‘Eternals’: Marvel Can Do Better (spoiler free)

Eternals: Marvel Can Do Better (spoiler free)

So far, Marvel’s “Phase Four” releases have been extremely successful—both ratings-wise and money-wise—and have made close to $1 billion in profit. The newest installment, however, has not reaped the same levels of praise. “Eternals” has received scathing reviews, including one that dubbed it the “worst Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie ever,” earning it a whopping 47% from the Tomatometer. This is a significant decrease from the 92% that “Shang Chi” earned only a couple months ago, and an even lower rating than what the MCU’s “biggest disappointment,” “The Incredible Hulk,” received back in 2008. So, what happened?

“Eternals” follows a group of 10 supernatural heroes who each have different abilities. Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, has the ability to fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes Superman-style (which is actually referenced in the film). After living on earth in secret for thousands of years, these immortal beings now have to reunite and race against the clock to stop the Deviants—evil creatures with intentions of destroying Earth—before all life goes extinct. This is the type of high-stakes threat that can be expected in a Marvel movie.

What’s not typical for a superhero movie, however, is the amount of world-building that is worked into the story. “Eternals” establishes a new magic system, plot, and 10 different characters’ backstories, which ends up being rushed and leaves less time for the action that the audience anticipates in a two-and-a-half hour superhero movie. This, ironically, leads to a relatively anti-climactic final battle, which is the last thing I would have expected out of a Marvel movie. Because it attempts to execute so many plotlines, there is a plot twist and a huge information dump around halfway through. There is no buildup to it whatsoever, and it left me a little confused.

Despite its significant shortcomings in content, the movie is still visually stunning. With a team comprised of Academy Award winning director Chloe Zhao and cinematographer Ben Davis, a veteran of the MCU, the “Eternals” crew has a good mix of old and new blood. Davis does a great job of giving the audience time to breathe amid the fast-paced nature of the film by including peaceful shots of the beautiful world that Zhao has created. Also, the costumes are particularly gorgeous. Each Eternal has a unique and intricate hand-painted suit, which is the product of costume designer Sammy Sheldon and Head of Visual Development Ryan Meinerding. We really have come a long way from Captain America’s star-spangled unitard.

The movie’s other saving grace, in my opinion, is the cast of characters. Marvel does a great job with the diversity in this one. Phastos, played by Brian Henry, makes history by being the first openly gay character in the MCU. “Eternals” also features five strong female leads, which is definitely an improvement considering that it took Black Widow 11 years to finally get her own movie. One of my favorites is Sprite, portrayed by Lia McHugh, who is a witty immortal trapped in the body of a moody teen. Needless to say, she’s a lot of fun. And then there’s Jack Kirby’s portrayal of Kingo, a superhero-turned-Bollywood-star who takes breaks during the fight scenes to vlog. The humor in this movie is really amusing, and I had fun watching the characters interact. I mean, if you throw in a complicated, brooding, handsome guy with an accent (Ikaris) and Angelina Jolie, you really can’t go wrong.

As much as I loved the casting, it’s very ambitious to take on 10 character arcs and relationships in one movie. For this reason, these characters don’t reach their full potential, and their development falls short. Cole Hanover, a junior, agreed. “This film is over two-and-a-half hours long, with incredibly slow pacing, and yet I still feel like we got nowhere enough time with each character,” he said.

Now, we’re talking about a Marvel movie here, so everyone knows that it doesn’t end until after the credits scenes. Unfortunately, “Eternals” uses this opportunity to add two more cliffhangers, as if the actual ending wasn’t enough of one already. Harry Styles also makes an unexpected appearance as Eros, the god of love, which is a pretty fitting role for a British heartthrob. However, I still feel that Harry Styles is out of place in the MCU.

So, in conclusion, is it a good movie? Despite many of its flaws, yes. Maybe not great, but good. “Eternals” features a strong cast of characters, a unique and intriguing plotline with influences from Greek mythology, and some of my new comfort characters and relationships. However, I expected more from Marvel. Hopefully Spiderman: No Way Home redeems Phase Four on December 17. Although I can’t help but miss the original six avengers, I can’t wait to see what the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will bring.