The central characters of Eternals have existed on earth for 7,000 years, which is roughly how long the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated popular culture. Superheroes are central to our modern mythology, something comic book icon Jack Kirby recognized as far back as the 1970s, when he created The Eternals with a story that inspired them to the gods and heroes of the old legend. And although the characters in this movie existed long before the MCU, Eternals feels like a natural next step in its evolution, kicking off with an “In the Beginning…” prologue that effectively transforms comic book characters not into creations of mankind, but creators of mankind. All bow before them!
The story of Eternals is a dense and centuries-old affair, built on the notion of a celestial creator called Arishem, a group of monstrous creations called Deviants who have threatened the humans of our prehistory, and a group of Eternals sent by Arishem to protect humanity from these Deviants. The central story takes place in our present, however, as the Eternals remain scattered across the world for centuries after believing they have eradicated the last of the Deviants, only for one to appear in London and attack the Eternals. Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Sprite (Lia McHugh). This leads to a journey to reunite the group and figure out how the unexpected attack relates to the Eternals’ mission on earth.
There’s certainly significant entertainment potential in finding out how the various powerful, immortal beings decided to spend their copious time among normal humans, but that’s just one of the places the script misses an opportunity. There are 10 Eternals in all, and since each of them is introduced in this movie for the first time, it’s not easy for the script to find the time to flesh them all out, even over 150 minutes; Sprite’s angst about her perpetual adolescence was taken more seriously when it was undead Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. As Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) carves out a niche as a Bollywood movie star and tech-manipulating Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) enjoys domestic bliss with her husband and son, most members of the The team generally seem to spend eternity in isolation, which makes it a bit difficult to understand why some of them feel connected enough to humanity to still want to risk their own existence in order to save it.
This turns out to be part of the central moral conundrum in Eternals, as the team members learn the details of Arishem’s grand design and must decide if their creator deserves their continued service, even if they think his plans might be unconscionable. It’s a notion of weight, similar to the one that fueled Michael Tolkin’s remarkable 1991 drama. Pick upand the sheer amount of screen time devoted to elucidating these philosophical questions would seem to make Chloé Zhao (last year’s Oscar winner for the contemplative nomadland) a solid choice as a director. There are times when her own style shines – it often seems like one of Ikaris’ (Richard Madden) unspoken powers is her ability to position herself so that her head is directly facing the sun – but she has to also carve out time for big battles with the CGI Deviants, lest audiences grow impatient waiting through a cinematic debate of Plato”Euthyphro dilemma.” While there is ambition here, there’s no way everyone is allowed to hamper the formula.
Unsurprisingly, this formula also includes setting up downstream franchise installments, including the various mid- and post-credits scenes that will at least explain to non-comic book fans why Kit Harrington only gets, like , five minutes of screen time in Eternals. It seems impossible at this point for the individual Marvel films to resonate with serious dramatic ideas – or even the diversity represented in the Eternals team itself – given their place in the ongoing saga, which makes them a disappointment when an individual chapter is not even everything. so much fun along the way. Eternals reframes the nature of existence and asks us to disconnect notions of good from the dictates of the all-powerful entity. However, when that all-powerful entity is Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, no one has yet been able to deviate from the master plan.