Film review: Eternals (2021), directed by Chloé Zhao
The Eternals are a race of practically immortal beings who have been sent to Earth in a spaceship to protect it from monstrous creatures called Deviants. They must protect mankind from these creatures, but otherwise stay entirely hidden from history and not get involved in non-Deviant affairs – hence why they don’t get involved in petty squabbles like World War 2, or that time aliens invaded New York, or half of the population of the universe were wiped out in a single finger snap. Oh yeah, this is a Marvel film, by the way, but that’s how they’ve retconned them not being part of the franchise until now.
The Eternals thought they had wiped out all the Deviants back in the 1500s, and were basically just biding their time until they’re recalled to go fight Deviants on some other planets. But, surprise surprise, the Deviants come back and while they’ve mostly drifted apart over the centuries they now have to assemble and take up arms again, but getting the old band back together isn’t as straightforward as it first seems.
Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Sprite (Lia McHugh) are together in London, Sprite looking like a perpetual 12-year-old and having all the existential angst of a pre-teen vampire. Sersi is dating a human (Kit Harington), which was really confusing, because she’s seen as being coupled up with Ikaris (Richard Madden) in the beginning, and suddenly he doesn’t know she’s an Eternal??? Mr T and I had both managed to confuse Jon Snow and Robb Stark!
Thena (Angelina Jolie) is hanging out in Australia, being looked after by Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok). Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) has found himself a husband and child in Chicago. Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) is keeping an eye on their spaceship in what used to be Babylon. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) is himself a whole dynasty of Bollywood stars, aided by his personal assistant Karun (Harish Patel). Druig (Barry Keoghan) has started himself a cult somewhere in the South American jungle because he’s sick of their “don’t get involved” policy. The group’s de facto leader, Ajah (Salma Hayek), is in a little house on the prairie.
And, uh, yeah. That’s about it, really.
There has been a lot of hate toward Eternals, which I don’t think is warranted. Like, it’s fine. It’s not the best of the Marvel films, nor the most engaging, or has the best characters, or the best lines, but it’s not bad. It’s fine. If anything the criticism seems to mainly focus on how “woke” it is – i.e. how many of the characters are not white, that half the cast is female and that the central characters are both female, that it’s directed by a woman, that one of the men is openly gay, and that it features the first deaf superhero. But haters gonna hate, I guess. I like it’s diverse in a lot of ways, and think we could do with seeing much more of it.
If you want to argue that Eternals sucks, do so because “superheroes saving the world” has been done a quadrillion times and that the plot is fairly predictable – I believe we uttered the phrase “curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” more than once – because those are valid criticisms. But at the same time, as a bit of entertainment it does its trick. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a perfectly reasonable way of spending a couple of hours.
3.8 out of 5 destroyed cameras.