Seven millennia ago, a Celestial dumped a bunch of superpowers beings on Earth and tasked them to defend humanity against a swarm of unnatural predators called the Deviants with one edict: Do not interfere in any conflict that doesn’t involve this enemy. And so, the Eternals did this job for thousands of years until there were no Deviants left at which point, they went their separate ways and blended into the population of Earth.
Now, in the present, the Deviants have returned and the Eternals must reunite to protect the human species but, unknown to them, there is more to the story than they ever knew.
I will give this to Eternals… in an age where the MCU movies have become somewhat formulaic, movies like Shang Chi and Eternals are attempting to break that mold and Eternals takes things a step further telling a story that is intimate and yet spans the globe and the ages. While still having the tongue and cheek humor that the Marvel movies are known for, Eternals is largely a dramatic character piece and, to be honest, it’s rather refreshing.
The issue is, there is a lot of story for even a two hour run time resulting in some obvious cuts and awkward overdubbing where you can imagine longer, more involved scenes were supposed to go. The resulting narrative is rushed in some places and glacial in others where necessary exposition had to be giving. This causes the pacing of the movie to be herky-jerky, pendulum swinging from warp speed to turtle trot. I imagine that a four hour directors cut of this movie would remedy these problems, but the issue is, I didn’t see a four hour director’s cut.
I also didn’t find myself as attached to these characters as I have been to other MCU movies. At first, I thought it was probably just my unfamiliarity with them, but I didn’t know squat about the Guardians of the Galaxy before I saw that movie and I ended up loving every single one of them. Truth be told, the Eternals as a team was just too big to become invested in. While there were some standouts, other characters were basically regulated to part time status or background furniture. I’ll never forgive this movie for pointlessly sidelining Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo for the entire last act, framing it as a moral dilemma, but in action, ended up meaning nothing more than deleting one character from the equation so that the others would have more to do.
The resulting movie is a melodramatic rush job with a scattered focus. That being said, I respect the story that Eternals told. With the other MCU movies, I had a pretty clear idea where the story was going to go. Good guy was going to win, bad guy was going to lose. Eternals ditches that story with a grand design that plays more into shades of gray where even the heroes who want to save the world aren’t exactly right and the characters who want to end it aren’t exactly wrong. While it was fun to watch, I really wish that the morality issue had been explored more and been made more of a factor in the story that the characters could have wrestled with.
The resulting movie isn’t really that great. I would actually call it one of the weaker entries in the MCU as it is rushed and dipping with melodrama and drowning in characters, the majority of which it doesn’t seem to know what to do with. That being said, I love that it did something new and untested… I just wish that it had been done in a better movie.