This review contains spoilers for “Eternals.”
Following the brilliance of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Marvel Studios strikes again with another film adaptation of their widely popular superhero comics in “Eternals.” Released in theaters on Nov. 5, it is the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), introducing several new heroes in a world following the end of the Avengers era. With a star-studded cast and stunning visuals, fans had high expectations for its release, and “Eternals” did not disappoint in those aspects. However, the film displayed a lack of management in exposition, pacing and relationship building between characters.
The timeline of “Eternals” begins 7,000 years ago, when 10 superpowered beings were sent to protect humans from creatures known as Deviants. These Eternals each have their own abilities that they use to slay Deviants and protect humanity: Sersi (Gemma Chan) manipulates inanimate matter; Ikaris (Richard Madden) projects laser beams from his eyes; Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) creates energy projectiles from his hands; Sprite (Lia McHugh) casts illusions; Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) invents weapons and technology; Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) possesses super-speed; Druig (Barry Keoghan) controls minds; Gilgamesh (Don Lee) has super-strength; Thena (Angelina Jolie) wields weapons created from cosmic energy; and Ajak (Salma Hayek) serves as the leader and healer of the group. The team disbanded in 1500 after killing the last of the Deviants; however, upon the return of the monsters in the 21st century and their discovery of the truth behind their mission, the Eternals now stand together to prevent the so-called “Emergence” and save the humanity they loved so dearly.
The story seems to follow a generic formula: disaster hits, rebuild a once-broken team, work together to save the world. “Eternals” offers nothing new or revolutionary in terms of plot, and even so, it can be hard to follow at times with its handling of pacing. The film opens with background information about the Eternals and Deviants through an opening crawl, even though no moviegoer wishes to learn about the lore by reading paragraphs of text — ever heard of “show, not tell?” The film then jumps rapidly between scenes in flashback and present day, oftentimes completely unwarranted and leaving viewers confused as to how the scenes were related at all. A large portion of the film’s two-and-a-half hour runtime is spent on the Eternals’ past achievements, which have little relevance to the main plot. Time that could have been used to build characters and explore their relationships was ultimately wasted, causing many pacing issues.
Because of the awkward pacing and the large cast of main characters, many heroes were swept to the side without much screen time. As the main couple, Sersi and Ikaris share the majority of the spotlight, with Kingo and Phastos serving as side characters who occasionally get their moments. However, the rest of the characters get little to no development: Ajak’s death happens early on and is used as a reason to gather the team; Sprite does little to nothing; Druig and Makkari fade into the background; Gilgamesh dies halfway into the movie; and Thena’s amount of lines and action is a shame towards her title of “goddess of war” and a waste of her portrayal by Jolie.
With 10 superheroes to tend to, it is understandable that it would be difficult to offer perfect distributions of screen time to delve into backstories, relationships and development. However, with the amount of time being spent on unimportant flashbacks, the same amount of time could easily be used to explore the Eternals’ relationships with each other. We know of Sersi and Ikaris’ relationship, but what about the others? What was the blossoming romance between Druig and Makkari, which was as much of a surprise to the team as to the viewers? Where did Sprite’s love for Ikaris stem from? Needless to say, it would have been much more interesting if the time spent on how the Eternals lived in Babylon or Mesopotamia was used to instead explore Gilgamesh and Thena’s close bond or Kingo’s newfound attachment to Bollywood fame.
The film does have its highlights, namely in its banter and cinematography. “Eternals” brings back the trademark Marvel humor and does it surprisingly well; it portrays the characters like siblings constantly in a squabble-like family. Laughter filled the cinema as Ikaris boasted about being able to lead the Avengers and when Phastos stared at his broken living room table, suspected to be made of vibranium, saying, “Fall collection … Ikea.” Kingo is a brilliant comedic relief character, delivering some of the film’s funniest moments. The scenery is also beautiful, and the intricate golden curlicues used to show the superheroes’ powers are the cherry on top of the cinematography.
Although “Eternals” does not live up to the expectations of die-hard Marvel fans or those who were expecting another “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” it is still an entertaining movie if you can ignore the pacing issues. It introduces viewers to unique heroes through clever banter and brilliant visuals, crafting a world that lives on without Iron Man and Captain America while teasing at what may be upcoming — a mid-credit scene involving Thanos’ brother and Eternal Eros (Harry Styles) and a post-credit scene featuring a voice-appearance by Blade (Mahershala Ali). Exciting things are upcoming for the MCU, and “Eternals” is only the beginning.
Grace Tu is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.