‘Eternals’ Almost Reaches Ambitious Heights

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Published November 9, 2021
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The Eternals unite to stop the Deviants. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

With each new entry, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) grows in scope and population. The newest film, “Eternals,” goes for a story spanning thousands of years as a group of immortal beings shape history and civilization on Earth while having to stop an old foe from reemerging and destroying the planet.

Director Chloé Zhao, known for her work with the film “Nomadland,” certainly showcases a lot of ambition as she tries to create something different from previous entries in the franchise.

The film excels in the technical aspects, and there are quite a few entertaining moments, but the story and ensemble characters do not do enough to keep the audience fully invested over the two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Nonetheless, this is a gorgeous film to look at. Zhao and director of photography, Ben Davis, create some really impressive shots, particularly of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, allowing the audience to appreciate the action and quieter moments.

The eyes of Thena, played by Angelina Jolie, glow bright white as she is held captive. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

The eyes of Thena, played by Angelina Jolie, glow bright white as she is held captive.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Davis is no stranger to the MCU, having also worked on “Captain Marvel” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and continues to showcase an eye for comic book action. The action in “Eternals” does its job of being exciting. The score by Ramin Djawadi is also quite solid and adds a lot to the proceedings.

Ensemble casts, such as the one that comprises “Eternals,” are fun, and with a large group of characters, the audience can see who works off of each other particularly well and determine which members of the team they like spending time with.

Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, and Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, embrace. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, and Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, embrace.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

While “Eternals” is primarily an ensemble film, Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, receives the most focus. Richard Madden and Lia McHugh also get a decent amount of screen time as leader Ikaris and forever-youthful illusionist Sprite, respectively. They and the other actresses and actors, including Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Brian Tyree Henry, do well in making their characters somewhat sympathetic.

However, there are a lot of characters to juggle, and the script does not do much to develop them throughout the movie.

Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, is the most powerful member of the Eternals. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, is the most powerful member of the Eternals.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

The Avengers, the stars of many of the previous ensemble Marvel movies, were introduced individually or in somewhat smaller groups. When they came together, it was built up, and the audience had the proper amount of time to get to know them throughout the previous films. In contrast, the Eternals are brand new in the franchise, and there is not the same connection to most of these characters because the audience has not spent enough time with them.

The real standout of the film is not an Eternal, but the valet of one. Karun, played by Harish Patel, provides the necessary comic relief as the assistant to Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo. A short subplot involving them trying to make a documentary about the Eternals’ adventure proves amusing, helped by Karun’s never-ending supply of video cameras.

The fact that these characters are immortal leads to the narrative jumping back and forth between the past and the present. This has potential in showing how the team is affected by this and the rules of their status, but beyond one devastating scene featuring Henry’s character, Phastos, and Hayek’s character, Ajak, it does not feel entirely reached.

Salma Hayek plays the wise and spiritual Ajak. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Salma Hayek plays the wise and spiritual Ajak.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

“Eternals” is not a bad film by any stretch. It is competently produced, and all the technical aspects come together to create a spectacle that should satisfy moviegoers looking for a fun time.

However, the large cast does not get the proper amount of screen time and development to make them completely worth following on the journey.

The Eternals will likely appear again in future MCU works, so the possibility of them becoming more interesting in later escapades is certainly there, whether on their own or as a team.

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