The MCU has been on a roll this year in dishing out movie and TV show hits — one after another. From Wandavision to Loki to Black Widow and Shang-Chi and The Legends of the Ten Rings, both Disney and Marvel have been proving to fans and skeptics that it’s possible to create a franchise of films that both focus on quantity and quality. That was the case however until as of late when the MCU released its most recent feature-length film — Eternals. The film sadly did not perform well in the box office as well in the eye of the critics and solid Marvel fans even earring itself the first-ever “Rotten Film” title in Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 48% based on 361 reviews.
These numbers paired with the rants of hardcore MCU fans have made enough noise to deem Eternals as the worst MCU film in the franchise. We took the time however to check out if all of these bold accusations are indeed true and if Eternals have truly landed themselves to become the black sheep of the MCU.
The Eternals is a group of ten cosmic beings who are sent to Earth by the Celestials — god-like beings who rule over the galaxy. Their mission is to fight against the Deviants, monster-like creatures who cause chaos and destruction. The movie centers on the Eternals during the present day, after beating the Deviants centuries ago, and their lives amongst humans whom most of them have come to love. Eventually, they discover the return of a new kind of Deviant who feeds off of their powers. The group of heroes must once again battle with these horrific creatures to ensure the Earth’s safety and in doing so they also slowly discover the truth behind their purpose and mission on Earth.
The MCU’s Eternals Review: Spoiler Warnings
This review will focus on the character development, the visuals, and the overall direction of the film in order to ensure a spoiler-free review. Some portions of the plot may be discussed but in a manner that will still veer away from key plot points as not to tamper with your viewing experience.
A Stunning Cast That Underdelivered
The sheer amount of names attached to this film are just undeniably good to look at on paper. There is a sense of reverence and acceptable expectation that Eternals should’ve been a good film, to begin with, given stars such as Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, and even the two stepbrothers from Game of Thrones — Kit Harington and Richard Madden. Sadly, however, their names alone couldn’t really bring much to the table and despite having solid performances they weren’t as memorable as the other MCU characters that we have seen so far. By the end of the film, audiences leave the same way they entered with a detached disposition towards the characters. There wasn’t a single standout performance and not enough connection was honestly built despite the 2 hours and 40-minute running time.
To be honest it also felt, that these characters and chosen actors were placed in the film for their popularity and with the goal for the film to become an all-inclusive picture. It was amazing to see different groups of people being represented in this movie from African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, even down to the deaf and LGBTQ community. That being said, however, it felt that too much was going on. There were some moments with the first-ever deaf and openly gay Marvel characters, Makkari and Phastos, that tugged on our heartstrings and would presumably bring pride to people who belong under those social groups. However, these moments were just short-lived. As a whole, the quantity of characters and events that go on in the movie is just too much to create an in-depth character development which was disappointing amidst the already lengthy nature of the movie.
The big names in the film industry might have gotten the losing end of the proverbial stick for this film specifically Jolie and Hayek. We have witnessed how they can step into the spotlight and transform a role into something extraordinary. That wasn’t the case for this film. It felt as if they were given under-developed characters which caused them to fade into the background. Their roles were very crucial to the movie as a whole but in the end, their presence didn’t make a huge impact even to the point that the Eternals film could have existed even without them. This goes the same for Gemma Chan’s portrayal of Sersi who is supposed to be the standout character from the bunch with her pivotal role as the leader of the gang of immortals. Sadly enough, Gemma’s stoic and bland performance didn’t help to the point that there were several scenes that her co-stars outperformed her.
A Marvel or Chloe Zhao Film? Or Neither?
Director Chloe Shoe, who just came from Oscar victory for the film Nomadland, was expected to soar even higher with her first venture into the MCU and superhero-themed films. The director has made her mark in delivering an immersive visual experience that dives deep into the heart of humanity. She has an amazing eye for turning the mundane and almost seemingly boring shots into works of expressive realism forms of art. Zhao is known for her lingering still shots that engulf her viewers into a magical world despite being based on reality. It, therefore, made sense for the director to create a film that touches on the very nature of being human from the perspective of metahumans. The effect that was achieved however definitely missed the mark and our own set of expectations from the director.
To put it bluntly, this film felt like a very safe take for Zhao which both deviated from her own style and slightly deviated as well from the typical Marvel film that fans have come to know and love. I believe this is where the true flaws and disappointing nature of the film lie in. Everything was played safe right in the middle of a Chloe Zhao visual masterpiece and a solid signature Marvel movie. The Eternals, therefore, lacked a clear and solidified identity as to the overall and final direction of the film. There were some elements of Zhao’s handiwork and bold cinematic choices while simultaneously having some classic MCU tropes such as the well-placed humor and brilliant dialogues and fight sequences but there seemed to be an overall feeling of confusion.
If only Zhao chose to lean into one particular direction altogether — being a full-on MCU staple or another risk-taking Zhao creative output — then the film would have taken a whole different direction and feel that would be a bit more consistent. Admittedly if Zhao focused on a single direction from either of the two there would still be some negativity that would follow for the opposite camp but it would’ve more clear and understandable compared to the somewhat messy nature of what the Eternals gives us. Simply put, the lack of Zhao’s decisiveness and risk-taking has made the Eternals an effort to please everyone and clearly, it failed to do so.
A Unique Take On Story Telling In The MCU
The biggest highlight in my opinion however was the overall story. In its entirety what may be off-putting for fans of the MCU with the Eternals movie is its different take on almost every element particularly with how the story is told. This is my most humble opinion is what the movie excelled in — giving a fresh perspective to an almost formulaic franchise. The way the film capitalizes on different points in time with which these cosmic beings were present was done to a T. The flashbacks and background stories are what made the film into something different. This was a much-needed break from the very straight-to-the-point and linear manner of story-telling that the MCU provides us. The constant back and forth from different points in time enabled the film to be a positive breath of fresh air and caused it to be an engaging experience. The story may have also dragged on a bit with a sluggish pace but for the most part, there was enough high-stakes action that resonated throughout the 2 and a half hours of running time.
Stunning Visual Experience
Another element in Eternals that excelled for providing a fresh take on the Marvel film tropes is the cinematography, special effects, and color grading. There is a stunning and different look that this film takes on that separates Eternals from any other film in the MCU. There is an almost purely cinematic experience that shows a keen eye and attention to detail that Zhao is known for. With some shots that lingered and focused on the natural beauty or chaos of certain scenes felt raw and authentic that was just what this movie needed to stand out and feel fresh.
Eternals Review Verdict
Being dubbed as the worst movie in the MCU is a bold statement. It’s truly difficult to say given the subjective and opinionated nature of such a statement. It always boils down to preference. Given that and despite all of the flaws that came with the film, we at This Is Hype Ph, disagree with the aforementioned statement. Eternals is far from perfect but in our opinion, it’s not the worst either but lands somewhere in the lower half of the MCU list surpassing films such as Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World to name a few. The way the story is told still saves it from being the very worst and if only a clear direction was established and more risks are taken then this could’ve been a greater offering than what we were given.
So clearly the Eternals isn’t as great as we expected but if you are a die-hard fan of the MCU it’s still worth seeing for the entire continuity of the franchise. We also just hope that due to the open-ended nature of this film and the assurance in the end that the Eternals would eventually return in maybe another film or a future project that things would be done differently to create a truly spectacular film.
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