Eternals Review

The latest entry in the ever-growing list of MCU properties is Eternals, which I’ll be honest I wasn’t that thrilled about going into it. I got the Marvel Comics part-work set of 60 graphic novels a decade or so ago and it had Neil Gaiman’s run with the Eternals as part of it and it left no lasting impression apart from maybe one of being dull but with great artwork. Is the film better than that? Yes, I can’t say its dull that often and it certainly has some stunning visuals but I can say it didn’t really leave a lasting impression either, not one where I’m dying for, or at least looking forward to a sequel like a lot of other MCU content. Let’s take a deeper look, anyway…

Synopsis:

In 5000 BC, ten superpowered Eternals are sent by the Celestial Arishem to Earth on their starship, the Domo, to exterminate the invasive Deviants. The last of the Deviants are killed in 1521, and the group’s opinions differ over their continued responsibilities and their relationship with humankind. Over the next five hundred years, they mostly live apart from each other, awaiting Arishem’s return.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

It’s the Eternals! That was lucky, I was just about to talk about them!

I will give the film credit that with “just” a two and a half hour runtime to introduce ten Eternals and the MCU’s version of the Black Knight, it does that well. As the Synopsis states the Eternals are ageless beings sent to Earth to stop monsters known as Deviants but to never actually interfere in the affairs of man, a key point that some aren’t as big of a fan of. Sersi (Gemma Chan) is the defacto leader of the group as she truly cares for humanity and becomes the only one who can speak to their God, the Celestial Arishem, after their previous leader Ajak (Salma Hayek) is killed. Sersi can turn one material into another, like wood into water, rock into gold, that sort of thing, while Ajak can instantly heal herself and other people. Ikaris (Richard Madden) can fly and fire beams from his eyes but is otherwise pretty much just the straight man of the group, plus the love interest for both Sersi and Sprite (Lia McHugh), who is an Eternal who can create optical illusions that is stuck in the body of a 12-year-old. Then there’s Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who can fire energy from his fingers like a gun and is otherwise the “fun one”, Thena (Angelina Jolie) who is a great warrior who has memory issues that cause her to see her allies as enemies sometimes, Gilgamesh (Don Lee) who has great physical strength and is in love with Thena, Druig (Barry Keoghan) who can control human minds and is soon fed up of standing by and watching them slaughter each other for no reason, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) who is a genius with technology, and finally Makkari, who can move at super speed and despite being deaf can feel subtle vibrations in the air to tell what people are saying, alongside sign language, obviously…

So that’s a lot to cram into a debut film, but as mentioned they also added in the second Black Knight from the comics, Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), though here he’s just the kind boyfriend of Cersi with only a post-credits tease showing the classic Ebony Blade. Still good fun, and I love how we’ve ended up with so many obscure comic characters on-screen. I’ll say as well that I don’t think any one of the eleven cast members I just mentioned did badly in their roles either, I wasn’t often in love with the story but the actors never pulled me away from the screen, even Kingo’s sidekick/valet Karun (Harish Patel) nailed the comedic timing. What I did like was the big twist, so in case you didn’t read my spoiler warning, here’s a second one: Spoiler warning! … alright, so instead of being put on Earth to protect humanity from the Deviants for the race’s sake they were put on Earth to defeat the Deviants so humanity could get to a certain technology / population level to “feed” enough intelligence to birth a new Celestial, one that would break through the planet and wipe it out once it “hatched”. It’s also revealed that this group of ten had done this already, many, many times, with their memories erased each time so as to not make them go crazy (like what happens with Thena…) The only people aware of this are Ajak and Ikaris, and when Ajak decides humanity, a race that through its own strength brought half of the universe back to life, should be spared Ikaris is the one who kills her so the birthing can still take place.

Arishem looms in space. Or was this the shot that transitioned into the crystal statue on the Eternals ship? … Either way, there he is!

This eventually leads to a split in the Eternals, with Ikaris and Sprite siding with Arishem and the Celestial’s perfectly logical idea that although Earth will be destroyed the Celestial it births will go on to create billions of more lives across the universe, while Sersi, Thena, Phastos, Makkari and Druig decide to fight against them and try to save Earth. Kingo opts out as he believes the Celestial should be born to help the universe but can’t bring himself to fight against his own family, and Gilgamesh is killed protecting Thena earlier in the film, so… he didn’t really have a say. It’s made clear that Sprite sides with Ikaris more out of love than the ideal, and there are also some sweet moments where Phastos has a husband and son he is willing to die to protect despite having previously given up on humanity after his technology was used for nuclear warfare, and Makkari and Druig have a surprisingly believable romantic line running through the story, despite their personalities being completely different. They all fight (themselves and a super Deviant I’ll talk about later…) but in the end Cersi is able to connect all the nearby Eternals into a “Uni-mind” and use that power to turn the emerging Celestial into stone. Knowing he’s failed his mission and being unable to kill the woman he loves, Ikaris kills himself by flying into the sun.

We get a few different end points after this. Phastos, Cersi and Kingo stay on Earth, while Thena, Druig and Makkari head off into space to find other Eternals and tell them the truth. Cersi and Dane meet but before he can tell her about his family history the three Eternals who stayed on Earth are whisked into space by Arishem himself and told that their memories will decide whether he permits Earth to be allowed to live or not. Meanwhile the three Eternals in space meet a new Eternal from another group in Eros, otherwise known as Starfox (Harry Styles), who is also Thanos’ brother. That was a weird cliffhanger… Then we get Dane about to touch his Ebony Blade (oo-er?) scene I mentioned earlier, though he’s stopped by the new Blade (Mahershala Ali) off-screen, which is a nice tease. Overall it was a fun two and half hours, and I loved the designs of the Celestials and some of the flashbacks to the past, seeing a recreated Babylon and the fall of the Aztecs were a refreshing change from some of the more obvious “set in the past” scenes these sort of stories tend to do.

The Bad:

The Black Knight in live action! … Eventually. For now just Dane Whitman. Also I haven’t made one Game of Thrones reference in the whole review! Hooray!

I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of the design work. The Eternal’s costumes looked stylised but rather… I don’t know, generic? Their ship the “Domo” just looks like a floating black slab of marble and the interior isn’t much better (besides a massive crystal statue of Arishem, that looks good…) and most importantly the Deviants themselves look really plain. They look like a basic map enemy from a random RPG that you don’t even pay attention to after a while, they have no visual flare to them. One Deviant absorbs Ajak and Gilgamesh’s powers and gains the ability to talk for a brief spell, but is swiftly defeated by Thena with little reason for his evolution…

I also have to say that two and a half hours felt like too much. I really liked some of the scenes in the past and I know there were a lot of characters to get to know, but overall there were times when I looked at my clock and was shocked that there was still so much of the film left to go. Definitely felt slow in places.

Overall Thoughts:

This is the kind of scene I was talking about when mentioning the phrase “visually stunning”. Looks like crazy concept art brought to life… in other words pretty much everything because that’s what concept art is… Man I say some stupid things some times… Anyway, looked great on my 4K TV!

Eternals is a really hard one to rate. I enjoyed some of the flashbacks and the characters themselves, especially some of the relationships and believable banter they have, but the Deviants and a lot of the costumes and other designs felt rather dull visually and it was a slow burn, to put it politely. Thinking about it although I enjoyed a lot more than I didn’t I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like watching it again…

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