The folks behind Marvel Studios have spent over a decade fine-tuning their formula for a guaranteed box office return with each installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There has been some questionable choices when certain movies are announced (looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy) and the Eternals falls under that category. Nearly every MCU movie has garnered high Rotten Tomatoes scores from audience and critics, however, it seems that Chloé Zhao’s Eternals might be the one that exclusively produced Marvel Studios movie making a misstep.
Eternals, directed by Zhao, is filled to the brim with talented actors. The cast featuring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, and many more almost gives off that “Avengers Assemble” vibe which can be positive and negative.
It becomes positive when certain members of the cast are paired up for pivotal stories and comedic beats. I loved the chemistry between Nanjiani’s Kingo and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari. Ridloff even carries that same energy when working with Barry Keoghan’s Druig.
There are 1 or 2 more examples of wonderful pairing throughout the film, but on the negative side, the cast is just too large to give them all adequate time. I honestly felt the movie could’ve used another 20 minutes to balance it out more effectively.
Previous Marvel Studios movies have carried a recognizable and familiar look and style. Marvel’s Eternals still holds to that—to a certain degree—with a few big swings. The MCU is stepping further and further away from earthbound threats and has already begun heavily leaning into their cosmic and multiverse realm. Eternals relies on the former and showcases what’s to come in later films.
I’ve always admired whenever Marvel Studios decides to go hard into the whacky nature of their comics. In the film, Zhao’s writing duties are shared with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo and it works – sometimes. There are a lot of setups the movie is trying to do for a possible Eternals sequel and what might be in store for James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
I almost get that Iron Man 2 sense when it introduced audience members to the Avengers Initiative.
Although Eternals is putting a lot of eggs in one basket, the story is still the selling point. The topics of nature vs. nurture and inner conflict within the group are something I was fully invested in. There was even a character heel turn that I felt was well deserved and made the eventual and emotional gut punch much more satisfying.
Zhao’s direction is something that has been brought up before the movie was even put into production. The award-winning director has been known for indie movies that focus on a personal story and journey with her characters. Her installment in the MCU carries some of that and a few artistic merits with beautiful quiet moments. Yet, when the action picks ups, that artistic merit goes away. The action set pieces are fine at best, but it doesn’t mesh well with the director’s vision during other parts of Eternals.
Currently, Eternals is holding a not-so-favorable score on some review sites, but I think that shouldn’t deter anyone from watching it. The movie is an interesting choice to showcase the grand direction in which the MCU is heading. I still enjoyed some of the plot, acting, and direction – and applaud the big swings Marvel Studios is doing in making their movies more inclusive for general audience members.
Hell, I even liked the spoiled mid-credit scene and can’t wait to see what’s store for a certain character in the post-credits scene. It’s a Marvel movie that’s trying something different – and I appreciate that.