The Marvel formula has proven itself to be a tried and true method to produce multiple films a year that are consistently pretty good at worst. After Avengers: Endgame gave us a fittingly epic ending to the Infinity Saga, Marvel Studios now must reinvent its formula to continue growing the Marvel Cinematic Universe in interesting new directions. Eternals is the first true test for the studio stepping outside of its formula, and the results are ultimately left to the viewer’s discretion.
Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao delivers a breathtaking and unique interpretation of a superhero story that puts human mythology under a magnifying glass. In my opinion, Eternals is an incredible film, but only if looked at from Zhao’s perspective. Similar to Nomadland, Zhao pours her heart into this film and that is very much appreciated.
Eternals tells the story of a team of immortal beings that are sent to earth 7,000 years ago for a mysterious purpose. In the context of the story, the Eternal’s influence has shaped human mythology and history and created a unified link amoung all of humanity. The film has a stacked cast consisting of Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harrington, Kumail Nanjiani, and more.
While I absolutely loved this film, I can understand the hesitance of some viewers. The film relies heavily on prior knowledge of history and comic book lore. Similar to Dune (2021), this film relies heavily on doing your homework before watching it, and since I criticized Dune for its lack of accessibility, it is only fair for me to levy this criticism against Eternals as well. Although since I had the prior knowledge going in, I’m partial to Eternals.
This film is incredibly character-driven. Every single character is engaging and charismatic. The issue comes with how saturated the story can feel for some people. I loved the film as is, but it is unfair to assume that a film following a brand new team of 10 characters will be balanced enough to satisfy everyone. The characters are far more complex than this film is allowed to explore a single film. Because of that, I think the film would be better overall if a minimum of two Eternals were cut from this film and saved for a potential sequel. The issue then becomes which characters should be cut because every character has equal potential to be someone’s favorite.
The technical aspects of this film are top-notch, from the cinematography to the VFX to the score. Unlike many directors who graduate from indie to blockbuster filmmaking, Zhao has a surprising amount of talent directing VFX heavy action sequences. Zhao is an incredible talent to have in the MCU, and hopefully, the mixed reaction to her film will serve as a growing opportunity instead of a mistake made.
Overall, Eternals is an incredibly subjective film that will vary from person to person. I loved everything about this film, and I cannot wait to see it again. However, do not take my word for it. Watch it for yourself to develop your own opinion because this film must be seen to be believed.
Filmnetic Grade: A