Tuesday Review – Eternals (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s probably quite odd to be reviewing another Marvel film this week considering how much I’ve been banging on about my MCU fatigue. It’s true. I can’t say that I was exactly rushing to watch Eternals but I also had to give it a go. After the reaction from the critics, I needed to see for myself. It’s been funny watching Disney market this film without many positive reviews from the usual places. It’s why so many of their trailers are filled with quotes by random Marvel fanboy bloggers. It just screams of desperation but Disney is doing whatever they could to make this film seem worth watching. But who was right? The professionals or the fans? I had to see for myself.

There can be no denying that Eternals is a very different kind of Marvel film. It’s much grander in its ambitions and mesmerising in its execution. The film looks astounding and the pace is actually quite refreshing. We’re so used to flying through every MCU film that I applaud takes its time. Chloé Zhao was always going to be an interesting choice to introduce a new era for the cinematic universe. There is an undeniable tenderness and understated quality to the film but there is also a noticeable tension.

On the one hand, this film wants to be a character-driven narrative and artistic. On the other, it wants to be a CGI-heavy superhero movie. It neither feels like a Marvel film or a Chloé Zhao film. It is something quite unique and I’m genuinely not sure how I feel about it. It’s by no means the disaster that some of the professional criticism would lead you to believe but neither is this the 5-star experience that the Marvel fanboy bloggers are hailing it. I mean, there are people claiming that this will be an Oscar winner. It’s great, sure, but it’s also a beautiful mess.

Eternals is epic in its scope and takes us from 5,000 BC to the present day. Opening with the group of Eternals travelling to Earth on their massive spaceship and saving humans from a deadly Deviant. We constantly switch between eras and locations as we explore the group’s history. Between the big battle scenes, which are actually few and far between, there are plenty of sweeping shots and wide-angles. It’s quite a spectacular ride. Or, at least, it would be were it not for all of the exposition. It can’t be denied that these characters just require too much explanation. We need to learn so much context for who they and why they’re here. It just gives the film a slightly bloated feel. I definitely found my mind wandering.

So much of this film is just introducing the different characters. It’s weird and makes the final showdown just too quick. The resolution feels weak and unearned. We never quite get an understanding of how dangerous the Deviants are because we so rarely see them. There is some very obvious potential here but I see this working better as a TV show. Imagine it, one episode per character before the rest of the series sets up the ending.

Really, this is a pretty pointless review because I genuinely don’t know how to feel. Parts of this film are fantastic and others didn’t wow me. Some of the characters are developed and exciting but others are just dull and stoic. It’s both carefully crafted and chaotic. Beautiful and messy. Possibly the most divisive Marvel film because it’s so different to anything we’ve seen before. It pushes so many boundaries but, at the same time, it follows the same Marvel line. It’s an odd thing and one that I should probably watch again.

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