Eternals is now out in theaters worldwide. With it having been over a week now, let’s take a deep spoiler-ridden dive into the film, and explore where the project succeeded and failed.
It’s best to start off by saying this: No, it is not nearly as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would have one think. It’s certainly not anywhere close to the worst that the MCU has to offer.
Yes, it has issues. For one, the movie’s length is bloated and is drawn out over an impressive two-and-a-half-hour runtime. While the film’s concept may seem to call for that kind of time, the final product doesn’t use it as concisely as it could have.
Lots of it was spent with clunky exposition and set-up. It’s hard to blame the writers though, as Eternals introduces an insane amount of new mythology to the MCU. Things that inform everything that’s come before, and loads of awesome stuff to come down the line.
It doesn’t help that a vast majority of the film’s action sequences are entirely forgettable. This is even more notable, coming off the back of Shang-Ch and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Out of the entire movie, there was only one memorable action set-piece—and most of that likely came from the strong emotional foundation it was playing out on.
There was one particular moment, within one of the unmemorable action sequences, that showcases an intensity that the movie needed so much more of. It’s in the trailers when Ikaris is being held to the ground by a Deviant, and his laser beams are desperately trying to find a target—it felt raw and stressful, a unique feeling amongst the many action scenes that the MCU has had. The more of that in the future, the better.
While the film has plenty of faults, one of its strengths is its large cast of characters. For the most part, the story does a beautiful job of getting audiences connected to these new heroes.
Each new Eternal has a distinct personality and connection to humankind. Their place within the group shines clearly, and the dynamic between the patchwork family was always fun to watch play out.
The standout of the entire group was Barry Keoghan’s Druig. He stole the show in every scene he was in. The way the character was able to play off of the dramatic tension in any situation was fantastic—his scene in the chapel amongst his family while getting the bad news is probably my personal favorite in the whole film.
While most of the newly introduced Eternals make for strong characters and performances, two fell notably short. Conveniently, those were the very same ones who didn’t make it through the whole film: Ajak and Gilgamesh.
When it comes to their former leader Ajak, she only ever served all of the characters around her, never herself. This made her more of a plot device than a realized character.
Then there’s Gilgamesh. His stuff with Angelina Jolie’s Thena was great. That platonic and respectful friendship isn’t portrayed often, so it’s great to see here. The only problem is, past that, the character on his own is relatively forgettable.
It doesn’t help that his power set, the supposed one-punch knockout, is redundant and almost always useless. He seldom simply punches his target and ends the brawl then and there. The visual style of his moves is also mind-numbingly dull.
Now let’s talk about the worst part of the whole project: The Deviants. The film’s antagonists are basically random goons that show up simply to give our heroes something to do or move along the plot.
Bluntly put, they’re boring. Even worse was Kro—their leader, who doesn’t even get named during the film. He was severely underdeveloped, and his arrival in the last act was random and frustrating; it was a situation he had no right to be involved with, or at least that’s what it felt like.
The entire point of the Deviants can be summed into one point: they were there to pose the ethical and philosophical questions that the theme demanded. So basically, what Druig says—the Eternals and Deviants are one and the same. The problem is, that’s simply not enough to justify the time they take up in the movie.
After all, the movie actually has a fantastic villain hiding in the shadows: Ikaris.
Many might see Richard Madden’s Ikaris as stale. This is understandable; his performance is somewhat muted and stoic. It’s not until the reveal in the third act that his character started to come together. His reactions and deviations throughout the film all of a sudden make a lot more sense.
His inevitable and formal betrayal of his family was an impactful scene. Watching how all of these different characters take the news showcased how wonderfully built the characters were up to that point—especially when it was all playing out over a massive philosophical and ethical question: are the lives of Earth worth saving over the trillions of others that would be created with the Celestial’s birth?
The film’s final act is one of Marvel’s most emotionally driven climactic sequences to date—and it’s fantastic, minus all the Kro stuff. Additional props for finally letting Makkari go off the handle.
The score is phenomenal, with Ramin Djawadi bringing fantastic themes to the mix. This new team of heroes now has their own head-turning tune that sparks recognition and excitement—immediately fueling that sense of adventure and discovery.
Something else did right was one of the most anticipated aspects of Chloe Zhao’s epic: the Celestials. Their scale was impressive, and the storytellers didn’t shy away from it. Their screen presence was as intimidating as it should have been.
Then there was Dane Whiteman. It’s a shame that he didn’t have a more significant role in the proceedings, but it’s hard to hold that against the film. They did have about a dozen other characters to service. It was at least a fun introduction to Kit Harington’s character, whose future looks to be plenty exciting, especially if Blade is involved.
At the end of the day, Eternals is not the worst project Marvel Studios has put out––far from it. Don’t let the negative reception disway from watching the film, or have it influence how anyone experiences the movie.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now about a dozen characters stronger, and its mythos expanded on in a huge way. There is an argument to be made that the most exciting aspects of the film are everything which is teased to come next; which isn’t always a positive.
Despite the heavy criticism that Eternals is receiving, here’s to hoping Marvel Studios sticks to its guns and keeps its master plan exactly how it is. Fingers crossed the Eternals have a long and fruitful MCU career.