Eternals Review: Marvel dreams big, falls a lot (2023)

Chloe Zhaos Movie 2020nomad countryIt starts with a few lines of text that make up a whole world of loss. A gypsum plant in the royal city of Empire, Nevada will close in January 2011. Within six months, the Empire CEP will be closed. It's a ghost town. A seemingly stable environment is in constant motion, sometimes at a terrifying and destabilizing pace.

Eternal, Zhao's sequel to his acclaimed Oscar-winning film, also begins with an explanatory text. This time, however, it's more about lore than history, about beings from another planet brought to ours for a purpose that audiences won't fully understand when the film ends. It's understated and unappealing, as if two forces were fighting over the nature of the film from the start.EternalIt should be.

to the last moviefrom marvel studiosit's equal parts puzzle piece and experiment.Eternalit pushes the boundaries of the MCU, hinting at what its future might hold, while also being a project with formal ambitions. Zhao deliberately breaks with the established Marvel formula to tell a broader, more mature story, the kind of story the filmmaker is known for. The script takes the kind of seismic changes that can occur around us in six short months and explodes them on a geological scale over thousands of years, through the eyes of the most confident cast members in a superhero blockbuster.Eternalyet he is obsessed with this formula and keeps giving in to the familiar when trying to show us something new.

Eternals Review: Marvel dreams big, falls a lot (1) Photo: Marvel Studios
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EternalIt's also endowed with one of the densest spaces in Marvel Comics history, a relative anomaly in the myriad of memorable characters created by comic book legend Jack Kirby. Even the heavily simplified movie version can't lay the groundwork without a lot of explanation: The Eternals, as described in the film's opening crawl, are superhuman champions of a world called Olympia who were sent to earth by a cosmic god named Arimesh, a heavenly. to defend humanity from the monstrous deviants. Throughout history, the Eternals have been here, helping humanity by fighting Deviants and slowly making technological advances, up to a point. Because the Eternals have a different mandate: they can't interfere in conflicts on Earth that don't involve Deviants.

That's why the movie gives, in actual conversation between the characters, that The Eternals confirm Thanos' genocidal killing spree or any of the horrors and atrocities of the past. It's a little hard to swallow, especially when the movie uses great special effects to depict historical moments of mass destruction. In honor of the film, part ofEternalStory arcs are your characters struggling with the morality of this mandate. The unfortunate thing about forcing this dilemma on characters who live thousands of years is pretty simple: the longer the characters take to make horrible things happen before doing anything about it, the more idiots they look.

Today, however, it is all too easy for the Eternals to follow that quest. All deviants on Earth were wiped out, but instead of being allowed passage home to Olympia, they were abandoned by their god and separated and lived in secret among the people of Earth. The exhibition stops and the action begins when Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Sprite (Lia McHugh), who respectively live in London as a teacher and (forever) 12-year-old girls, are attacked by a not-so-extinct Deviant. who also seems strong enough to kill the Eternals. When Superman Ikaris (Richard Madden) arrives to help fend off the Deviants, a mini Eternals reunion turns into a full-blown road trip to reunite the family and find out what's going on with the Deviants.

Eternals Review: Marvel dreams big, falls a lot (2) Image: Marvel Studios
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from hereEternalit becomes a hybrid travelogue and historical epic. As Sersi, Ikaris, and Sprite reunite with their other seven "siblings" around the world, the film looks back on the defining moments of their time on Earth and reflects on their relationships with each other and humanity. They are from 5000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. beginning of the Bronze Age; so they are 575 BC. in Babylon. planting the wonders of the Hanging Gardens; So you're in Mexico in 1575, watching in shock as genocidal Spanish colonists murder the people of Tenochtitlan. At the crossroads from one era to the next, Zhao begins to emphasize location more than anything else, even the action scenes seeming to fade into the background, a momentary break in the interpersonal drama of the Eternals as they question their role in the events. places around them. . . They fall in love and fall in love with each other and humanity. They meet and are rejected by their god, Arishem the Celestial. They spend most of the movie in doubt, not knowing what to do or believe.

