Eternals is fascinating. It it feels like a religious epic, it explores philosophical themes of morality, and it’s been been savaged by professional critics (it’s the worst reviewed MCU movie). The critics are wrong. Eternals has enough issues to keep it out of the MCU top tier, but it is far from the worst Marvel movie.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of the movie is it introduces a plus-sized superhero team and turns most of them into rounded characters, all without the benefit of tie-in media. It’s also beautifully shot, and I’m glad I watched it in theaters. Witnessing a massive celestial holding a tiny eternal within its palm took me back to the wonder of gargantuan statue Talos chasing humans in Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Jack Kirby’s cosmic imagery mixes so well with Chloé Zhao directorial eye.
Eternals is a story of demigods, and all of them are imperfect beings. The movie is at its best when it lives in the gray area, when team members argue and fight about the best course for humanity. The razing of Tenochtitlan splinters the group, and the classic Marvel formula is complicated by characters who question their purpose. The deviants – ancient enemies of the eternals – almost achieve a level of complexity as well; sadly in the end they simply become something to punch.
If it hasn’t been made clear, I love Greek mythology and human myths in general, so Eternals lines up well with my interests. That being said, the movie is overly long, and the multiple flashbacks bog down the forward momentum of the narrative. And as cool as it is to have a deaf superhero, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) is much too invisible before the climactic battle.
I wish this movie leapt to the top of the MCU rankings. No other Marvel movie has captured the heartbreak of humanity so beautifully and tragically (I’m thinking of both the Tenochtitlan and Hiroshima scenes). And watching demigods/angels choose the fate of humanity is a tale that’s ages old. But there’s always the sequel. The real test for Eternals will be whether or not there will be significant repercussions for the heroes’ decisions and disobedience. Now we have the perfect setup for a galactic threat like Annihilus to come forth and confront those who dared to deprive billions of lives to save one species. That’ll be a fight worth watching.