard Madden) makes his arrival and reassembles the team again to protect the world once again from their counterparts. The other team members comprise of leader Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), and Druig (Barry Keoghan).
With such a huge cast, the film does an amazing job developing these characters into the story and how their time on Earth has changed them. Cersei is pretty much the heart of the story as we learn about her love for humanity and her relationship with Ikaris over the centuries. We see how their love for one another has evolved over time and how their eventual split affects them in the present day. Seeing how complicated their relationship is throughout the film gives a lot of heart to the story and adds some depth to their characters as they discover themselves.
We also get some attention from the other characters we see on screen. Kingo offers some humor into Eternals, which balances well with the more emotional parts that the film carries. However, we don’t often get to explore more of his character once we get into the final act of the feature. We see Sprite struggle to fit as she is stuck living as a child that deprives her of living a normal life, which we get to see portrayed really well thanks to Lia’s presence. Jolie and Lee have some amazing chemistry when we see these two on-screen together as Thena and Gilgamesh. We get to explore Phastos’ relationship with humanity as he sees the error of his ways when helping them with technological advances, but he rediscovers their beauty when he starts a family of his own. We also get some quality time with Keoghan, Ridloff, and Hayek in their character roles, but not enough to fully connect with them. It’s a huge task for someone like Zhao to take on to build all these characters up, but she gives enough depth to have audiences really relate to them on a personal level.
There’s a lot of drama that goes into the film, but we still get to see some action that is the trademark of a Marvel film as well as balancing it with some humor. We do see some practical effects being used in these fight sequences, keeping the action grounded when necessary. The CGI can be noticeable with the epic battles that take place with the Deviants, but it does feel much more engrossing and thrilling when we see this team using their countless abilities like flight or speed. The visuals are also spectacular when we see the ginormous Celestials that sent the Eternals here and glimpses of their homeworld. We often get some funny scenes with Kingo and Sprite, which work well with the film, but oftentimes it can get a bit stale when it mixes in with the heavy emotional moments.
The film can be thought-provoking when it tackles themes on the importance of preserving civilization and saving Earth’s resources. It is a different approach to most MCU films when it tackles subjects as deep as this, but it does remind audiences that this is very much a Marvel film. The movie takes big swings in some scenes that truly stand out, however, it doesn’t take that leap forward to really change the formula. It is also a longer film, so some pacing can be a bit off but audiences won’t feel bored throughout the movie. The film takes place in several locations, making this a beautifully shot film offering much of what the world has to offer. Even the background score is incredible and perhaps the most memorable, delivering some powerful sounds that don’t make this a typical superhero film.
In the end, Eternals is another great entry in the MCU and appeals to the masses. Zhao has put out a film that is unlike any Marvel movie we have seen and offers a different perspective of a traditional superhero flick. Seeing this further proves that these latest slate of films are going in a bold new direction that we haven’t experienced in the past MCU movies we’ve seen. It is an epic adventure to discover in the theater thanks to the amazing direction and emotional journey that has been brought out by Zhao. It is an ambitious piece of work that leaves a good impression after the credits roll.