Eternals is the 26th feature film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but incredibly is the first of the franchise to receive a “rotten” score on popular review site Rotten Tomatoes. To receive a “fresh” score on the website, you need to score 60% or higher positive reviews from critics, which every MCU film had achieved until now. Eternals is currently at a 46% (for context the recently awful Venom sequel is at 59%) and I want to start this review by saying that this film is so much better than what many critics are saying. It is far from flawless, but Eternals is a beautiful and ambitious new direction for the MCU and is leagues above some of Marvel’s other content over the years.
The Eternals are a race of immortal beings who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years, having helped shape history and civilisation. Following the return of an ancient enemy known as the Deviants, the team must come out of hiding and reunite to stop the end of mankind as we know it.
After a Star Wars-like opening text crawl which gives us a short backstory and explanation to this universe, the film pans across centuries to introduce and develop the many characters of the film. It crams in a lot during it’s lengthy 157-minute run time (the second longest MCU movie behind Endgame) but I liked the non-linear storytelling approach they took and felt the film was a lot more serious than your usual run-of-the-mill Marvel flick.
The cast is absolutely stacked with talent here, and whilst big names like Angelina Jolie and Kit Harrington are underused, everyone still plays their part in the proceedings. Richard Madden, who I’ve always had at the top of my list to be the next Bond following his work on Bodyguard, is the stand-out for me as Ikaris, a high flying, laser-beaming beast of a hero that you can only describe as Marvel’s equivalent of Superman. Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) is excellent as mind-controller Druig whilst The Big Sick’s Kumail Najiani provides some much-needed heart and humour as Kingo.
The film has an incredibly diverse cast too, which was really refreshing to see. We have Marvel’s first deaf superhero in speedster Makkari, who is actually portrayed by a deaf actress too in Lauren Ridloff, and their first openly gay character in tech-wiz Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry, terrific as always).
Fresh off winning Best Picture and Best Director for Nomadland at this year’s Oscars, director/ co-writer Chloe Zhao has delivered a superhero film that has a lot to say. I loved the dynamic of these heroes growing to love the human race and wanting to protect us, but they couldn’t always get involved in the action and the frustration that comes with that. The film also looks visually striking. Zhao and usual Marvel cinematographer Ben Davis relied far more on natural locations and lighting than basically any other MCU film and whilst Eternals still features plenty of visual effects, it was great to see scenes filmed in real locations with minimal digital enhancements.
I do warn parents or younger viewers that this is a lot more grown-up than most of Marvel’s other movies. Beyond the slow pacing and serious tone, it is a much bleaker affair than usual and it also features the franchise’s first ever sex scene. However, a baffling mid credits scene feels like a direct aim towards younger audience members as it features a new character in the MCU, portrayed by a star which is sure to have teenage girls screaming in the cinema.
With so many moving parts and characters in play, I still feel like Marvel missed a serious opportunity for this to be a 6-part series on Disney Plus. Quite how Eternals was crammed into one film whilst Falcon & Winter Soldier was stretched out to a 6-episode series is beyond me. Still, with this film’s game-changing implications for the MCU, I cannot wait to see where they go next. Bring on Spider-Man.
Verdict: It runs out of steam by the end, but Eternals is another solid entry into the MCU with great action, a strong story and a huge array of likeable characters.
Best Moment: Ikaris goes head-to-head in a brutal battle with a Deviant