Eternals Review: Captivating and Original (But Bring Some Coffee)

Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” features an exciting new team of Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years.  Following the events of “Avengers: Endgame”, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s most ancient enemy, The Deviants. The outstanding ensemble cast includes Richard Madden as the all-powerful Ikaris, Gemma Chan as humankind-loving Sersi, Kumail Nanjiani as cosmic-powered Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as the super-fast Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as the intelligent inventor Phastos, Salma Hayek as the wise and spiritual leader Ajak, Lia McHugh as the eternally young, old-soul Sprite, Don Lee as the powerful Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as aloof loner Druig, and Angelina Jolie as the fierce warrior Thena. Kit Harington was cast as Dane Whitman.

Eternals Video Review:

The Good:

The first thing that stands out for Eternals will be the visuals. Director Chloé Zhao brought her incredible eye for scenery and cinematography into this film without fail. The wide shots, colorful backgrounds, and even the CGI used for the Deviants were all captivating.

L to R: Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo by Sophie Mutevelian. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

I particularly loved the shots where we follow the Eternals during their fights. One example would be the scenes with the speedster, Makkari. The special effects used to show her top speed, slow motion, and real-time action were impeccable. Another example would be when we follow Ikarus as he flies and fights Deviants. The over the shoulder camera angle puts you right in the middle of the action and it was pretty exhilarating. It was one of the best visual experiences I’ve seen for a flying superhero. (Superman you have 48 hours to respond).

Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Next up, Eternals creates some thought provoking questions with its core themes. One of the themes deals with the moral dilemma regarding the circle of life. I thought it was fascinating to ponder about during the movie because it added a nice layer of complexity for the characters and their motives.

Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2021 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Eternals boasts a large ensemble cast of characters, and each of them shine in their own way. Gemma Chan handles the lead role commendably as “Sersi”. Her performance was convincing enough to authentically portray her character’s vulnerabilities and insecurities.  Angelina Jolie was wonderful as the warrior, Thena. She was a definite bright spot in the film during her action scenes. I think the real fan favorite will be Kumail Nanjiani. He delivered an adequate sense of levity to the film and owned many of the funniest scenes.

The Bad:

There are a couple of things that work against the Eternals, and it starts with the overall construction of the pacing of the film. The movie is 2.5 hours long, and you feel it. Mostly because there’s a lot of exposition and drama. (I’ll come back to that later.) Normally the big fight scenes will add a spark to help shake things up, but it felt like the action was too spaced out. Not only that, despite being cool to watch and well crafted, the majority of the action felt repetitive.

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2021 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

I think another issue with the pacing is that there were a couple of scenes that could’ve been trimmed out or shortened. A lot of the fluff in Eternals is also due to the fact that we have to juggle so many characters.  With ten new faces, it gets a bit difficult to become properly invested in their individual stories or issues. Even if each character’s side story takes up a couple of minutes, those minutes add up in the long run. Eternals seems to bank on you caring about the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. On paper, it does work and makes sense.  The execution of it may be questionable.

L to R: Karun (Harish Patel), Gilgamesh (Don Lee) and Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo by Sophie Mutevelian. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.I just didn’t feel that emotional tension every time. The connection was hard to make because there are other things going on. Do you care about this person loving that person? What about the Deviants? Do you care about the cosmic impact? Something always suffers or takes a back seat when something else gets built up. As a result, it just became difficult to get truly attached.

(L-R): Sprite (Lia McHugh) and Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.This leads me to a specific disappointment I had with the drama. We only get to see the majority of one side of the love story at play. Without seeing both perspectives in a relationship, it makes it difficult to relate to the individuals involved. When we do finally see the other perspective, it ends up feeling like a plot device. While this works for the writing of the overall story, I think it worked against having us sympathize with one of the characters. In addition to that, when another certain relationship dynamic is introduced, it just feels shoehorned in (and incredibly awkward too).

(L-R): Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo credit: Sophie Mutevelian. © 2021 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Lastly, and this is minor, I wasn’t a fan of how the characters approached the “circle of life theme”. As I said before, I did like the complexity of the theme itself, but I didn’t care for the main characters’ response to them. I thought the writing could’ve been a little stronger in making a better case for the hero’s argument, rather than giving them a more biased position.

The Verdict:

Eternals is an overstuffed, character driven drama, that excels visually, but falls short in sticking the emotional landing. It’s the Dune of the MCU. If you’re not invested in the characters and plot, then it’ll be easy to lose interest in slower parts of the film despite the great visuals. I get the impression that this movie would’ve worked far better in an episodic Disney+ series format instead.

(L-R): Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Eternals tries to work with a lot of moving parts and takes some really big swings. Sometimes it hits, and sometimes it doesn’t. For that reason, Eternals and Chloé Zhao deserve credit for giving the MCU something more original.

(L-R): Richard Madden and director Chloé Zhao on the set of Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo by Sophie Mutevelian. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

It should be clarified that the appeal with this movie will depend on the viewer. I think that’s why expectations should be reasonably set before watching. This movie isn’t good or bad just because it’s different. The real factor will be whether the characters resonate with you. If you were expecting an action packed, space adventure like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, then you’ll be sorely disappointed with Eternals.

Ajak (Salma Hayek) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Eternals does add to the MCU’s mythology a bit from a cosmic level, but I’m afraid we won’t really see or care about the impact until much later down the line. The movie didn’t really leave me wondering what will happen next or how it intertwines with future MCU movies. That interconnectivity is usually a major bonus that MCU fans have been conditioned to expect, and I don’t know if Eternals will deliver as much as some may hope.

(L-R): Sprite (Lia McHugh), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Karun (Harish Patel), Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

I wouldn’t put Eternals in my top 15 of MCU movies, but it would be somewhere in my top 20.  After re-watching it for a second time, I didn’t really gain much on a second viewing. It’s possible that Marvel Studios will add more value to Eternals through other shows and films (like how WandaVision did for Avengers: Age of Ultron). In the meantime, if you plan on watching Eternals, manage your expectations, and watch it on the biggest screen possible. Be sure to stay for the two post credit scenes.

Director: Chloé Zhao
Writers: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo
Stars: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie
Eternals hits theaters November 5, 2021. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

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Overall
6.5/10
6.5/10
  • Acting - 7/10
    7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/10
    8/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
    7/10
  • Watchability - 6/10
    6/10
  • Rewatchability - 5/10
    5/10
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About Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette

Emmanuel is a Chicago film critic who founded Eman's Movie Reviews. He freelances as a writer and video content creator for sites such as MovieTickets.com. Be sure to join the other 33K+ fans on his Facebook Fan Page for even more movie opinions and fun. Feel free to contact him with any professional inquiries: [email protected]

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