by Ana Nguyen
[originally published October 2021]
At the Apollo, I purchased tickets for Eternals with little anticipation, after having seen so many negative reviews online. But after watching it, I do not think it is as bad as what people are complaining about. The movie tells the story of a group of ten immortals created by Celestial Arishem, sent to Earth with a mission to protect the planet from the Deviants. However, when the Earth has reached maximum population size, the Eternals are divided into two groups: they must either aid Celestial Tiamut’s emergence, which is equivalent to a human apocalypse, or try to save humanity from that destruction. Half of the movie is dedicated to exploring the Eternals' family relationships, the rest explores Eternals' fights against the Deviants from 5000 B.C until the present date.
Eternals is undoubtedly a new and different movie compared to other Marvel movies. Director Chloé Zhao offers a fresh perspective into the MCU.Her previous works, notably The Rider and Nomadland, shed light on people’s connections, showing the humanity of intimacy and vulnerability. Combining an MCU storyline with Chloé Zhao’s artistic style seems like a two-sword blade; it allows the audience to either dive deeper into the characters that are considered “gods,”or show simply too much sentimentality for a hero movie. The prevailing mixed reviews are predictable: while Richard Brody from The New Yorker labels Eternals “Chloé Zhao’s Lifeless Marvel movie,” Shirley Li from The Atlantic shows great respect for the movie, calling it “The Most Poetic Marvel Film Yet.” Introducing ten immortals without confusing the audience is a challenging task for the Marvel team, but I can still sense Chloé Zhao’s special touch throughout the movie:very subtle and contemplative, though at times perhaps unnecessary.
A great thing about Eternals is the member cast diversity: Gemma Chan—my biggest girl crush from Crazy Rich Asians—as Sersi, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Richard Madden as Ikaris, Salma Hayek as Ajak, and Don Lee as Gilgamesh. Marvel’s attempts at inclusivity are shown even further in deaf and LGBTQ+ representations; namely Makkari as one of Eternals superheroes and the relationship between Phastos and his husband. As Marvel films typically have an expansive cast of characters, I feel the movie may warrant a series in which each character may fully develop. The film’s quick pace did not allow for a full fleshing-out of characterization that, say, a series could. I would say, in these ways, Eternals is a little different from the normal Hero’s Journey Marvel film,, so if you want to watch, come to the cinema with an open mind...even if you just want to see Harry Styles in the post-credit scene :)