Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Disney have run the gamut of possible characters they could introduce as stand-alone films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last two decades. I don’t think anybody thought the Eternals would get their own film though, Let alone get directed by Chloe Zhao, the low-budget indie director of The Rider. Since this announcement was made she has directed Nomadland, which would go on to win Best Picture at the 2021 academy awards as well as the best director for Zhao and actress for Frances McDormand. Now I’m intrigued by this decision. A year after it was supposed to come out, it is finally out in theaters.
The Eternals are a group of heroes who were created to fight the Deviants by the Celestials. The Celestials helped create the universe. They were the end all be all. Their Eternals were a group to shepherd a new planet and what lies within it. Once their mission is complete, they go their separate ways and help and live amongst civilization for centuries. They have one rule. They can’t interfere in human evolution, good or bad. They can’t get involved unless it has to do with Deviants. This makes them stay on the sidelines for quite a lot of history throughout the world.
The Eternals consist of Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Mikkari (Lauren Ridloff), Phaistos (Brian Tyree Henry), and Sprite (Lia McHugh) They really are like a family. They bicker and joke around and console each other. When it matters, they stick together, but like families, they have arguments and disagreements. They don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to their purpose on earth and in the universe. This is a key aspect of the film and story.
This film has a lot of great themes of belonging, love, friendship, and existence. The writers Ryan and Kaz Firpo as well as Zhao and of course Jack Kirby, who created the characters, create a very thought-provoking story. The deep themes make for a lot of drama and turmoil for the members of their team including Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), a love interest of Sersi. The existential ideas of this team and their insistence are a huge part of why this film works so well. The writers made a very good script. All the characters have their moment to shine. A few more than others.
Marvel Studios has its own distinct style when creating their films from a camera and cinematography point of view. As well as set production. Zhao however has her own style. It’s a little similar to the MCU style so they melted perfectly as far as the finished product goes. This film looks gorgeous, not as gorgeous as Dune, but that was hard to emulate. As well as the look of the film, the score of the film is amazing from Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones). It has many moments to shine during various action scenes and also more character-building moments.
Kevin Feige said he wanted to expand on the scope and far-reaching aspect of the MCU and Eternals is part of that plan. Its scope is very wide. This film has some great character moments through a possible love triangle, which is just one of the many nuances this film has within it. One character has his own documentarian which leads to some comedic moments. The family drama moments are the best in the film. They get to who these characters are and why they need to do the things they do in the context of the film. Some good and some bad. All of them don’t always work out in the end.
Eternals has a lot to say about life as we know it and how the MCU exists in the context. These characters all have deep ideals. Some are broader in scope than others. The film asks a lot of the viewers to determine what is worth caring about and what isn’t. The length of the film, over two and a half hours, doesn’t skimp on character and story development. That can be good and bad. A longer film that doesn’t keep the viewer interested in what’s on-screen can be bad. This film kept me engaged throughout though.
There are two post-credit scenes and they introduce some new characters as well as a voice we might have heard in a previous MCU project, both once again broadening the scope and reach of the MCU in a good way. That’s what post-credits scenes are supposed to do. Get the audience excited about future characters and potential storylines moving forward. These do just that.
This film isn’t exactly like I thought it might be, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s good that the brass at Marvel and Disney decided to do something different, with this property. The look of the film. The cinematography, visual effects, costumes, score, and set production are all first-rate. The cast, all superb in the film, is very effective in getting this story across. The story though, thought-provoking, can be a bit all over the place. It has a lot of heavy lifting to do. For the most part, it accomplishes its goal on that part. This is a very ambitious film from all aspects, but in the end, it’s another good installment in the MCU. It sets up some far-reaching and interesting things going forward.
Dan Skip Allen