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‘Eternals’ is ambitious superhero epic that doesn’t quite hit the target
November 11, 2021
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is going in a new direction.
The film, directed by Chloé Zhao, stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie and more as the Eternals, and is in theaters now.
With Zhao hot off the heels of her Best Picture-winning film “Nomadland,” MCU fans expected “Eternals” to deliver big.
It was made obvious from the onset that the film would look to shake up the typical MCU formula, something that excited many.
Now that the film has been released, it is safe to say that this promise was kept. While the film still contains some of the trademarks of the MCU, “Eternals” is by-and-large a different approach to superhero entertainment.
The most obvious difference between this film and the average superhero film is how beautiful it is. Zhao is renowned for creating gorgeous films, and “Eternals” is no exception.
Gone is the dull color grading of past MCU films, with natural lighting and vibrant colors replacing it. In addition, her wonderful panning establishing shots from “Nomadland” make a return, helping to build the world of the film in emphatic fashion.
In addition, the picture is undoubtedly the tonally darkest MCU entry yet, treating its world-threatening stakes seriously. While the film approaches an overly dour atmosphere, there is enough humor to keep it entertaining, particularly from Nanjiani’s Kingo.
Surprisingly, the action in the movie is about as entertaining as every other MCU entry. The different powers of each Eternal bring a new energy to the sequences that chapters like “Black Widow” are missing.
It is fascinating to see the team approach every battle in a strategic manner, utilizing each member’s abilities in a way that brings them to success.
In addition, the performances are good around the board. Madden and Jolie stand out in particular, bringing serious pathos to their characters that is rare in the franchise.
This helps bring “Eternals” to its largest achievement, which is that it is genuinely thought-provoking. I do not think that I can give that compliment to a single other MCU film.
While that is not a knock on the rest of the films, it is admirable that “Eternals” attempts to be a sci-fi film, rather than a superhero one.
With that aspiration in mind, themes such as the cosmic meaninglessness of existence and the morality of war are unexpectedly thoughtful themes for the MCU.
With a smaller cast, “Eternals” may have been able to pay off its intriguing pieces without losing much.”
The first two-thirds of the film are jam-packed with interesting ideas, with so much going on that the film threatens to lose control. For this portion of the film, there is always a certain balance, no doubt due to Zhao’s assured directorial hand.
However, in the third act, “Eternals” goes off the rails. All of the threads laid throughout the film required careful, poignant payoff, and they simply do not receive that. There is too much going on in the movie to make enough time for everything to get a satisfactory ending.
Zhao tries to give everything effective closure, and as a result, nothing is resolved well. Characters just disappear from the movie, threads are tied up with anticlimaxes, and it all makes very little sense.
With a smaller cast, “Eternals” may have been able to pay off its intriguing pieces without losing much.
As it is constructed, the film closely resembles the mythology of Madden’s character Ikaris: “Eternals” flies too close to the Sun and ultimately crumbles as a result.