“Eternals” an ambitious romp through world history

“Well, I’m sure that was a lot of fun for you.”
‘It was.
‘ (I really love the lived-as-friends-for-SO-LONG banter this crew has.)

Story: Seven thousand years ago, a group of beings were sent to Earth by the Celestials to watch for “Deviants”, monsters intent on nothing but destruction. That’s it. Nothing else; Do Not Interfere Full Stop is their one rule. In present day, the Deviants are long dead…OR ARE THEY? Hey – let’s get the band back together!

Genre I’d put it in: Mind-bending Marvel-ness

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the characters in Marvel comics, and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Gotta say: I know nothing about the Eternals as comic book characters. Wasn’t a book I read – or even knew about – when I was devouring comics back in the day. So I walked into the theater as blind as one can be after watching a couple of trailers. And…it was interesting. Gorgeously shot, well acted, and hello cosplay goals! I’d even watch this film again, on my dime. Why? Because it gave me what I wanted; Marvel doing Marvel things marvelously (I couldn’t help myself. I’m already sorry I wrote my feelings like that. Apologies, but I’m not changing the truth.)

While characters like Thor, Loki, and Doctor Strange have clued us in to the far-reaching wonder of the universe(s), time shenanigans, and the multiverse, Eternals digs into these concepts with gusto, creating an epic story that reaches through the past, and through the universe. It’s a whole lot to take in, and there’s a ton of exposition scattered throughout this film. But in the end, Eternals is one hell of a ride.

Each Eternal has their own particular skill; healing, speed, ultimate fighter, mind control, matter manipulation, illusion, beyond genius-level intellect, cosmic energy, straight-up strength, and Homelander Part 2 Superman the flyer. The casting is *chef’s kiss*:

  • Salma Hayek makes a badass Earth Mother as healer Ajak, who leads the group,
  • Lia McHugh is suitably snarky (and at one point effectively channels Interview With the Vampire Kirsten Dunst) as Sprite, the illusionist trapped in a child’s body,
  • Kumail Nanjiani dives into the narcissistic Kingo left the group to become a Bollywood star (the most recent in “his family line”…of just him),
  • Don Lee as Gilgamesh (one of my favorites for his no-nonsense deadpan dialogue) is one hell of a fighter, but is also a great cook who takes care of…
  • Angelina Jolie’s Thena, the inspiration for the Greek goddess Athena, whose thousands of years of memories are threatening to destroy her,
  • Brian Tyree Henry channels intelligence and empathy as Phastos, who found himself a husband and child in the present day
  • Lauren Midloff’s speedster Makkari is deaf, but can interpret vibrations in a super-cool way, and is also deeply connected to her friends and puts hers emotions out there in a beautiful way

It’s a great cast that works well together, and who can fully inhabit their immortal beings. A big part of this is thanks to the direction and screenplay by Chloé Zhao, who infuses the story and characters with believable emotion. It’s been thousands – THOUSANDS – of years. These characters have seen it all, and lived through everything earth has had to offer. They’re both world weary and in love with their world, and Zhao’s focus on the small looks, gestures and reactions from the actors as they interact with each other/react to their surroundings harks back to her similar focus in Nomadland.

Eternals has a whole lot to say, and even more ground to cover. And it does it with varying levels of success. We need to find out about these new characters, and care about them. That, this film achieves with flying colors. Though it’s an ensemble cast, we’re allowed to get a peek into the psyche of each individual, and that’s not an easy task to accomplish, even with its over two and a half hour run time. We also need to understand the gravity of the situation, and while Guardians of the Galaxy hinted at the Celestials, Eternals brings them to the forefront, as Celestial Arishem is the one who guides the Eternals in their task to protect our planet from Deviants. Then there’s why our gang was dropped onto Earth in the first place [SPOILERS DARLING], Kit Harrington’s Dane Whitman, who has a backstory all his own (do be sure to stay through the end credits, won’t you?) Aaaaand…a whole lot more. There’s a lot this film has to get through, and unlike characters like Iron Man, there’s no real way to do an introductory film for this group without all these subplots. Even a miniseries wouldn’t have done their stories justice. Truly, Zhao should be commended for blending all this together, even though there are times when the story’s time-jumps and anecdotal asides get messy.

This is a Marvel movie, yes, and you’ll get all the boom-boom-zap you’d expect, and it’s all glorious. But even though the scope of this story is broader than any other in the MCU, this is at it’s heart a story about how individuals come together, break apart, and try to pick up the pieces of their bond. And that’s worth the price of admission right there.

Grade: B

#Protip: Don’t take the “Rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes as a reason to skip this; I hear tell there’s a ton of neckbeards that are steamed that one of the Eternals is The Gay, and many gaskets were blown. Grow up, haters.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
This entry was posted in 7 Pieces Of, Movie Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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