We did talk about Eternals on a Livestream a few weeks back, you can see it here. The movie is now available on streaming via Disney+, so we thought it was about time we did a proper review. Here we go! Be warned, there are spoilers below.
I went into this not expecting much. The reviews were mixed. However, I like Chloe Zhao. I did a review of her movie Nomadland and found it a great piece of work. I tried to go into this with an open mind.
The cast is impressive on paper. Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, and Kumail Nanjiani to name a few. However, I would say that no one in the movie gives a great performance. In the back of my mind, I just couldn’t help thinking of the expression “phoning it in”.
I’m a big fan of Gemma Chan, she’s had some great performances in various movies and TV shows. I always thought she would do well. Here she is one of the main protagonists. I say main, there are about five main protagonists in this movie. Unfortunately, she is just dull! There is very little about her character to talk about and nothing about her performance stood out. She seems to just say her lines and that was it. Hardly any emotion, just bland.
The same with Richard Madden. I’ve seen him in great roles and seen him give great performances but again, here, just dull. Pretty much all of his lines are just delivered, and that is it. The scenes with him and Chan, who were lovers for 5,000 years, show little or no chemistry between them.
Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress, but not here she’s not! She has very little dialogue, all her action sequences are bland and she’s not really doing anything apart from the aforementioned phoning it in.
Salma Hayek seems to be the one only who has a real character to play. And she doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.
End Big Spoiler
One of the Eternals is Sprite, a young tom-boy girl type who was just annoying. She’s supposed to be fed up with being treated like a child by the humans, so she has a character flaw to work with, but it’s not really dealt with. There is a bit at the end where she mentions it, and that is about it. She is also in love with Madden’s character, but again, it is just a minor point that doesn’t really develop.
The rest of the cast aren’t really worth talking about. They are just there, doing their jobs. The casting seems to have come straight from a tick-box exercise:
“Do we have an Asian one? A black one? An Hispanic one? A young one? Could we get one in a wheelchair?”
They were just ticking the boxes to make sure all the blue ticks on Twitter are happy that all races, creeds, colours, accents and every other thing you can think of is covered. Yet this seems to serve no narrative purpose in the movie.
Which then brings on more problems. One of the Eternals is gay, which is fine, but at the same time completely unnecessary. The only reason the character is gay is to make sure the LBGT community is represented because everyone has to be included. There is no narrative arc to any of this.
If you’re building a team to destroy evil Deviants, why make them with any emotions at all? If they need to fight, just build them to fight. Not to love and want children.
Another of the Eternals is deaf. Again, no real story requirement is evident so it is inclusion for the sake of inclusion. We learn that the Eternals were created to fight the Deviants so they have superpowers such as flight, super-speed, super strength, the power to control minds, and so on. With all of those powers, you can’t make them with ears that work?
I thought it was like in Return of the Jedi in Jabba’s palace. There is a droid being tortured by having its feet burnt. Why? Why would someone make a droid with pain sensors? It makes zero sense. It seems that where the Celestial was designing the Eternals, he uses the Talent Points in Charisma and Charm, instead of things like Laser Eyes or Invulnerability.
I’m not going to go too much into the story, since it’s honestly just not worth it. There’s a Celestial, a super-being, who sends the Eternals to Earth to destroy beings called Deviants. The Eternals are powerful fighters and their mission is to then protect the Earth from the danger of the Deviants, but not to interfere with human affairs.
This is already not good. Many say the MCU ended with Endgame, but here we are. We are in Phase 4 and already you’re wondering where the Eternals were when Thanos was clicking his fingers?
Apparently, they cannot interfere if the Deviants are not involved. So basically they sat around watching Thanos click his fingers and did nothing to help, because… well, you know. Thanos isn’t a Deviant. This lazy writing is on par with the DCEU Martha moment.
This brings me on to the script. I honestly have no idea who did what, but it was all over the place. The story switches back and forth from the present day to 5000 years ago, three weeks ago, tomorrow morning, and last Saturday. This did make things confusing in what is already a complex story.
