Chloe Zhao’s take on Eternals is a highly character-driven one. It is somewhere that risky step Marvel has taken to try out a new way of approaching its stories. Yes, the movie does miss the punch when you look at it as a superhero movie in the MCU. But the exposition-driven treatment isn’t entirely bad to dismiss it altogether. The risks and flaws of a product that wants to stay away from the comfort zone formulas are definitely there for Eternals. But in totality, the film provides a certain level of deepness which is new to MCU.
Set after the Endgame events, Eternals tells us about this group sent to Earth by Celestial Arishem to protect Earth from Deviants. Eternals were instructed to stay on Earth and never interfere in human affairs as it will influence their organic development. After almost 7,000 years, the Deviants make a comeback, and our heroes are forced to reunite, keeping their differences aside. Their fight against Deviants is what we see in Eternals.
Chloe Zhao, who has co-written the movie, wants to keep the characters in an emotionally grey space. Everyone is going through some dilemma or frustration, making them vulnerable beings. And the script isn’t trying to make everyone a perfect version of a superhero. The 7,000 years they have spent on Earth have changed them. Sprite hates the fact that she will be forever stuck at that age, not able to experience feelings like love and romance. Thena is struggling with those memories. Sarsi is finding it difficult to make a decision regarding her relationship. Ikaris and Ajak are in a dilemma since they know the truth behind their mission. Phastos is a man who had lost faith in humanity because of the way it misused scientific achievements.
When compared to other Marvel movie’s Eternals approaches the moral ambiguity of its characters very closely. Yes, we have seen that kind of conflict in the Civil War and Infinity War. But Chloe prefers to have a calmer approach to those conflicts with her indie sensibility. While other movies in the MCU had the liberty of having a solo movie alone to do the exposition, Eternals have the burden of being an origin story that also needs to tackle a big villain. This balancing makes certain areas of the movie a bit tiring. Ben Davis has captured the movie with wider shots of landscapes, and the color palette isn’t that saturated. The visual aesthetics of Eternals will occasionally remind you of Nomadland’s texture.
Gemma Chan plays the role of Sarsi. The early confusions and the gradual rise of the character were portrayed neatly by her. Richard Madden plays the role of Ikaris with the desired level of grace. Angelina Jolie, as Thena, had the space to perform since the character was going through certain trauma. Lia McHugh was memorable as Sprite. Salma Hayek plays the role of the leader Ajak. Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo and Harish Patel as Karun offer a lot of light-hearted moments in an otherwise intense-looking MCU film. Even though it was a bit eccentric, I loved how they took a dig at nepotism in Bollywood. Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos plays a gay character in the movie, making the movie a much more inclusive space. Barry Keoghan plays the always brooding Druig.
The way the Russo brothers brought a change to how superhero films were conceived made Marvel movies a lot more refreshing. It happened at a time when the genre was facing the threat of being repetitive. Eternals might not be a thoroughly satisfying superhero movie in totality. But it has tried to pitch the superhero genre tad differently by showing those characters’ fragile and emotional sides. It’s an attempt that couldn’t achieve the desired balance.
Eternals might not be a thoroughly satisfying superhero movie in totality. But it has tried to pitch the superhero genre tad differently by showing those characters' fragile and emotional sides.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended