Pairing an Oscar winning director with a superhero franchise does not guarantee a winning combination. In fact, I’ll say it straight – Chloe Zhao is completely the wrong director for the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel’s Eternals. While I respect that she is talented and Nomadland was indeed an impressive film with content that suited her style of directing, Zhao’s slow-paced style does not suit that of a superhero movie.
Eternals is supposed to be about a bunch of superheroes from space that are meant to help humanity evolve. While there’s more to the story than just that, let me break down the reasons on why this film disappointed.
There are too many characters. Ten. We’re introduced to ten Eternals and because there are so many characters, despite the long run time of 2 hours and 37 minutes, the film still somehow manages to only scratch the surface with each character being displayed and introduced in a two-dimensional light. The characters are unfortunately stereotyped, such as Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo with an introduction that is although light-hearted and fun, kind of puts his character into a corner where he doesn’t have much room to grow. This is pretty much on par with every Eternals character, so when things happen to them, the audience haven’t been invested long enough to honestly care for their wellbeing.
There is absolutely no chemistry between Richard Madden’s Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi. The film doesn’t really give time for the relationship to develop, merely telling audiences that “hey, they’ve been together for thousands of years and they’re both ridiculously good looking, so it should work”. Cool. The only real ‘chemistry’ we’re given is Ikaris following Sersi around as she interacts with humans, which honestly, considering how far back he is watching from a distance and is shown walking a few paces behind her, it seems pretty creepy, uncomfortable and a bit ‘stalkerish’ . Apparently Sersi is cool with that shit, because next minute they’re having the most awkward and cringey sex scene that really has no place in the Marvel cinematic franchise. The audience need to feel romanced too. I mean, how do I say this kindly? There wasn’t even any foreplay, cute exchanges – nothing. It’s weird. This is also 100% not how I would like to be romanced.
The film completely underutilises the talents of Angelina Jolie. Yes, it’s great that she’s finally in a superhero movie, as she’s always had the finesse and acting chops to be impressive in whatever role she is given. But considering her character Thena’s very little screen time, I feel that the opportunity was wasted.
The film also has a lot of silent moments that linger, which is absolutely Chloe Zhao’s filming style and can be visually quite beautiful and pleasing, but these moments stay for too long and feel like a waste of time. Where these quiet moments overstay their welcome, could have been filled on multiple opportunities with actual character developing dialogue.
What Eternals does well is with its diverse casting, the queer representation with Bryan Tyree Henry’s Phastos that has been long overdue on-screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the costuming, the after credits scenes… and I think that’s about it. The content of this film would have been better told as a TV series, which could have given each character time to develop with depth and actual personalities. People forget that before The Avengers, most of the superheroes had their own films with enough time and growth for audiences to get to know, like, love and appreciate. While Eternals doesn’t get the same treatment, the film still doesn’t seem to acknowledge nor care about audiences needing to connect with the characters. Who lives? Who dies? Who cares?
Although the film does leave room for another in the Eternals storyline, I left the cinema not caring if I never saw these characters again, nor minding if they became collateral damage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s such a shame, as this film had so much potential with all its diversity and detailed source material, however Eternals alienates (pun intended) the audience with disappointingly cardboard personalities and a major lack of heart. While the story isn’t hard to follow, the way it’s told and executed – it’s boring. I went into this film with no expectations and avoided all the trailers, so that I could be surprised. I wanted to like this film, I really did. But I left the cinema feeling empty.
Go see this film if you’re curious and want to catch all the Marvel films on the big screen, the film is still visually impressive. But if you’re expecting Eternals to be fun, exciting, fast, action-packed and a feel-good film, I’m sorry to say that it may not meet your expectations.