Although it hits all the points fans require of a Marvel film- humor, action, and plenty of easter eggs, Eternals stands apart as a somewhat unique offering in the pantheon of the MCU. With all the world building and potential, it is clear Eternals has lofty plans for the future.
Eternals begins in the past, in 5000 BC when the Eternals were sent to Earth by the Celestial Arishem to protect the planet and humans from an evil race of aliens called Deviants. Throughout human history, the team continues on their mission, battling Deviants until they're all extinct. Then they all go off to live their lives while awaiting new orders and a chance to leave Earth. The movie switches to present day.
In London, Sersi (Gemma Chan) is living with Sprite (Lia McHugh) and dating the non-Eternal, Dane Whitman (Kit Harington). The peace doesn't last long and soon a Deviant attacks. Ikaris (Richard Madden) arrives to help, when they realize this one is more advanced than any others they faced in the past they decide to gather the others. The three of them travel the world to find their other team members: Ajak (Salma Hayek), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and Makkari (Lauren Ridloff). Reunited, they must battle the Deviants while figuring out how to save Earth from the massive threat known as the Emergence.
A challenge for any filmmaker is the amount of characters in this ensemble. Unlike Avengers Endgame or even Avengers, Director Chloe Zhao did not have the cushion that comes with other films explaining who these 10 new characters are and why the audience needs to care about them. However, she deftly weaves their stories together and gives each one a chance to show how their time on Earth has affected them. Viewers are quickly endeared to this team thanks to the overall chemistry and acting abilities of the cast.
As gleaned from the trailers, a central story point is the relationship between Sersi and Ikaris. Again, enough cannot be said about the chemistry between Chan and Madden which lends weight and believability to their immortal love story. When your love spans thousands of years things can go wrong, but it's the complexity of their characters and their feelings for one another that adds a lot of emotional depth to the film. The only complaint here is the MCU's first sex scene. It was awkward to watch and ultimately was unnecessary.
While the film does focus on Ikaris and Sersi quite a bit, the other Eternals were given their own storylines with a surprising amount of depth, again given that there were 10 characters to feature in the film. Fans of Nanjiani from Silicon Valley will not be disappointed by his scene stealing turn as Kingo who provides a lot of comic relief throughout the story. McHugh pulls off the duality of being a snarky immortal who also struggles to fit into a world that views Sprite as a child. Ajak deals with a lifetime of serving Arishem, Druig wrestles with the morality of using his mind control abilities, and Makarri hides away, finding that easier than being part of the human world. Despite these three not being given a ton of screen time, there is still something for them to work with and they make the most of it.
Rounding out the team are Thena, Gilgamesh, and Phastos. The first two have a strong connection that is evident even without the film digging into it as much as Ikaris and Sersi's bond. Jolie and Lee perfectly portray a strong, loving platonic friendship. Consistently there for one another, through the good and bad. The way they face a certain Eternals ailment together is nothing short of heartwarming and maybe even tear inducing. Last but not least is Phastos, technical genius, loving father, and husband. Out of them all, he has the most to lose if Earth is destroyed. The time spent with his family is another emotional anchor in this ocean of a story, keeping the audience fully engaged with the characters.
Even though it includes beings like Deviants and Celestials, the action remains grounded in reality thanks to Zhao's filmmaking style. Instead of the typically prominent half-lighting, dark feel of CGI fights and backgrounds, Zhao opted for daylight and real locations. The inside of their ship, the Domo, were actual set pieces and many fights were shot in the real world. The exception being Ikaris flying around and fighting Deviants. All this combines to make Eternals visually gorgeous. The characters and their comic styles, first created by Jack Kirby, leap to life in the details of the suits, ship, and the various powers.
It is also important to keep in mind this is an origin story for not just one character but
10 11. What Eternals lacked in action, deciding instead to focus on that story, it made up for in heart, representation (seeing ASL in a MCU film made this reviewer happy), and opening up new possibilities for the future of the MCU. So yes, there is a lot of story and yes some could have been trimmed down or taken out completely, looking at you beach scene, but ultimately there is a lot to like and to look forward to thanks to Eternals.
Despite looking and feeling distinctly different, this film delivers what fans expect and love about Marvel films- gorgeous sets, great cast, humor, and action. With Zhao's expert world building and the inclusion of two exciting post credit scenes, Eternals casts a massive light on Phase 4 and beyond. These teases of future heroes, places, and team ups will have fans talking and theorizing for months to come.
Eternals is in theaters now. It is 157 minutes long and rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, some language and brief sexuality.