Disney fans and Marvel fans alike have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of Marvel Studios’ Eternals. With the star studded cast, Academy Award-winning director Chloé Zhao, the unique take on typical Marvel superhero movies’ style, and the A-list cast’s consistent standout looks during the international press tour for the film, it’s easy to see why! Eternals follows ten Celestials — immortal superheroes of sorts who are each imbued with different superpowers, and who have spent centuries watching over humanity and Earth (particularly because apex predators known as Deviants, who were basically monsters, were emerging and trying to kill humans constantly). The Celestials, also known as Eternals, had entered ‘retirement’ when all of the Deviants were supposedly eliminated. However, when Deviants show themselves again in present day, the Celestials must regroup after adopting ‘normal’ lives and must team up to not only determine why the Deviants are back, but also how they can save humanity now that an even greater threat is looming. The plot shifts between past centuries and modern times, and the movie’s trailers involved lots of superhero fight scenes. But now that the movie has premiered, does it live up to the hype? And is this groundbreaking Marvel movie worth a trip to the movie theater?
The short answer is, well, no. While this movie has impressive CGI (especially when it comes to the Deviants, who are all very different from each other), it doesn’t have the same intergalactic battles or blockbuster tone as predecessors like the Avengers movies did. In fact, the movie’s deliberate down-to-earth style and director Chloe Zhao’s very conscious efforts to create a “grounded” feel in the movie by using “wide-angle lenses”, “deep focus”, and”[lingering] with the camera” means that Eternals actually feels more like a drama with a side of superhero combat, instead of the reverse! Seeing it on a big screen might be fun, but is definitely not as crucial as it would be for an Avengers movie.
Marvel fans will also be disappointed by the disparity between cast members. Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are without a doubt the two biggest actors in the cast list, with Angelina Jolie playing the warrior Celestial Thena and Salma Hayek playing the wise Celestial leader named Ajak. But instead of seeing those two characters, we see a strong focus on Sersi (played by Gemma Chan), who is the Celestial being groomed to take over Ajak’s role as the leader of the ten Eternals. However, because there are ten main characters–not to mention Dane, who is played by Kit Harington and who is in an entire category by himself–the end result is that only a few characters got attention, and several of the other Celestials were barely there. One particularly surprising and disappointing example of this is the character Thena. Angelina Jolie is one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood, and has been for decades, but her character’s lack of involvement and minimal screen time is very, very noticeable. On more than one occasion, audiences will find themselves confused by her absence and curious about what Thena’s up to! Salma Hayek’s character also gets very little screen time and very little attention (making it feel like she’s barely in the movie) while characters like Druig and Makkari also got so little screen time that viewers might even have forgotten about them at some points. The Celestials Sprite, Phastos, and Ikaris got much more attention (with the attention on Ikaris (played by Cinderella’s Prince Charming Richard Madden) being for both obvious and less-obvious reasons).
The dialogue is not as well-written as it could be, and one gets the sense that the filmmakers were once again feeling pressured to dumb down the plot for the movie’s viewers (which is something that is definitely noticeable in other Marvel movies as well). Considering how much focus was placed on making the storyline an emotional one, it was surprising to hear several lines in the script that were so redundant! However, even though Marvel’s Eternals might be disappointing on some levels, it does have its own standout moments. One unexpected highlight of the film was Kingo, the Celestial played by Kumail Nanjiani, whose comedic timing made him the comic relief for the film. His character’s Bollywood fame and his attempts to film the Celestials’ adventures (not to mention his invaluable sidekick, assistant Karun) were all a hit with audiences! The international aspect of the Eternals’ quest (most of which was filmed in the Canary Islands, by the way) and the combat scenes keep the movie fun and satisfying overall–and the plot twist is definitely one for the books. Overall, Eternals is a fun Marvel movie that will definitely be a good choice for anyone who doesn’t usually pay attention to superhero movies, because it feels more like a human interest story with some superhero fights thrown in! If you do choose to see Marvel’s Eternals in theaters (rather than waiting for it to hit a streaming service or waiting to get a DVD from your local library), then check out our guide for referencing Eternals characters on your movie night!