⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: Messy and far too overloaded, but with some nice moments and solid characters. Perhaps better as a TV series...


Marvel Cinematic UniverseMarvel


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I really wanted to like Eternals. I mean, the MCU has a decent pedigree with taking stories with way too many characters and somehow making them not just enjoyable, but really great. Look at Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, the cast looked like a huge amount of fun and the inclusion of Angelina Jolie gave me hope that they were really going for it.

Unfortunately, they really don't pull this one off. There are some nice moments throughout the film, and I think the cast does a generally really good job with what they've been given, but it's all just a bit of a mess. The plot isn't exactly incoherent, but it doesn't give itself space to breathe either. There's some interesting stuff under the service here, philosophical musings on the moral implications of immortality, the impact of literally knowing you are the creation of a higher being (even if you have free will), the nature of living with mental or physical disabilities and the impact it has on the people around you (both bad and good), and even what it means to be a family, but it's all service level. None of it gets the nuance it deserves.

It's not all awful, of course. I like the redesigned concept for the Deviants, the action and VFX are generally top-notch, and it scores big on diversity. We've got the first openly gay superhero – with a family, no less – and the first openly disabled superhero, particularly one whose disability isn't somehow magically negated by their superpowers (looking at you, Daredevil). I'd argue that Jolie does a solid job of portraying a hero with mental health issues (even if they are slightly annoyingly hand-waved away at one point) and, on the more frivolous side, I just really enjoyed Kumail Nanjiani and Harish Patel's characters. They made me laugh 😄

But then Marvel goes and does a bunch of stupid stuff. The "Earth is a Celestial egg", one which gestates based on sentient thought... It's dumb, let's just call it what it is. It's a dumb plot and the Eternals deserved better. Why does it even need to be this caring? Why can't they just exist as a Celestial experiment? We've already met Ego, a maniacal Celestial villain whose immortality has caused him to stop viewing other life as meaningful in any way. Let's explore that some more: a Celestial who creates an AvP style showdown between a race of hyper-adaptive but ultimately bestial creatures, and sentient beings with incredible (but completely fixed) capabilities, just to study the processes of evolution or free will, damn the collateral damage. Or make it less evil and just say they created the Deviants by mistake in a fit of "trying to be a god" and so the Eternals are just a bug patch. That way, you can still do the stupid Ultron-esque hyper-evolved Deviant, you can still have the whole "we were made to be hunted, so your creator is clearly evil/we just want to live, man" villain arc and subsequent introspection of the Eternals own free will, but you can skip the ridiculous Earth-egg distraction. That still lets you have Ikaris be a shock villain, just make his betrayal about trying to help the Deviants instead after learning about the higher truth from Ajak.

I'm also very much not a fan of the whole "Eternals have guided human advancement" bullshit. It's Ancient Aliens conspiracy theories dressed up in superhero spandex and it does a massive disservice to indigenous and ancient peoples alike. For a film going so hard on diversity, it's a monumental misstep and, frankly, it's borderline racist. I guess they do at least show that all of the white people's innovations are also down to Phastos (who, otherwise, I think is a really good character with some very cleverly animated powers), but it's much less implicit. I don't think they actively show him starting the Industrial Revolution, whereas they are explicit about his invention of gunpowder, and wheels, and all sorts of other things that were actually invented in Asia, Africa, etc. There were other ways to integrate his arc into the broader story by having him gently nudge existing progress in certain directions. I mean, they have this whole "do not get involved in conflict" rule, but they can just invent gunpowder or the tools behind the first agricultural revolution, give it to a group of humans, and that's fine? I guess the (dumb) plot about the Earth-egg justifies this to some degree (you just need as many people as possible, but they'll all die in the long run, so whatever) but it's lazy storytelling that undoes one of the core tenants of the Marvel universe: that ordinary people can be extraordinary, particularly with the power of science. Apart from, not before the 20th Century, apparently. Before that point, people were just idiots being guided directly by living gods 🤦‍♂️

And I guess we have to mention Kitt Harrington. I liked Kitt's role at the start of the film. It grounded Gemma Chan's Sersi (who I generally thought was a good leading character and performance), it gave us a strawman character to ask some of the bigger questions around the Eternals and where they fit, and it was fun seeing him and Richard Madden together again. But the reveal that he's actually somehow a superhero-to-be at the end (an ending already too overpacked with pointless reveals, making it even messier than the rest of the film) just feels a bit forced. I'm happy to have him in the MCU – ditto Harry Styles – but it was just done poorly and added one more thread to manage within the plot, a plot already spread too thin, so I can't help but feel it would have been better left out.

Which is all to say: Eternals is a very missable MCU movie, the first in a long time. I'm probably a fairly rare viewer in that I'm actually a fan of the comic series. I own Neil Gaiman's run and I still think it's one of the most interesting ideas in the Marvel pantheon. But like every other attempt I've read or watched, this film just doesn't do the underlying idea justice. It gets too caught up in having dozens of plot threads, none of them feel that substantive, and it fails the characters (and audience) in doing so. Given the last year of Marvel TV series, I can't help but feel that the Eternals should have been introduced that way. Most of the cast are TV-level stars too, so it should have been possible, and I think it would have been a lot better foundation for them moving forward. I'd be happy to see a sequel (though I don't really care about the sequel they've set up) and I hope we get to see more from these characters in the MCU, but it's a rare failure for the franchise and needs to be called out as such. It's not awful – and there are flashes of brilliance throughout that hint at what it could have been – but it's not great either.

Made By Me, But Made Possible By:


Build: Gatsby

Deployment: GitHub

Hosting: Netlify

Connect With Me:

Twitter Twitter

Instagram Instragram

500px 500px

GitHub GitHub

Keep Up To Date:

All Posts RSS feed.

Articles RSS feed.

Journal RSS feed.

Notes RSS feed.