At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, moviegoers have seen everything from talking raccoons to time-warping wizards. Now, the franchise behemoth unleashes its latest heroes to join the fight against evil: a bunch of mythological, god-like beings that ponder free will and their own immortality. Our heroes are sent to Earth, under the orders of a massive space entity known as Arishem the Celestial, to protect humans from destructive creatures called Deviants.
“Eternals” fights the uphill battle of introducing an ensemble of new characters from a comic title that is relatively unknown. Additionally, Oscar-winning Director Chloe Zhao brings her own style that might feel like a departure from typical superhero fanfare. With characters like Iron Man and Captain America no longer in the game, Marvel digs deeper into its toy chest to find its next cash cow of characters.
For the most part, Zhao and crew succeed. The film takes its time with letting the story play out so the audience can meet with the characters, but with a two-hour and 37-minute run time, it can feel drawn out and over-blown.
The audience is introduced to 10 all-new characters, led by the heart of the film, Sersi (Gemma Chan), and the loyal, Superman-like character of Ikaris (Richard Madden). The film mostly focuses on them and their quest to assemble the team to combat the recent re-emergence of their deviant foes. The duo both give great performances as the leads, and Chan in particular brings emotion and compassion to the screen as the hero that cares the most about humans.
The cast also features the acting powerhouses of Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Barry Keoghan, Lauren Ridloff and Angelina Jolie. The medley has great chemistry with one another and gives shining performances from top to bottom.
This is also one of Marvel’s most diverse casts to date, bringing together characters of all different races and sexualities. The film even includes the MCU’s first deaf superhero with Ridloff’s Makkari. It is always refreshing to see a movie take the steps to include representation, especially in a film of this scale.
The casts’ performances mixed with the script from the writing team, which Director Chloe Zhao also worked on, brought powerful, god-like beings down to our level. The “Eternals” are basically one big dysfunctional family that also holds the fate of humanity in their hands. Their internal struggles are very human, and their characters’ vulnerability mixed with conflict sucked me right into their story.
However, the movie does falter with its long runtime. Being the second-longest Marvel film, “Eternals” takes its time assembling all the characters. A large chunk of the film is dedicated to going from one character’s hideout to the next, which started to feel repetitive after the second location change.
There also are some flashback sequences throughout the film that halt the movie’s momentum in order to give some backstory. It killed the progress the story was making, making for a clunky plot execution.
The Deviants are big CGI blobs of muscle determined to eradicate the human race. That is about all there is to their characters. There is an attempt to give their story some more importance, but it ultimately feels hollow by the time the credits roll.
“Eternals” does not deserve the 47% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. It is not perfect, but it dared to blend a new style into the MCU with another great cast of heroes. As Marvel moves into its fourth phase of superhero storytelling, it needs to take refreshing risks like this one if it is to prevail.