Many critics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have pointed out that Marvel has been playing it safe recently. They argue that they’re just releasing the same formulaic movies to make some profits. It’s a little shocking to see those takes because the MCU has always taken risks. Right down to making The Avengers a reality and having the Guardians of the Galaxy (whose main cast is a talking raccoon and a giant tree) being a movie early on. It feels like Marvel is striking back at these claims with the release of Marvel’s Eternals. It’s a bold movie that takes a lot of risks, and it pays dividends.
Marvel’s Eternals is now playing in theatres.
Story: A Narrative Spanning Eons
Marvel’s Eternal is an expansive story that dates back thousands of years. The Eternals themselves are an immortal alien race that gets sent to Earth to fight a monstrous race called the Deviants. They’re tasked to defeat them and protect humanity without ever interfering with human issues. After initially defeating the Deviants, they go off on their separate ways until they’re reunited in the present time when their enemies resurface. With a plot that deals with different time periods, they do a pretty job of balancing these various elements.
It helps that there’s so much humanity and depth when it comes to personal interactions. They delve into themes like human conflict, war, power, love, and so much more. Some scenes will leave you gobsmacked as there’s some uncharted territory that the MCU beautifully goes into. Unfortunately, when they go heavy into the lore and exposition, that’s when the movie starts to drag. We’re closely introduced to things like Mahd Wy’ry that feel so out of place. It’ll appear out of nowhere, and the audience is expected to know about it. That’s when the story starts to lose interest, but it’ll quickly bounce back when it focuses on the characters.
Characters & Performance: Everyone in the Spotlight
Going into this movie, I expected that we would probably not get to know some characters better than others. There are ten Eternals present, and hopefully, we could have gotten to know seven of them. Miraculously, they managed to develop every single character to the point where we cared about all of them. It’s hard to say which one is the standout because you could make a case for the main ensemble. Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, is fantastic as the lead as she brings so much compassion, love, and this introverted strength that you don’t see a lot in superhero movies. Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, accompany her, and he’s incredible at playing this surprisingly complex character. Without getting into spoilers, the depth that he gives his character is outstanding. Also, the fight scenes with his flight and heat vision are spectacular to witness.
All the other Eternals do a fantastic job in terms of comedic and dramatic scenes. The one that keeps coming to mind to me is Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, as he has this slight sarcastic and sassy tone to him but has some shocking, substantial depth. There’s a scene where he gives on humanity, and it’ll just break your heart. It’s some dark material that the MCU explores, but it bounces back with its traditional funny scenes. The comedic standouts are by far Kingo and Karun, played by Kumail Nanjiani and Harish Patel. Kumail brings this wisecracking attitude to his role and you can always count on Patel to nail a joke.
Cinematography & Sound: Grand In Every Sense
The look of this movie feels far different from other eateries in the MCU. Chloé Zhao insisted that Eternals be shot on location instead of having the movie all be shot on a soundstage. To say this decision worked would be an understatement. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and feels grand. It’s hard to say which part is beautiful because you could make a case for any scene. Probably the one image that sticks out happens in the third act. The group is on the beach with the sun starting to set, and it’s gorgeous to the point where that’s the main image from the marketing.
It helps tell this story that spans eons and through different locations feels justified. If Chloé Zhao decided to shoot on a soundstage, then it would look fine, but nothing spectacular. The score from Ramin Djawadi helps reach Eternals to that grand scale. There’s this mysticism present that helps separate these heroes’ themes from others in the MCU. It has a sublime feel that matches the character’s godly powers and status. Even during the quieter moments, you still sense this godly power through the music.
Editing & Pacing: To Cut or To Not Cut?
Eternals is one of the longest MCU movies to date, with only Avengers: Endgame beating them out with just over three hours. Even with Endgame, they had the advantage of using pre-established characters and a story at its handle. With this movie, it has to establish a lot, including the expansive lore and characters. For something this long, this movie doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes, a movie for just 2 hours can feel like it’s dragging. With this, it felt like it went at the right pace the whole time.
Now it’s tricky because you want the audience to know these characters without dragging out the movie. Hell, at one point, the movie showed what felt like a 30-minute flashback that detailed a lot of the character’s traits. You could potentially cut it down and have the movie be the standard MCU running time. However, the time bonding with the ensemble is crucial to its success. Yes, the criticisms of the movie’s runtime would be erased, but at the cost of not sympathizing and understanding these characters. There are little editing tricks and mentions that build up to making us care about them.