“Eternals” is an interesting and intriguing step for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to take and, as expected, the judgement is split right down the middle.
The film, directed by Chloe Zhao, stars an ensemble cast—the eponymous Eternals. The Eternals are a race of immortal warriors created by cosmic entities to protect the planets they watch over. The team consists of Ajak (portrayed by Salma Hayek), Sersi (portrayed by Gemma Chan), Ikaris (portrayed by Richard Madden), Kingo (portrayed by Kumali Nanjiani), Sprite (portrayed by Lia McHugh), Phastos (portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (portrayed by Lauren Ridloff), Druig (portrayed by Barry Keoghan), Gilgamesh (portrayed by Don Lee), and Thena (portrayed by Angelina Jolie), each with their own unique personalities and superpowers. The Eternals were sent to Earth millennia ago to defend against the villainous Deviants, a similarly immortal race of beings that seek to hunt and create chaos. The Eternals must band together after hundreds of years of separation to protect Earth and its people from sure destruction.
The first thing to mention about “Eternals” is that it is a distinctly different movie from Marvel’s usual cinematic ilk. 2021 seems to have been the year of that for the MCU. With “Shang-Chi” and “Black Widow” earlier this year, “Eternals” feels like a natural progression on the path, but unfortunately, that’s a bit of the problem.
One thing that has always kept MCU movies afloat is their casting. They always pick just the right actor for the job, and that’s certainly what has happened here. Unfortunately, this “star power” can be just a tad dizzying. The film takes great pains to keep the ensemble cast fresh but ultimately, the amount of charisma oozed by all the starring actors gets somewhat disorienting. It’s not anyone’s fault per se. Ensemble cast movies are extremely difficult to do convincingly and to have that combined with a superhero team-up? That’s a recipe for trouble.
A factor that has been talked about leading up to this movie’s release is the film’s diversity and the critical response to it. Many movie critics are old, white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men and this shows in the early reviews by critics. They mostly found the added diversity in “Eternals” quite off-putting and that’s intentional. Diversity in media is supposed to the dominant class in media uncomfortable because it’s not about them for once. Diversity in film is dedicated to the mission of representing real life people on screen. A gay superhero or a deaf superhero on screen doesn’t mean that white superheroes are “being replaced” like reactionary racists might have you believe. It just means the color palette for who gets a turn is opening ever so slightly. It means that next Halloween we’ll see a bunch of Gilgamesh’s or Makkari’s running around rather than the same four superheroes we’ve always seen.
“Eternals” as a next step in the MCU is bold as the film franchise gets more and more diverse. It will be promising to observe where they take things next. “Eternals” receives an A rating.