Everyone was waiting for it to happen. Ironically the never-ending Marvel machine stutters on Eternals.
7,000 years ago, god-like beings known as Eternals arrived on Earth at the behest of the Celestials. Their mission was to safeguard humanity’s progress on the planet by defeating the Deviants; alien monstrosities set on killing all intelligent life.
They completed their mission, but they did not leave. Now is the time for a terrible revelation to befall them.
Marvel Studio’s Eternals movie has been in development for a long time. Longer than some might believe. It was a reprisal of “a new super team” after Marvel’s disastrous television outing The Inhumans in 2017 (before Disney+ was a thing) but news on the movie was quiet while the MCU had its explosive finale.
Ultimately, Eternals was, along with Shang-Chi, the beginning of Marvel’s Phase 4, and boy did they want it to work. Star-studded: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, Game of Thrones alumni Kit Harington and Richard Madden, to name some of the cast. As well as an Oscar winning director, Chloé Zhao.
Unfortunately, something has gone very wrong.
Now to get this Internet-bred ugliness out of the way first: no, the issues of this film have nothing to do with the cast or any gender representation or the fact that there’s a sex scene in a Marvel movie.
Right, onto the actual problems.
Firstly, the film’s pacing. Easily the most obvious issue because the first hour of this film drags immensely, and that isn’t even half of the run-time. We are greeted by a text scroll, giving the background of the Eternals and the Celestials. The next hour we are told exactly the same thing, again, but with as many scenes and time-jumps and flashbacks as possible.
The Eternals are on Earth, living normal lives among us, for thousands of years now. But when Deviants start to appear once more, they briefly struggle with their two identities. Briefly, because there are ten characters, not including the other supporting characters. This is way too many.
As the film tries to be a “team-up” movie, with everyone getting back together: We constantly have flashbacks to some historic (or even mythic) events in human history and we see the Eternals involved. These scenes play out the same way over and over until it becomes tedious. Get ready to be bored of seeing a helpless person rescued just in the nick of time. It kills the pacing. What could be exposited within moments, we instead get long boring scenes of computer generated battles that have no particular agency.
The characters are multiple, and the storyline is so thin that (despite the actors’ best efforts!) everyone comes off as sterile and meaningless. Kit Harington, who is in love with Gemma Chan’s Eternal character Sersi, disappears after the first fifteen minutes. Is he coming back? Will we even see him again? Who knows.
Oh, there he is.
But along with this erratic and cumbersome pacing is plot holes. Honest to goodness plot holes big enough you could put a Hulkbuster through them. Spoilers ahead.
So the Eternals are created by Celestials, immeasurably vast beings who create and control the universe. The Eternals are task with killing Deviants, which Celestials also made, but accidentally made them “evolve” and become too intelligent. Why… Why would such powerful beings create the Eternals with free will!? Literally making the same mistake again only with even worse consequences!
Plus, they have the means to put the Eternals to sleep. To “reset” them; they forget everything. Yet when the Eternals have cleansed the Earth of Deviants, they aren’t put to sleep. They are just allowed to roam and develop sympathy for the human race. Which, by the way, is bad because the big surprise is that Earth is to be destroyed to birth a new Celestial.
Also! They give reason for the Eternals not helping when Thanos attacked and “snapped” half of the population away. They “don’t interfere with human conflicts”. One: Thanos’ goal was to wipe out half of the population, that directly affects the Celestials’ goals. Two: we literally see them provide humans with weapons and guns, mind-control them, and needlessly save them throughout history.
It is one of the most redundant plots Marvel has ever written. Meanwhile the characters simply don’t have enough time to develop normally, and the series of events are so slow that the audience has time to think about how absurd it all is.
A little bit like a DC movie.
But is it all bad?
It has some nice visuals when it isn’t throwing weird monsters from Edge of Tomorrow at us. The characters have fleeting moments of interest. Being introduced to the Celestials for the first time (ignoring the skull of one in Guardians of the Galaxy) was impactful, and is definitely a massive step for the MCU. We are very far away from Tony Stark building a robot suit in a cave. But to do it like this is feels very wasteful.
It just isn’t memorable. It tries to do too much: establish greater universal peril and scope for the MCU, introduce a dozen new characters (who have zero connection to anything we’ve seen before) and have us like them enough to want more. While also being more “adult” (the sex scene was unnecessary) and simultaneously funny-fun Marvel movie.
Don’t bother seeing it in cinemas right now. Wait for it on Disney+ if you have it. It does appear to be important for future MCU movies, so you may want to at least read up on what happens.
Additional Marshmallows: Did Marvel just excuse climate change to be a Celestial being born inside the Earth? Did that really just happen?
Additional, Additional Marshmallows: So do Batman and Superman exist (as fiction?) in the MCU now?
Additional, Additional, Additional Marshmallows: So, the Celestial was technically being born in this film, we see it happen, and it requires intelligent life to be created. So did loads of humans die in this film? Or was it just the presence of intelligent life that creates a Celestial, then the planet explodes and they die anyway? Also, Earth is still in one piece after that?