Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Kit Harrington, Harish Patel, Barry Keoghan
Epic. Intriguing. Flawed.
Sersi: We’re Eternals. We came here seven thousand years ago, to protect humans from the Deviants.
Ten godlike superheroes (known as Eternals) preside over Earth and help it grow at a distance, but overtime discover some shocking secrets about their origins and their purpose. Martin Scorsese took a lot of flak a couple of years ago for saying that Marvel films aren’t cinema. Being, at most, lukewarm about these films myself, I was actually excited that someone I admire made this grand statement, was willing to stand by it, and even back it up with a well-thought out essay he submitted to the New York Times. I’m not qualified to declare what is and is not cinema, but there is something about Marvel’s shared universe that has always left me apathetic, unsatisfied, and, at times, bored. I have never quite been able to put my finger on what exactly the problem is. I like the majority of the characters, the acting is good, the production slick, and there’s often a fair amount of wit and humor. Could it be this quality, this not being cinematic that holds me at a distance? More recently, I’ve determined a simpler explanation. Marvel movies are action films with no good action sequences. That may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but across their 26 productions, there are maybe only 4 or 5 action scenes I like. I’m not interested in CGI Iron Man fighting CGI aliens. It’s even less interesting when one of the Avengers fight each other. You know that neither one of them can die, so there are no stakes.
Now we come to Eternals, part of Marvel’s phase Four that started earlier this year with Black Widow. Having never been excited for a Marvel film before, I certainly wasn’t expecting to like this one, noting its rotten status on Rotten Tomatoes with much criticism claiming it to be dull at times. To someone who finds most of these movies dull, I wrote Eternals off before watching it. Add to this, the director, Chloé Zhao, despite being celebrated and winning an Oscar, has, to this point, built a filmography of work that bores me to tears; Nomadland, Best Picture winner and all, included. In spite of my low expectations, or maybe because of them, I was impressed with Eternals. I enjoyed it. Forget the critics, this is a solid film. The characters are absorbing, for one, and there are big ideas lurking beneath its, admittedly, messy story.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-