ButEternalhe is extremely contemplative. Every time a new character is introduced, those we've met before explain the story anew, and the same consensus and disagreement ensues. At his best, Zhao lets the film breathe around his most prominent characters, such as Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), who has established himself in life as a Bollywood star and joins because he wants to turn the adventure into a documentary about how to save the world with his ridiculously powerful finger guns. Less bombastic but just as compelling is Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), the timeless inventor who, feeling guilty for accelerating human technology to the point of nuclear war, has settled into a quiet domestic life with his retired human husband and son. in the suburbs.

The film's cast is too large to give each character a satisfying arc, but the film's script, written by Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo, devotes most of the film's running time to the less convincing characters. Sersi, with her vague ability to transform inanimate matter from one form to another, most effectively displayed when she turns a speeding bus into rose petals, is the de facto protagonist, but also apathetic: torn between her lives. and pretends to be deadly. dating her historian boyfriend Dane (Kit Harington) and her higher purpose, which she begins to question, but only when she is forced to. It's almost as if the Eternals took their vow of non-interference so seriously that they also refused to advance the plot of the movie.

Eternals Review: Marvel dreams big, falls a lot (3) Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios
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Much has been said about what brings Chloé Zhao to the MCU as a filmmaker, largely due to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige speaking out about her insistence on it.Eternalbe filmed on real locations, and not primarily on green-screen soundstages like many Marvel movies. The result is distinctive, but also strangely hollow. It's like, to meet the demands of a Marvel blockbuster,EternalHe could only stage his action in the arid natural environments: a beach, a forest, a desert. Venues large and open enough to approach a recording studio, albeit reluctantly. When it comes time for the film's naturalism to give way to contrived action, the result is surprisingly understated: With one spectacular exception at the end, the Eternals' action is fairly sparse; a strange contrast to his great girth. When the heroes "dress up" for their final battle, he almost feels bad or reluctant.

The standard descriptors that Marvel execs like Kevin Feige add to MCU movies don't quite add up.Eternal. The genre's shorthand does a poor job of conveying what the viewer should expect. There are no heists, espionage, strange new worlds or hidden fantasy worlds.Eternalis a twisted movie about being estranged from family and how hard it is to lift the rocks to finally see them again. It's two and a half hours packed with people many thousands of years old, moving from place to place and talking about the good old days.

After over a decade of mastering the MCU formula, it's easy to get confused.EternalDepth deviation. Movies that deal with difficult experiences can often be hard to watch, and that's on purpose. unfortunately,EternalIt's not bold, just inappropriate. The simplest explanation is truer:EternalIt is a disaster.

Eternals Review: Marvel dreams big, falls a lot (4) Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios
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It's a movie about the transmission of scale, with big ideas and forces moving beyond each lifetime on a geological timeline. Fight with a morality beyond the considerations of any person or planet, purposely when time and distance are almost negligible. Under these conditions, Marvel makes money and protests. The company's blockbusters have a lot to do with the present and possibly even more with what's next.

Eternallook at where we are, where we have been, and how much it has changed us. These are mostly internal ideas that don't easily translate to superhuman fights in dark environments where the beauty of the natural world is just a blank canvas for lasers and punches. Every fight is like a threadEternalBack on the ground when I'd rather fly. Every scene that exposes MCU cosmology does more for the movies we haven't seen than for what we do.

Movies can be big enough for ideas like these: difficult conversations of cosmic significance with no clear answer, angry confrontations with an uncaring god, and whether our moral compass should shift as our perspective and scope grow. But a movie must create a world in which these themes matter to its characters and audience. In a few short lines, Zhao accomplished it.nomad country.Eternal, but it's not big enough. Or maybe the Marvel Cinematic Universe is too small.

EternalIt's already in theaters.

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