Remember how most of the Avengers had a movie or two under their belts before they all teamed up and battled Loki? You knew who everyone was, their strengths and weaknesses, how they fought, how they would think…it made Avengers Assemble a treat to watch to get to see how they would finally team up.
In Eternals you have ten new characters, all of them only seem to have one, maybe two, powers. They were not spreading out the Talent Points correctly here. They all fight in different ways. The movie tried to explain this all in the first fight. There is a guy who can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes. Now this one can summon weapons. This one over here can control people’s minds. And so on, and so on…
All of these are introduced in one go, so you don’t really know who they all are, or anything else about them.
There is mild character development through the movie, but only on the main five since there isn’t time to work with the others. As something of an origin story, it needed to be something much more simple. Not introduce ten new characters.
Also, they didn’t seem that powerful. Ikaris, played by Madden, is sort of the leader and he has laser eyes that don’t seem to do much. The first time he uses them on a Deviant it just knocks it to the ground, which was a bit dull. I was hoping it would tear it in two or something, but no, we need the Deviants for later.
There is a sub-plot about the Deviants that is fairly clever and played out fairly well, but again, it’s only a small part of the story. They seem to spend little time on this and loads of time on Druig. This is a shame as he’s a dull character and his power seems pretty useless against the Deviants. Once again, if you are designing a kill-bot specific to Deviants then why give him the power to control human minds and not Deviant ones?
Since everyone has their own unique special gifts, of course, they all have to work together. This seemed more like a nod towards teamwork and accepting everyone for who they are but it keeps coming back to the glaring issue – if the Celestial was making Deviant Killing Machines, why split up the powers? The movie cannot get past this issue.
So it turns out the Earth is an “egg” growing a new Celestial. The “baby” is fed off the intelligent life on the planet. So when the baby is born, the human race will die.
This actually did add some drama. Just not enough. To be honest it is a bit of a snooze fest. The Eternals find out that this is what they do, and have done for maybe millions of years. However, it seems like the earth is worth saving. So this time they rebel against the Celestial.
This drives another issue – why doesn’t the Celestial just turn up and see the birth through? He turns up at the end just to tell everyone off, which is something of an anti-climax.
End Of Spoilers
With the Earth in peril, all of the Eternals have to find each other and team back up. We find Thena (Jolie) and Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-Seok) hiding out. Thena keeps going crazy and trying to kill the others.
When the team turns up. they say one of the team is dead and the Earth is in peril. Everyone is sad and understands what is going on. It is serious stuff.
So next they are all inside Gilgamesh’s house, having a nice dinner and a good laugh…even crazy Thena!
As I said, I like Chloe Zhao. I liked Nomadland, for which she won an Oscar.
The main problem is that there is a huge difference between the documentary style of Nomadland and doing a big-budget, SFX-heavy blockbuster. I still cannot understand why she was picked? Her other movies were dramas. I think some people can do action and some can’t. I have to say, based on this Chloe can’t do action.
There are rumors that some of the action sequels in Phase 4 are directed by the IT guys rather than the actual director. If this is true then it would explain a lot however if Zhao is good at directing actors, it doesn’t explain how wooden everyone is. It’s interesting to see that on Zhao’s bio on the IMDb, she has no further projects on the go at the moment.
Possibly, a different director and screenwriter could have made more sense out of this movie. Even then it would have to have been someone pretty damn good.
I have a lot of faith in Kevin Fiege. I have said it before and I’ll carry on saying it – his production of the MCU, from Iron Man to Endgame, is an amazing piece of work. I cannot then understand what happened here. This movie is a badly written, lazily directed, and barely acted mess.
I was surprised by some of the reviews. Some even throwing around the word “masterpiece”.
I’m guessing those reviews were sponsored by Marvel. I know I’m not a huge film critic or Oscar-winning screenplay writer, but I do know a good movie from a bad one.
Last year, I re-watched the entire MCU from Iron Man to Endgame and I enjoyed most of them again and, in the future, I would happily do the same. I won’t be watching Eternals again any time soon.
Have you seen it yet? What did you think?
Eternals is now streaming on Disney+.