Fellow Marvel fans, I’m finally back with a Wednesday review – Eternals! I’ve watched the movie a week ago, but decided to hold off on posting about it, because I wanted to talk about certain things that would definitely be SPOILERS. Let me be very clear, I think this movie works a lot better when you don’t know what is about to happen, but I can’t exactly stop you from reading any further. Proceed at your own risk!
What was it about?
The Eternals are immortal aliens sent to Earth by the Celestial Arishem to protect mankind from Deviants. After centuries on the planet, the previously thought to be extinguished Deviants return and a much darker purpose is revealed to the team.
This movie has been torn to pieces by reviewers, while a lot of audiences have enjoyed it quite a bit. Frankly, I don’t think it’s the worst Marvel movie at all, but it’s definitely also not the best.
I don’t know how many of you knew this, but I actually read a couple of the Eternals comics a while back. I wouldn’t say I did a deep dive into the matter, because I didn’t find them very compelling, but I’d like to think that I had a basic understanding of the world and characters. Having said that, I want to start with one of the biggest issues I had with the movie – there was just too much new lore, too many new characters for ONE movie. I understand that Marvel uses Disney+ shows for pre-existing titles (as prequels for movies and characters we already know about), but Eternals is a prime example of material that would have worked so much better with a limited run prequel show as an introduction.
While Chloé Zhao’s directorial work is beautiful to watch, the many exposition shots give the story and certain scenes much more length without moving the plot forward. With more than 2 hours and 30 minutes of running time, it’s not a short movie and seems rather slow in its storytelling due to the visuals, but in the end, it felt like a hasty and not entirely cohesive prequel to an actual story that is yet to come.
We got introduced to so many new things all at once that it becomes tiring to switch between past and present, nevermind that numerous storylines are broached, but then not fully explored or seen through. The main focus was definitely on Sersi and Ikaris, free will and love, but to me, other characters were much more compelling and would have moved the main themes along just as nicely, if not better.
Now, what about the plot as a whole? I liked that the Eternals thought themselves to be heroes, but turned out not to be. Marvel is really playing into morally-grey characters more and I enjoy that very much. The Eternals believed to be sent to Earth to protect them from Deviants, when in reality, they were meant to grow the population to a point where there were enough souls to feed off from for a new Celestial to be born from the planet’s core by destroying it. Apparently, they had done that countless times before, keeping the cycle of life in the universe going in the process, but their memories were wiped and stored away each time. Understandably, a struggle ensues as they’ve grown attached to humankind.
The team had dissolved a long time ago already, but you could still see clear allegiances. I wasn’t exactly prepared for some of the betrayals, but at the same time, I felt like they didn’t hit as hard, because we just didn’t have time, background information on motives and the attachment to them to really feel the weight of some decisions made. This is where my earlier critique comes in, there’s so many characters, we get such limited time with each of them and some just aren’t able to draw you in as much as they should for this to work properly.
I want to take a brief excursion into the characters, because I think they are the key to understanding why some things are interesting and some are not.
The Sersi-Ikaris-“love through the centuries” was so hyped up in the trailers, but barely palpable in the movie itself. While I’m not against sex scenes in the MCU at all, it felt completely unnecessary here and added nothing to the relationship for me. I thought Sersi and Dane had a much more adorable chemistry and I felt virtually nothing for her and Ikaris, even though I adore all three actors. That lack of connection really hindered me from enjoying the story as much as I might have been able to, if I felt the chemistry more. I also felt shockingly little, when Ikaris met his end by flying into the sun …
In addition to that, Sprite is also supposedly in love with Ikaris, which is hard to portray correctly when the actress who plays Sprite is a literal child. I know that’s a big part of the story arc for that particular character, but I struggled believing it regardless.
Kingo and Phastos were opposites in their lifestyles and choices on where to stand in the last fight, but both great characters in my eyes. One is outgoing and seeking the spotlight, while the other quietly built a life for himself among humanity. Both offered a lot of comedic relief and I enjoyed their screen presence.
Ajak, despite being the leader of the Eternals on Earth, fell a bit flat to me. Probably, because we only experienced her through flashbacks.
Lastly, I thought that the Thena-Gilgamesh and the Makkari-Druig duos were much superior. Each pairing had an instant connection and were so much more compelling to watch. Thena, by herself, gets quite a bit of screen time, even though her “madness” is never fully explored. But despite Gilgamesh only being show a fraction, his fate hit me quite hard. However, Druig and Makkari are the real scene stealers to me. Whenever they were there, I would immediately focus on them and quite frankly, I would love a spin-off which focuses on them. (Not to mention what an important step for representation it is to have a deaf superhero!)
Eternals can be revived or reborn though, so, even though several perished throughout the movie, I wouldn’t count on that being the last we’ve seen of them!
Ultimately, the movie ends on more or less three cliffhangers. You have Arishem coming to Earth to take Sersi, Kingo and Phastos with him, because they killed a Celestial for humans. He will probe their memories to see if humanity deserved that sacrifice and if not, he will come back with judgement. It sounds like Arishem might have to abide by certain procedures here instead of just letting go of his wrath, which could be interesting for the future. The other two “cliffhangers” were in the post-credit scenes and I would like to break them down separately.
Post-credit scene #1: Thena, Makkari and Druig are on the Domo, looking for other Eternals to warn them about their true missions, in the hope that they might find other like-minded ones. All of a sudden, there’s a disturbance and Pip the Troll appears. Canonically, in the comics, he’s usually more closely associated with Adam Warlock (who will appear in the next Guardians of the Galaxy and is portrayed by Will Poulter), but is here to introduce Eros/Starfox to us. This cameo by Harry Styles was truly a shock to me and I hope that none of you knew about it beforehand, because I almost did a spit-take when I saw it. I just wasn’t prepared.
More importantly than the casting for Eros/Starfox is the implications his arrival have though. I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of the character. As Thanos’ brother, he did some very questionable things himself, even if, in the Eternals movie, he offered his help. Rumor has it, that he is partially responsible for Thanos’ obsession with life and death and there was a comic run where he was taken to court because of sexual assault allegations. I’m just saying, this character is very messy …
Post-credit scene #2: Dane Whitman, in order to have a shot at saving Sersi, who he is madly in love with, resorts to taking on the mantle of the Black Knight. The Ebony Blade, which was referenced by the other Eternals at some point, seems to almost react to his presence organically. The box the sword was kept in has an inscription “death will be my reward”, which is ominous enough, but then the scene cuts off with an off-screen voice asking Dane if he is really ready.
For many, that was too unexpected to figure out the voice right away, but I can confidently tell you that it was Mahershala Ali, who will be playing Blade in the MCU. In the comics, Dane and Blade are both on the MI-13 team, but they also notably had appearances in the comic run of Secret Invasion, which is bound to release soon on Disney+. Then there’s also that storyline, where the Ebony Blade has been switched and replaced by a blade made by Dracula, who is a sworn enemy of Blade’s. Therefore, it is certain that the Black Knight will join the MCU, but we shall see where he pops up next. There’s quite a lot of options, it seems.