Are movie going audiences ready for the Eternals? Marvel and Disney are banking on an enthusiastic “yes,” but the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is likely to be the most divisive one yet. It’s unlike anything else we’ve seen in the long running franchise. I, for one, found that to be a breathe of fresh air. However, to those expecting a straight forward, linear plot with the beats and flow of a typical Marvel film, it may feel like a disappointment.
Putting Chloé Zhao in the director’s chair immediately raised expectations for the film. Zhao is fresh off the award winning Nomadland, and is carrying a lot of clout as a filmmaker. Her directing style and keen eye for capturing genuine human emotions bring a layer of storytelling to Eternals that’s been missing from Phase 4. Under her direction are an ensemble of incredibly talented actors and actresses, each delivering stellar performances.
The trailers have explained very little of the film’s plot, and I will do the same. It’s best to experience Eternals with as little knowledge as possible. I will tell you that it follows an immortal race of beings called Eternals, each of them with varying powers and abilities. They have lived on earth for 7000 years and experienced a multitude of cultures. Their one mission on this planet is to protect mankind from a predatory race known as Deviants. What unfolds beyond that is an epic tale that spans centuries.
Eternals runs for 2 hours and 37 minutes, making it longer than Infinity War and just a hair shorter than Endgame. For the most part that runtime is earned. With a story that visits varying dynasties and spans centuries, anything under 2 hours would have felt rushed. Sure, there are parts that could have been trimmed. There are moments of unnecessary fluff. But, those moments aren’t overbearing and did little to detract from the experience.
This movie felt huge. Not only in runtime, but in scale. There’s an Avengers level threat. There’s a team of incredibly powerful beings. There’s love. There’s loss. There’s action. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Eternals fit in alongside the rest of the MCU’s roster. There is no denying that Phase 4 is leaning towards a line up of heroes far more powerful than the founding members of the Avengers.
Eternals succeeds (for the most part) in what it sets out to accomplish. It is unlike anything else in the MCU. To those who complain about the “Marvel Formula” of generic storytelling, Eternals is the answer. Where it falls flat is primarily in the design and use of the Deviants, the primary foes to the titular team. They’re a generic mash up of moving CGI components that fail to generate any real intimidation. They move the plot forward as they’re meant to and provide some solid moments of action, but the film misses its opportunity to create a truly unique beast. There are also moments that rely solely on exposition to explain important aspects of the story. It’s a cheap trick for moving a story along that I would not expect to be utilized in a story of this length and magnitude. Those gripes aside, Eternals is a satisfying experience and a strong step forward in Marvel’s Phase 4. 8/10