I’ll be the first to admit, that while I’m a Marvel fan and familiar with the recent main characters, I’ve had a lot less familiarity with the next phase in the Marvel cinematic universe. I guess it’s not a surprise that a company founded in 1939, would have an absolute plethora of heroes and villains to draw inspiration from. If you were to walk down the street and ask someone at random who Captain America was, or the Incredible Hulk, I’d wager to bet that a majority (if not all) of the people you asked could at least provide some response acknowledging that they know who you’re talking about (if not giving you a suspicious stare as to why you are asking). If you were to ask those same people (preferably before the announcement of the most recent films) who Shang-Chi or the Eternals are, you’d likely get some blank stares, and potentially the same people slowly reaching for their phones to dial 9-1-1.
When Marvel announced their upcoming slate of films, I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly excited. Shang-chi and the Eternals didn’t resonate with me the same as Iron Man or Thor did. It’s not that I wasn’t sure that the talented folks at Marvel Studios couldn’t come up with a hit, I just thought that these particular heroes would appeal to a much smaller crowd, and not draw the types of interest that the previous generation did. However, the incredible Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, gave me hope for the franchise, but could Eternals continue this trend?
Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao, is a group of immortal beings who nudge ancient civilizations along with education and technology while also protecting its inhabitants from vile creatures known as Deviants. The Deviants are colorful monsters that prey upon the earth’s inhabitants while constantly being hunted by the Eternals. The teams consist of ten members, each with their own unique powers. Sersi (Gemma Chan) can morph objects into various elements (water, sand, etc.). Ikaris (Richard Madden) can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes (like Superman, but without the cape). Sprite (Lia McHugh) who is the youngest of the team, and can create illusions, Thena (not Athena…drop the A), portrayed by Angelina Jolie who can magically create any weapon she can imagine, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who can fire energy blasts at his enemies…etc. This is only half the team and going into the movie I thought for certain that I’d be overwhelmed keeping up. The team is responsible for ensuring that all deviants are wiped off the face of the earth, and they are responsible for ensuring that no further deviants appear. After 5000 years of waiting, one fateful evening, an even more powerful deviant appears in London.
I’ll address the elephant in the room right now, yes there are a ton of new characters to become familiar with within a relatively short (roughly two and a half hours) run time. So, going in I already felt overwhelmed, and the film hadn’t even begun. Even in the first ten minutes, I was concerned that character development would suffer given the sheer amount that had to be introduced. Surprisingly, Marvel handled each introduction brilliantly. Numerous flashbacks to the past from the present, introduce each character and their relationships built on earth, amongst not only themselves but the humans they were sent to protect. They are revered as gods in the past, but as we get closer to the present, they each must come up with unique stories to explain their everlasting youth. Not only do we see them as heroes, but also how their immortality affects each of them. I found myself equally invested by those who had an incredible amount of screen time, to even those who are relegated as minor characters of the story as a whole.
Visually, Marvel continues to deliver on an epic scale. I was able to view the film in IMAX and the incredible detail that was put into the ancient cities and civilizations from around the globe was truly impressive. This film encompasses over 7000 years, and each era feels truly unique and believable. At times I felt like I was playing a game of Civilization (the video game franchise for those unaware) as each Civilization rises and falls. Grand Babylonian cities rise and fall, the great pyramids of Central and South America rise above the jungle floor, and even the devastation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima are all displayed with incredible detail and accuracy. To say that this is a movie set on a grand scale would be a serious understatement, and I’d highly recommend that experiencing this movie on the largest screen possible is an absolute must.
Once again Marvel has done an incredible job in the casting department. None of the characters felt cliché’ or as filler. As unique as each of the Eternal’s powers are, their personalities are equally diverse, and the cast portrayed each of these brilliantly. Kumail Nanjiani brings his quirky sense of humor to the film, you can feel the conflicted emotions from Gemma Chan as her portrayal of Sersi. Torn between her love of a mortal (Kit Harrington) and her duty to the team can absolutely be felt. I could easily spend two pages describing how each and every cast member delivered on their characters, but ultimately it simply must be seen to be believed.
The Eternals isn’t a perfect movie, some scenes drag on a little longer than necessary, and sadly every character doesn’t get the same onscreen treatment as others. Based on the rotten tomato scores (sitting at around 52% currently), it would appear that Eternals is the type of film you will either love or hate. Personally, I don’t feel it deserves this because at its core it is still a fun, action-packed film. It’s filled with plenty of laughs, packed full of action, and contains numerous references to previous films. I admit that I wasn’t particularly excited about this film when it was announced, but Eternals changed my mind and did so quickly. While Shang-Chi still sits atop of new Marvel films in my mind, Eternals does an incredible job of introducing its characters and moving the cinematic universe forward. I’m excited to see what Marvel can come up with next.
4 out of 5 stars