Eternals Film Review

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  • Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:22
Published in Movies and TV News  
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'Eternals' 'Eternals' © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved

It has been a long time coming but the 26th film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Eternals’, is the one that finally feels like we’ve been there, and we’ve done that. Which is odd, given that narratively this offers a fresh slate, with no established characters having to be worked in and the film free to tell its own original story.

A story that frustratingly has many possibilities, the titular Eternals arrive on earth 7,000 years ago to protect us from monsters known as Deviants. They are a family of sorts, a point driven into the ground by constant dinner table scenes full of both banter and bickering.

Each have their own distinct personality further developed by their interactions with humans, but these aspects are either told in montages or off screen. What we’re left with instead is a bunch of moody people in dimly-lit halls and corridors talking about humanity and themselves. That kind of navel-gazing could be riveting if we cared about them and their decisions, but we’ve missed the important moments. Marvel can chest thump about their first sex scene, but it hardly explains a central love story or make it any more affecting.

The film spans centuries and most continents but there is little sense of wonder and scope. We spend time in Babylon and Tenochtitlan, the two should feel different but they don’t. The finale has some impressive effects but effectively is a fight on a beach. It would have really helped if more time had been spent on real locations and less in studios, and when in studios there had been more use of built sets than of green screen.

We’re told how fond the Eternals become of humans throughout our history but only one is seen having a real relationship with us. With so much to cover, so many characters to give moments to and so much exposition to give out – the film never stops to actually develop its themes authentically.

So, it really is a blessing that the cast do their best under the circumstances. If the plot never slows down to effectively convey what they’re feeling and why – then at least the actors do. Gemma Chan and Richard Madden have been better elsewhere, Gemma in particular as the lead is underserved, but Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan and Lauren Ridloff do really good work. Sadly, Salma Hayek makes no impact here in the role of leader Ajak and interestingly enough Angelina Jolie takes a back seat here as Athena, although she clearly retains the charisma of a star.

The ambition is clearly there to tell an emotional and epic story, there is a lot to cover, and director Chloe Zhao parcels out action scenes and humour amidst character beats, but she never invests in any moment.

Too much telling and not enough showing, we’re a long way from watching a figure appear out of a mirage in ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ which may seem an unfair comparison, but you felt that desert Lawrence was in, and here, we go to the earliest known civilisation of our planet and feel nothing.

That is a missed opportunity that stings so much that it is easy to forget that the film is not bad. The different powers of the Eternals and how they fight are interesting, Kumail Nanjiani waltz in almost like he is from another movie offering some of its best moments while making fun of the film industry.

Ultimately ‘Eternals’ is a good movie, but it could have been something for the ages.

‘Eternals’ opens in cinemas 4 November.



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