*. Despite the poor reviews and box office, and despite my weariness with Marvel movies in general, and even despite the presence of Barry Keoghan, I had some hope for Eternals. I knew the original run of comics by Jack Kirby pretty well and thought there was some potential.
*. A lot of that imagined potential evaporated in the early going, when it’s revealed that the Deviants, who were an interesting and even sympathetic race of villains in the comics, are presented as the usual rabble of snarling CGI monsters. Instead of fighting Deviants, the Eternals here are up against a plan by the Celestials to use Earth as a sort of cosmic egg to give birth to a new Celestial. I’d break this down more for you, but it’s too stupid to bother with.
*. It’s 2021 so our Eternals here are multiethnic and multinational lot (white, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Pakistani, Irish, Scottish, Korean, whatever) and gender-balanced (equal male and female members, plus one gay and one possibly gender-fluid character). Hell, they even thrown in a deaf hero, though why an Eternal would be deaf is beyond me, unless they just don’t like listening to anyone. But, as the media alerted us, Phastos was “the first openly gay character in the MCU” and Makarri “the first deaf character in the MCU.” So: progress!
*. All this diversity doesn’t lead to a slate of complex or interesting characters though, or any particular chemistry between them. Gemma Chan as Sersi and Richard Madden as Ikaris in particular seem a romantic couple with little real interest in each other. A point that the script also fumbles with, I might add, since Sersi has a human boyfriend too. What’s up with that?
*. 156 minutes. Please. It feels like every superhero movie cliché is tapped into here and played back in super slow-motion. And by the end I wasn’t even sure who was fighting who, or why. Shouldn’t Kro have been a good guy, helping the others fight Ikaris? Confusion like this made it hard for me to feel very involved in the action.
*. Marvel has a proven track record of hiring on (or co-opting) name actors. Meaning the respectable type who win awards. Salma Hayek appears here as the Mama Bear of the Eternals, though I wasn’t sure what her special power was. Angelina Jolie is less credible as a warrior woman with an extra helping of the Jolie weirdness (her character is schizophrenic, or something, which is another Marvel first and might have been used to signal more diversity, this time in the field of mental health, if Marvel had been more with it). Both actors escape total embarrassment only by the skin of their teeth. Meaning they’re both really bad.
*. The sole bright spot is Kumail Nanjiani who plays Kingo, an Eternal who has refashioned himself as a Bollywood star. Or a whole dynasty of Bollywood stars. He injects the only moments of humour (best of all working opposite Keoghan) in an otherwise very glum production. Madden’s dour Ikaris stood out the worst in this regard. This guy couldn’t fly into the sun fast enough for me.
*. I wonder who thought Chloé Zhao, hot from winning a Best Director Oscar for Nomadland, would be a good fit for this material. Apparently she let herself be influenced by Prometheus, which is a bit odd since Prometheus wasn’t a good movie and following its lead resulted in the introduction of a new, darker, mythology than was in the Kirby comics.
*. For what it’s worth, the action scenes are pretty good even if they’re still just more of the same. It’s the human story that’s the big letdown.
*. I watch movies mainly on DVD, where they are divided up into chapters. This makes it easier to take a rest from them and come back another day because the chapter breaks are like bookmarks. As I watch a movie I sometimes register where those chapter breaks are, especially if I’m really bored. It’s like calculating how many pages left you have to read in a book you’re not enjoying. For most if not all DVDs the end credits are the final chapter, even if they’re sometimes split up with mid-credit and post-credit sequences, as they are here. Well, for this DVD chapters 24-27 — the final four chapters! — are all credits! I just mention that to give you some idea of how bloated the whole thing feels.
*. In sum, it’s not a movie I hated so much as one I felt nothing at all about. It’s much too long, the story makes it impossible to care about anyone (the one interesting character, Kingo, simply disappears at the end), and the tone is unrelievedly dreary. Of course the promise of a sequel is dangled before us, but I won’t be bothering as I’m checking out of the MCU for a while now. Surely there are some good movies still being made. Or at least something better to watch than this.