Marvel Studios has had a pretty good track record over the last decade or so. Some Marvel films are clearly better than others, and tastes will vary, but overall there are very few Marvel Studios films that people would say are outright bad.
In fact, most Marvel fans will tell you that the studio has yet to release a bad film. However, Marvel’s upcoming release of Eternals may change that perception. While most moviegoers likely won’t end up classifying Eternals as a bad film, it will not play as well to a wide audience when compared to almost every other Marvel film.
Coming from academy award-winning director, Chloé Zhao, there were high expectations for Marvel’s latest. While the film maintains some of the more generic Marvel themes, it feels more like a Chloé Zhao film set within the Marvel universe, rather than a Marvel film directed by Chloé Zhao.
Eternals is the story of a group of god-like beings that were created by the Celestials, who are massive cosmic beings that essentially created all life in the universe. The Eternals are tasked with protecting the Earth from the Deviants, a race of destructive creatures who are keen to nibble on Earthlings.
For the last 7,000 years the Eternals have done their job to protect mankind, but now a new revelation has changed things.
Throughout the film, we see the Eternals in modern day, as well as through the ages. All of the scenes from the past offer an interesting glimpse into the characters and how they interact with one another, but the modern scenes all feel much slower, and create a very slow-paced film that may have trouble resonating with general audiences.
There are many emotional beats as you see the Eternals in the past and present, but it’s difficult to connect with these characters compared to most other Marvel films. This is partially because there are so many characters in the film, but the real culprit is that most of the emotional beats come before the audience has time to get to know the characters.
The cast of Eternals is one of the most star-studded of any Marvel film to date, and should have been a home run in the right hands. Each member of the cast embodies their respective characters, and draws as much emotion as they can from a script that is generally lacking.
Many of these characters would likely have fared better with a sharper script. Ajak (Salma Hayek), is the leader of the Eternals and the only one in the group that can communicate with the main Celestial, Arishem (David Kaye).
The rest of the team is comprised of Sersi (Gemma Chan), who can alter matter, Sprite (Lia McHugh), a master of illusion stuck in a child’s body, Ikaris (Richard Madden), the most powerful member of the Eternals, Thena (Angelina Jolie), the fiercest warrior of the bunch, Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok), the brawler of the group, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) who is deaf, but has superspeed like Quicksilver, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), the comic relief, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), who makes gadgets, and Druig (Barry Keoghan), who controls minds.
With 10 Eternals to introduce, this may seem like an overstuffed film, but you still have Dane Whitman (Kit Harington), who is human, plus the Deviants (who mostly don’t speak). This causes a bit of an uneven emotional connection with the characters in the film.
Marvel films generally appeal to a wide audience because it’s easy for people to connect with the characters, and there’s a fair amount of humor. Both are lacking in Eternals, and the movie suffers for it. By the end of Eternals, most people won’t care about a majority of the main group, and Dane Whitman doesn’t have enough screen time to start caring about him.
This causes many of the emotional beats to fall flat, which is also an issue with the humor. Kingo is supposed to be the funny man of the group, but the writing for the character just doesn’t make the cut. He has almost all of the lines that are supposed to be funny, but very few laughs were heard in the theater.
Eternals is also one of the least action-oriented films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are still several action scenes where the Eternals battle against the various Deviant CG monsters, but clocking in at over two and a half hours, it’s the second longest film in the MCU next to Avengers: Endgame.
Most of that runtime is taken up by dialogue between characters that the audience hasn’t built a relationship with yet. One thing Eternals has going for it is the fact that it’s the most inclusive film in the MCU. Just between the main group of Eternals you get representation for Black, Indian, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, and the hearing impaired community.
All of the representation was done well and felt authentic instead of being forced or feeling out of place.
Eternals feels like what would happen if you took the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and removed all of the personality. James Gunn did a fantastic job introducing a virtually unknown set of characters and making the audience care about each one through their various interactions.
With Chloé Zhao, it just feels as though she missed the mark on making these characters appealing and relatable, and the action sequences and world-building aren’t enough to carry the film without an emotional connection to the characters.
There are two credit scenes, one mid-credits and the other post-credits. Both are important for the future of the MCU, so make sure you stay all the way to the end.
- Talented cast that does their best with the script
- Visually the film is another hit for Marvel
- The best race and LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU
- Game of Thrones reunion between Richard Madden and Kit Harington
- Very slow pacing
- Lack of emotional connection to most of the characters
- Humor falls flat
- Weak antagonist