Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo, and Jack Kirby
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, and Kit Harrington
Distribution: Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios
When a race of alien immortals, known as Eternals, came to Earth 7,000 years ago, they were sent to help humanity in its early stages of evolution. Now, centuries later, when their ancient enemy known as the Deviants somehow return after being killed off years ago, the Eternals must reunite to save humanity.
Eternals is an adaptation of the 1977 Marvel comic series created by Jack Kirby. That name may not sound familiar with most movie-going audiences, but the work he co-created very much should: Fantastic Four, X-Men, Captain America, Hulk, and yes, even Black Panther. In one of his last contributions to Marvel, Kirby wanted to write one of his biggest stories and basically write his own mythology. Long story short, the Eternals are basically angels trying to convince the same space-gods that created us not to destroy us. Interesting concept, but it was far from Marvel’s best selling comic. In fact, it was cancelled before Kirby could even complete his initial run. However, the inspiration for Jack Kirby to create this comic was the 1968 novel, Chariot of the Gods, a book which supposedly explains how aliens from other planets visited us in ancient times and built our ancient artifacts and landscape (a theory people REALLY believed back then).
That being said, Eternals takes quite a few liberties from the source material. One of the most noticeable changes is the race and gender character swaps. Makkari changed from a white guy to a Black deaf woman; Sprite is no longer a boy, but now is a young girl, etc. Does it feel like pandering? Marketing wise, absolutely. This movie has a total of 10 characters that feels like it’s checking every diversity box. However, while watching the movie, it works. Instead of a movie with five white guys, almost every character has a different race or gender to separate them so it makes them easier to be identified.
If you’ve seen every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, understand that Eternals is quite a bit different from what came before; and that’s by design. While most MCU movies follow the standard formula of sarcastic hero, cheesy one-liners, and action scenes to accent the end of every scene, Eternals, at times, feels like it’s purposely trying to shake up the formula. One major difference is that Eternals is shot on location, instead of the usual green screen at a studio backlot in Atlanta (get your coins, Tyler Perry). Pacing wise, it’s also more of a slow burn. There aren’t as many action scenes as you’d expect. They are instead replaced with long scenes of dialogue. If you’re a movie goer who tends to check out during talky-talk scenes to only raise your head out of the popcorn box when stuff starts blowing up, then this might not be the movie for you. This also doesn’t tie into any MCU project, so don’t expect this to answer anything that happened in the season finale of the Loki TV show. The jokes are also downplayed with only a few Eternals being designated as comic relief while everyone else plays more or less tortured characters. However, it was a nice change to watch an MCU that lets a serious scene play out without a joke undercutting the tension. You know, how real movies usually do.
I would expect that people would have more issues with the controversial subject matters the movie touches. In case nobody else says it, spoiler alert: one of the Eternals is gay (I’ll give you three guesses on who it is, but I’m sure you’ll only need one). Not only that, but he shares an onscreen kiss with his partner. While surprising as that was for an MCU movie, I was actually more shocked by the on screen sex scene (this time between a man and woman), which is also a first for an MCU movie.
I’m also curious how religious groups take to this movie since it deals with the creation of everything and almost none of it pertains to the Bible. In fact, throughout the movie, it’s suggested that every major religion throughout history is based on them. It’s kind of glossed over, but it’s there. Of course they never asked the question of where were they during slavery, but maybe I’m looking deeper than I’m supposed to.
The best way to describe Eternals is that, at times, it’s more like a DC movie than an MCU movie. This movie doesn’t rely on any previous MCU build up, so don’t even bother with a marathon rewatch. With a 2 hours and 37 minute run time, this movie introduces 10 new heroes and superpowers, new villains, and an entirely new mythology that hasn’t even been explored in any MCU movie before. Yet, never once was I lost on the plot. Marvel swings for the fences, and while they didn’t knock it out of the park, sometimes a base hit is still okay.