Title – Eternals (2021)
Director – Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
Cast – Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek
Plot – Sent to Earth thousands of years ago to protect it from a violent alien race known as Deviants, the Eternals must work together to face their biggest threat yet and a threat that could end the world as we know it.
“If this is what the end of the world looks like, at least we’ll have front-row seats…”
Review by Eddie on 08/11/2021
Oscar winning indie darling Chloé Zhao has had quite the directing career in the span of six years since her debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me first released in 2015, with the Chinese born filmmaker moving onto the critically acclaimed The Rider, the award sweeping Nomadland and now in one of the biggest career trajectory leaps I can recall in recent memory, the newest Marvel franchise starter Eternals.
A comic book film that never really feels like a comic book film and one that doesn’t pander too the typical Marvel formula that the company and its owners Disney have played too so successfully over the last decade, Eternals allows Zhao too bring her independent nuances to a narrative with a $200 million dollar plus budget, one that is full to the brim with ideas, characters and possibilities, that whilst not always adding up to a completely satisfactory whole, combine to ensure that Marvel’s big risk can still be regarded as a success, flaws and all.
A fairly well-known property amongst the Marvel comic community, Eternals isn’t exactly a name brand entity in the wider film going landscape and Zhao has a lot of ground to cover across her two and half hour plus feature that at times struggles with the weight of various timelines, character movements and narrative devices, to ensure that audiences get up to speed with their Deviants, Celestials and all the ensemble of the Eternal gang but despite the film dragging through certain stretches of its running time and not always giving sufficient time to its cast (Angelina Jolie’s troubled Thena and Lauren Ridloff’s deaf Makkari springing to mind), Eternals is an often beautifully shot film and one that can be commended for trying to reach for the stars.
As she’s shown across her short but noteworthy career so far, Zhao is a great director of actors and knows how to explore her characters (often in Terrence Malick like visual storytelling) in ways that inspire thought provoking and heartfelt feelings, with rising star Gemma Chan doing well as the kindhearted Sersi, Richard Madden doing his best work outside of Game of Thrones as Ikaris and Barry Keoghan having a blast as the intriguing mind controller Druig, with all performers working well alongside Zhao to give Eternals something more than pretty visuals and big narrative moments, even if Harish Patel’s scene-stealing chauffer Karun may be audiences real MVP.
With so much going on and so many characters too juggle along the way, the film plays out in a way that isn’t going to be as predictable and stereotypical of what Marvel has built in the years past, with those seeking endless barrages of action scenes and a big city destroying battle finale likely to be left feeling relatively empty by the way Eternals presses forward onto its endgame, changing up the pace in a neat way that while not placing Eternals up too be regarded as one of Marvel’s finest moments, at least places it well and truly in the top-tier of their feature catalogue when it comes to offering up something slightly different and far more risky than what has come in the past.
If nothing else, Eternals shows that Marvel are not content in allowing their tentpole pictures to become stale and worn out, a good thing for all at days end.
Final Say –
A big film that doesn’t always manage to balance out its many moving parts and ideas, Eternals is nonetheless another entertaining piece of the Marvel puzzle that tries to give audiences something different from a brand that has become synonymous with comfort food blockbusters.
3 1/2 Stark family reunions out of 5