Review: Eternals (2021)

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Eternals (2021)

Directed by: Chloé Zhao | 158 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, Haaz Sleiman, Esai Daniel Cross Harry Styles, Alan Scott, Hannah Dodd, Adria Escudero, Sebastian Capitan Viveros, Nikkita Chadha

The Marvel train rages on. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is divided into four phases. Each stage consists of a number of films. Phase 1 started with ‘Iron Man’ (2008) and Phase 3 ended ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (2019). Phases 1 to 3 are called The Infinity Saga where the fate of the universe is fought over. In ‘Eternals’, the 26th film in the MCU, it is about how it came to be and the sacrifices that come with it. ‘Eternals’ is based on Jack Kirby’s comic book series of the same name. They are immortal aliens, from the planet Olympia, who were sent to Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from alien predators (Deviants). In September 2018, Chloé Zhao, who won two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director with ‘Nomadland (2021)’, was appointed as director. Because of her love for science fiction, fantasy and manga she has brought together a diverse palette of influences with ‘Eternals’ that have benefited the film.

Arishem is an entity, a Celestial, involved in the creation and destruction of worlds. In the year 5000 BC. he sends ten Eternals to Earth to rid it of alien predators, Deviants. When wiped out in the 16th century, the Eternals go their separate ways to lead a life among unsuspecting humanity. Two of these, Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Sprite (Lia McHugh), now live in London. When Sersi walks down the street with her boyfriend, Dane Whitman (Kit Harington), and Sprite, they are brutally attacked by Deviant Kro. Fortunately, Eternal Ikaris (Richard Madden) is in time to help them. It becomes clear that Kro is not a normal Deviant. The Deviants also appear to be far from extinct. At the same time, a series of earthquakes is underway, the cause of which is unknown. To solve these mysteries, Sersi, Sprite and Ikaris decide to seek out the rest of the team members and work together, as usual, to end the Deviant Plague. However, it is not that easy. Much has changed since the group split because the Eternals of the times by means of time have changed. Furthermore, secrets threaten the unity of the group. With the fight against the suddenly appearing Deviants and the increasingly worse earthquakes, there are plenty of challenges.

Although the storyline of ‘Eternals’ is part of the other Marvel films, it is quite self-contained. The mutual connection is made through references to the other films, which sometimes sheds new light on this. But where the other Marvel movies stop, this one continues. Since the scale is larger, there is also more to lose. This science lends weight to how important the events in this film are. The story does some things well. It becomes clear how the Eternals have influenced the course of humanity. However, nothing in nature is static and everything changes. How the Eternals themselves are affected is interestingly worked into the story. For example, the characters are not static units. They develop. In addition, two important and topical themes have been incorporated into the story: diversity and climate change. To make a film in this time, it is nice if themes from this time are included. Recognition creates an emotional connection.

Chloé Zhao, who also co-wrote the script, has done an exceptional job of portraying a story of this scale in a human and intimate way. Unlike other Marvel movies, she has made minimal use of green screens. This reinforces the realism that is sometimes lacking in other Marvel films. By the way, it was Chloé Zhao’s unique film style and voice that got her to direct and it was clearly a good choice.

The diversity of the superhero team, and therefore of the actors, is the first thing you notice. It was also the intention to put it in this way because it simply fits the spirit of this time. Gemma Chan (‘Crazy Rich Asians’) fits well with Sersi’s character as he has a warm connection to humanity. She loves people and makes an effort to help them. This is also why the role is a good fit for Gemma Chan: she has a natural empathetic appearance that makes her fit into the story believably. Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) is fine as Ikaris, the silent but decisive force. It is also nice to see that the lead role is not so much played by the most famous of the actors: Angelina Jolie. She plays Thena, a fighter and one of the strongest. Angelina Jolie is an action movie veteran and her experience helps with the portrayal of her role. Salma Hayek fulfills her role as Ajak, leader and coach of the Eternals. Her exotic appearance helps a lot with the character. She also feels more otherworldly than, for example, Sersi. The deaf Eternal, Makkari, is played by the deaf actress Lauren Ridloff (“The Walking Dead”). It’s refreshing to see her in the role of a superhero, which she manages very well. Finally, the presence of Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”), in the role of Dane Whitman, opposite Richard Madden with an Eternal called Sersi, will bring a smile to the faces of many.

The dialogues are limited to the minimum to keep the story going. No deep philosophical topics are discussed here, other than logical responses to situations and danger. The action scenes, especially the fights and the special effects, are so beautiful that they almost overshadow the rest of the film. The entertainment value is therefore quite high. Although the development of the characters over time is an important part of the story, it could have been more. It would have been nice if they were more in-depth so that the viewer understands them better.

‘Eternals’ is a worthy addition to the MCU with sharply choreographed action sequences and dazzling special effects. The story also fits like a puzzle piece into the other storylines, expanding the scale of the MCU even more. It is also the only Marvel film to take representation, diversity and climate change into the context of the story. This makes it of this time and ensures recognisability. The characters fit well with the natural appearance of the actors, but there is not much of an acting performance because it is not a film where these are really necessary. Because the characters are not really deepened, sometimes an emotional connection is missing. With a run time of just over 2.5 hours, it can feel like a long sit for some. Fortunately, you will be richly rewarded with great and beautifully made action scenes.

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