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Eternals

Eternals

Synopsis:
The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.

A race of immortal cosmic beings reunites to save the Earth in . In 5000 BC, the Eternals consisting of Sersi (), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (), Ajak (), Kingo (), Sprite (), Phastos (), Makkari (), Druig (), and Gilgamesh () were sent to Earth by the Celestial Arishem (David Kaye) to protect humanity from the predatory Deviants. In the present day, the Eternals have all gone their separate ways, with Sersi living in London with Sprite and romancing her museum co-worker Dane Whitman (). However, the Eternals will have to get back together when the Deviants return, along with the emergence of an even bigger threat, which could eliminate all life on the planet.

Eternals is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is co-written and directed by Chloé Zhao, fresh off winning Best Director and Best Picture for Nomadland. Like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Eternals is an adaptation of a Marvel Comics property that has little to no previous mainstream recognition. If I were to describe Eternals in their simplest form, I would say that it's a team of superheroes with powers similar to that of the Justice League, with a story that crosses many centuries, not unlike Highlander. Indeed, I would argue that at least a quarter of Eternals 2h37m running time is spent depicting extended flashbacks, which depicts the team under the leadership of Ajak and the events that lead to the Eternals going their separate ways. The flashbacks also explore the previous romantic relationship between Sersi and Ikaris, which ended suddenly soon after the team disbanded.

While good timing for marketing purposes, Chloé Zhao's Oscar wins for Nomadland earlier this year likely resulted in some heightened expectations about Eternals, especially when it became known that much of the film was shot in practical locations, with very little use of green screen. While that is something to be applauded, I also ultimately thought that Zhao's very naturalistic shooting style didn't really work for a comic book superhero film. The colours in Eternals are quite muted and dull-looking, despite the admittedly well-shot cinematography.

Eternals can also be seen as an argument against the now-normalized trend of big-budget action films exceeding two and a half hours in length. I really felt the length of Eternals, in no small part due to the fact that a good chunk of the film's running time was spent on expositionary flashbacks, which could have easily been trimmed down.

Eternals is also the film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where it's blatantly obvious they are doing a diversity checklist. Female Asian director and lead with Chloé Zhao and Gemma Chan? Check. Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos is African American and openly gay? Check. Lauren Ridloff's Makkari is deaf? Check. Don Lee (Train to Busan) makes his English-language debut as a Korean superhero? Check. Kumail Nanjiani provides comic relief as a superhero turned Bollywood movie star? Double-check!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for more diversity in films. However, I would also prefer that it happened naturally, instead of being decisions made by a committee of producers and screenwriters. In fact, having a diverse cast for Eternals almost doesn't make much sense, given how they are all cosmic entities, who were never born on Earth in the first place.

While I am immensely critical of Eternals, I will also readily admit that it's a fine film. However, it is still probably the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is almost inconsequential and is one that I am in no real rush to ever check out again. Eternals also suffers from heightened expectations to come from Chloé Zhao's Oscar wins and it's a real shame that they could not be met.

Eternals is now playing


Trailer for Eternals

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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