⚠️Warning — Spoilers Ahead!
Eternals is Marvel Studios’ latest Phase 4 release and like many of its predecessors, it’s riddled with mediocrity particularly in its plot and dialogue. Marvel is no stranger to auteurs when it comes directing its feature length films. Each adding their own style and aesthetic to the film. With Oscar winning director Chloe Zhao at the helm of this project plus a star-studded cast, I was curious to see her take on a commercial Marvel film. But even with her talents, the film still fell short.
An astounding consensus amongst critics is that the most meritable aspect of the film is its captivating visuals and cinematography. The film takes place in multiple locations and time periods. The establishing shots and wide shots that introduces a new location and correspondingly a new character were stunning and almost ethereal, whether it’s the picturesque rocky canyons where Ikaris and Sersi share many romantic moments, or the barren middle of nowhere desert Thena (Angelina Jolie) and Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-Seok) calls home, or the flawless beach where the climactic fight takes place. Chloe Zhao’s signature is undeniably evident.
Interestingly, each environment and setting, particularly the manner they are captured, has a vital role in the film’s storytelling. It reflects how the Eternals, who have fallen in love with Earth’s residents and cultures, perceive the Earth. Aside from Ikaris, the others sees the planet as a beautiful world with vibrant cultures and landscapes. The aforementioned shots highlight the natural and even urban beauty of the planet. if that’s how the Eternals view our world, it’s no wonder why they are adamant in saving it.
Diversity, Diversity, Diversity
Eternals commendably included diverse representation of cultures from different parts of the world in regards to history, legends and pop culture. The film boasts and fully embraces diversity in many ways. Not only does it feature a massively diverse cast with actors of varying ethnicity, including, Indian, American, British, Chinese, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, the film was also presents an openly gay superhero, Phastos, portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry.
That being said, the film leaves a mark in revolutionising modern, commercial, blockbuster cinema in a global sense, albeit it is far from being infallible.
A Mediocre Story
Before diving into the shortcomings in the plot of Eternals, we must applaud the film for its themes. Marvel superhero films often follow the personal journey and endeavours of the heroic protagonist. However, this film is unique in the sense that it explores ideas of existentialism and questions such as “To what extent do heroes play God?” and the scruples of interfering with the fate of humanity. All of which is refreshing to see in a superhero flick.
However, many believe that the film falls flat because of its storyline. Simply put, the movie’s story was bland. Perhaps it’s because of the formulaic way Marvel does its storytelling, the slow pacing or the anti-climactic final battle. Regardless of what’s to blame, the story did not leave any lingering impressions.
2 and a half hours seemed barely enough time to delve into and develop a character arc for each of the 10 Eternals, while still fitting in action sequences and an epic final battle. Add on the many subplots, including a love triangle between Sersi, Ikaris and Dane, the vengeful Deviants to the main plot — Ikarus betrayal and stopping the world-ending birth of a celestial, it’s hard to establish a connection with the characters that is strong enough to emotionally invest and care about them.
Everyone loves a surprise twist that shocks them in their seats. It gives the film an exciting edge. These tropes only work if you don’t see it coming. Ikaris’ betrayal was not only predictable, but the revelation was lackluster. I expected more drama and emotion to come out of the other members of the team, kind of in the same caliber as Obi-wan Kenobi’s “You were the chosen one” moment.
Speaking of Ikarus, there’s a split reaction to the film’s resolution. Ikaris conveniently fails to kill Sersi out of love and abandons his personal beliefs and mission. Romantics might say this is a beautiful end. Not being able to live with himself he commits suicide. Others might groan and roll their eyes. I would prefer like to see an alternate ending where he does kill Sersi because he seems like the type of person who strongly believes in putting the mission above anything else. I’d imagine he would still commit suicide because he can’t live with the consequence of his actions, i.e. killing the one he loves.
Underrated Side Characters
There are minor characters that should’ve been given more attention or the very least more screen time. It’s unfortunate that Deviants and even Jon Snow, I mean, Dane Whitman, portrayed by Kit Harrington, are somewhat sidelined.
Take the leader of the Deviants as an example. He has the potential to be a compelling villain. He was built up to be an actual threat to the Eternals as he can absorb their powers and evolve into a powerful being that equates the abilities of the Eternals themselves. Later, it is revealed that he and the eponymous Eternals share a commonality, their creation and their disdain towards Arishem. It would’ve been interesting to see him interact with the Eternals outside monologues and intense fighting sequences. If you weren’t an ardent Marvel fan, you wouldn’t be able to recognise him as one of Marvel’s supervillains — who also happens to have an on and off again relationship with Thena — that terrorises Earth and is a menace to the Avengers in a large scale. However, in the film, they downplayed his character into a side villain whose name isn’t mentioned. Only through the credits do we find out he is Kro and is voiced by Pennywise himself (Bill Skarsgard). Kro, in the film, is no menacing supervillain. Rather, he is just another villain defeated by a vengeful hero in an anticlimactic battle.
Another minor character who has been robbed of screen time is Dane Whitman, portrayed by Jon Snow, I mean, Kit Harrington. Unfortunately, his character appears to be no more than an Easter Egg. He is introduced as Sersi’s love interest and a romantic rival to Ikaris. However, after the first act he falls into the background and is forgotten until the final scene. Marvel is known for leaving Easter Eggs to spark interest and excitement for their next film. In the post credit scene, Dane is hinted to be next Black Knight. This particular scene might have a bigger impact if we actually got to know and invest in his character throughout the movie. Perhaps if he played a role in helping the Eternals save the world or even if we get a chance to see more of his personality and story. Otherwise, Dane is just, sort of, extra.
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Photo Source: Eternals. Chloe Zhao. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2021. Film.
Disclaimer: Any views and opinions expressed are personal and solely belong to the authors. They are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything.