Eternals ⭐️⭐️⭐️Review by Andrea Carnevali
After the return of half the population in Avengers: Endgame (2019) ignites “the emergence”, the Eternals – a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers, created by the Celestials who have secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years – reunite to protect humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants. Screenings at Chiswick Cinema Friday 12 – Thursday 18 November 2021
It must be hard for the Marvel folks to keep the momentum going, keeping it fresh all the time and keeping their audience excited after more than a decade of superhero movies (26 of them so far, plus, of course, all the TV series on Disney+ coming out so fast it’s hard to keep track).
With that in mind, one thing must be said about Eternals: at least it does try to be different, to take a step away from the “Infinity Saga” and it is clearly a VERY ambitious film. Whether it’s ambition is at the detriment of a clear story, with proper emotional resonance and crucially some good entertainment, still remains to be seen: eventually the audience will be the judge of that.
As far as I am concerned, I was never bored, but nor was I thrilled or excited, the way an action film should make me.
The movie set itself was a huge task: first of all it has a story that spans 5,000 years of history (though most of the first 3,000 get dismissed pretty quickly), but also it introduces us to ten new superheroes, as well as various other side characters. That is a huge number, and even though it’s not impossible to have so many characters in one movie (look back at some of those classics, like The Great Escape or Ocean’s 11), in terms of superheroes, considering how badly DC’s “Justice League” had managed to handle just six of them it’s almost a miracle that by the end of this one, all the Eternals are nicely and clearly defined characters and at one point or another they all have had their moment to shine.
Whether I actually cared about them or not is a different matter… And to be honest I really didn’t (in fact a couple of them irritated me immensely), to the point that when bodies started to pile up (don’t worry, no spoilers here), I was left pretty cold.
I also felt that most of the more comedic moments were slightly out of place as if they belonged to a different film altogether (probably forced in by a producer or something, but definitely not from the mind of Chloé Zhao, last year’s Oscar winner for Nomadland, whose sensibility seems to be miles away from the Marvel Universe.
And don’t get me started on the sexual chemistry between some of those characters which was pretty non-existent and basically “by number”. Overall I found the film fairly empty on an emotional level.
Eternals ultimately asks (or tries to ask) important questions: is it worth defying “the Gods” and putting into question your whole life to save the human race and Earth itself (OK, I know they’re not really Gods but it’s too complicated to explain it here, so let’s just call them Gods for clarity).
These are potentially interesting questions and so are some of the answers, but it’s all a bit ponderous, full of itself, needlessly convoluted and actually not very well developed.
The problem is that we never really have a moment when we actually get to see what “humans” are really like (or Earth for that matter). Even more confusingly, the few times humans are shown, they are portrayed either fighting with one another, or simply in the background, like extras in a movie (which they are): so why should humans should really be spared? They don’t seem to be doing much. In fact they are rather stupid.
The non-linear storytelling techniques don’t help much either: it all feels slightly random, counterintuitive (not in a good way) and to be honest a little bit confusing.
I would probably add that this is in my view one of the least successfully edited Marvel films I can think of: a bit too slow (on the edge of being boring) when it should be faster and too fast when it should be slow, making you feel the real emotions of these characters… And by the way, a film that relies so much on its “crawling text” at the beginning (reminiscent of the Star Wars films), so loaded with expositions, history and names before you can start to follow the story, is a flawed film. In other words, you’d better pay attention when that text appears at the start or you’re going to be in trouble later on.
So for all its noble intentions (this is not just a much brainier film, but also one that hits all the marks on cultural and sexual representation, and not just in a box-ticking way: big thumb up for the first proper gay kiss in a superhero movie), despite a good cast and some good visuals (though not so sure about those CGI monsters), I don’t think this is going to set the world on fire, like some of the previous Marvel outings, confirming once again that this so-called “Phase IV” is a bit all over the place.
By the time the two post credit sequences arrived I was so deflated and eager to leave that my reaction was more like “what? Who? Who cares!?” than “wow” or “Great!”.
My hopes rest with “Spiderman: no way home”, the next one to come out in December.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
Book tickets to watch this at Chiswick Cinema here: chiswickcinema.co.uk
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