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Eternals Movie Review

Eternals (2021)

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Written by: Chloé Zhao (screenplay) and Chloé Zhao & Patrick Burleigh and Ryan Firpo & Kaz Firpo (screenplay by), 
Ryan Firpo & Kaz Firpo (screen story by), Jack Kirby (based on the Marvel comics by)

Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail, Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, Lauren Ridloff, Bill Skarsgård, Harry Styles
Rated: PG-13
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The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.

This crams more characters, exposition, and world building that a single movie can fit. The Avengers did a big ensemble cast, but most of the members had gotten their own movie to establish them first. This doesn’t, and can’t do that, so there’s no connection to these characters. Past that this is the same old saving the world plot, though it does add complications with Eternals, Celestials, and Deviants
Skip it.

I was very curious to see Chloé Zhao’s take on a Marvel movie as her movies The Rider and Nomadland seem more like documentaries.The shortcomings of this movie stem directly from trying to adapt so much information into this format.

In the opening, a lot of Power Ranger looking types save a primitive fishing village from a beast. These are the Eternals, their job is to protect humans. It’s a lot of characters, ten. Nearly all of them are well known actors, which is required to help distinguish them since they aren’t developed.

Gemma Chan plays Sersi

The main eternal is Sersi (Gemma Chan) who lives with a human boyfriend, Dane (Kit Harrington). Dane seems to be present just so he can add comic relief and reappear in an after credits scene. Another Eternal, Sprite (Lia McHugh), lives with them or is friends with them. I couldn’t figure out how she fits. Does Dane know Sprite through Sersi? Dane doesn’t question this child that never ages and ostensibly doesn’t go to school? Sprite has told Dane everything about the Eternals, but he didn’t believe the fantastical story.

Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Ma Dong-seok, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry play Kingo, Makkari, Gilgamesh, Thena, Ikaris, Ajak, Sersi, Sprite, Phastos

A monster called a Deviant attacks Dane and starts the conversation about the truth. Sersi explains that the Eternals didn’t interfere with Thanos wiping out half the world because Eternals don’t interfere, but that’s right after Sersi saved a child from being crushed, so I don’t know if she gets a free pass for just one human. Maybe the rules change based on how she feels. All of this is to set up Sersi’s connection and empathy for humans later in the movie.

Then we shift to focus on the history of the Eternals. It’s a shame I didn’t find it very interesting. This movie is exposition heavy. We get a text crawl to start the movie, and there’s lots of descriptions about Eternals and Celestials. The history requires explanation, but I don’t know how you streamline it. If all of the exposition in this movie had been included in a text crawl it would probably fill thirty minutes. This crams so much into the movie. There’s not enough space for all of these characters so they get reduced to a few simple traits.

A Celestial

This is crowded in every sense, from characters to plot and explanation. It can be fun when it alludes to how the Eternals have affected fact and fiction along the timeline, but those jokes are used as throwaways instead of really exploring their connection to human culture. 

If you take away nine of the ten superheroes, this is the rather tired story of a super hero saving the world. In this case the Eternals though they were protecting humans, but it turns out they were preparing Earth for Celestials. With the large cast we get quite the team, but there’s not enough time for the characters. The Avengers movies worked because most of them had at least one stand alone movie prior as an introduction. This movie tries to skip to the chase and it just doesn’t work.

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