They say there’s truth in myths. Perhaps ancient tales of gods and monsters happened but from the perspectives of mortals trying to process the events before them. Instead of magical deities, they were aliens with technological wonders. This is the interesting premise of Marvel’s latest superhero epic, Eternals, but unfortunately, the rest of the film is neither interesting nor epic.
The pitch for Eternals is fantastic. A group of alien warriors with superpowers come to Earth during the dawn of ancient civilization, and their names go on to inspire legends such as Icarus and Athena. Meanwhile, they hide among us, helping the human race achieve great and terrible things, awaiting the day to fulfill their long gesting destiny. It’s a really neat concept, but however, it’s a bloated mess. Think about (and bear with me) a pie. It’s a very delicious pie, and you can’t wait to dive in. However, we need to cut the pie up into pieces. There’s a piece of the pie that has Sersi’s love story with Icarus. There’s a piece of the pie that’s about the origin of the Eternals. Another piece has the origin story of their adversaries. Another piece is about the “band getting back together.” Another piece has a mental health subplot. Another is about the bombing of Hiroshima. Oh, and there’s another piece that contains a subplot of an unintelligent life form finding consciousness and meaning in its place in the cosmos. And the main plot of the story is in all of that somewhere. Basically, there are so many slices of the pie that the pieces become extremely thin, and when you get a taste of it, it’s hardly anything and unsatisfactory (Thanksgiving is coming up, and food has been on my mind, ok!). This movie had the potential to be a superhero film unlike any other, but with all of the subplots mixed together, it feels like a 22-episode season of a TV show wrapped into 2 and a half hours. It reminded me of The Last Airbender movie, where it fast forwarded through roughly 20-episodes worth of stories, resulting in one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen…and yes, the same fate was given to Eternals as well. What could have been a very well-prepared pie turned into an unsavory serving that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
Sometimes bad movies can at least be somewhat enjoyable if the cast appears to be having fun. Unfortunately, the cast seemed just as bored as I was. Some may say their lack of emotions is a part of their alien characteristics, like Spock. Unlike Spock, none of them seem to embrace the oddity of their characters and are just going through the motions until the director yells cut and a paycheck is handed to them. Even the usually great Angelina Jolie surprised me by how much she didn’t seem to care. Her character is one of the more interesting ones due to a very mature and admirable theme. Instead of an Oscar-worthy performance, Jolie acted as if she was having a staring contest most of the time. The only one out of the bunch that entertained me was Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo. He was the only one that the script allowed to have any sense of fun. He managed to get a chuckle or two out of me, and I had a sense that he was trying to really make the character his own and very memorable. I say it worked. I remember the character very positively. The rest of them I just don’t care about at all. I sincerely believe these actors are extremely talented, but with a bloated script that doesn’t allow much room for great acting opportunities, the cast just comes off as robotic, which is saying something considering the robots of Marvel are some of the most memorable characters in the whole franchise.
Is there any praise I can give this movie? Actually yes! This is one of the most visually pleasing Marvel movies to date. Instead of bombarding your eyes with visuals cooked up on a computer, this movie instead admires the warmth and beauty of our world, even with its rough edges. This comes as no surprise as director Chloé Zhao has a talent with capturing wonderful shots showcasing environments, documentary-style. It’s refreshing to see a big-budget blockbuster feel more “down to earth” because it’s showing, well, the earth itself. There’s some great artistry here, no doubt, and it’s something I hope comic book movies embrace a little bit more in the future.
To be honest, I do think there was great potential here, but this movie is a perfect example of putting too many eggs in one basket. There's a great book about writing screenplays called Save the Cat, and in it, there’s a discussion about simplifying your movie and not overstuffing it. Otherwise, you fail to deliver a great story that people will remember. Something like this probably would have worked better as a Disney+ show, but alas, this movie went way too big, so you should stay home.
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