Eternals Review: Nothing lasts Forever as far as Marvel's Winning Streak is concerned.
Director Clohe Zhao garnered praise and critical acclaim for her indie hit Nomadland, but how well does her talent fares when helming a live action adaptation based on one of Marvel's cult properties?
Created by the legend himself, Jack Kirby, Marvel's Eternals is about a race of Superpowered humanoids, who were created by the Celestials to hunt and destroy the ravenous creatures known as the Deviants.
Well, there's more to it after the first half of this nearly 3-hour movie. But out of respect for those few who have yet to watch this, I will forgo most spoilers. That said, the intro begins with some token Superhero battle scene where the Eternals fend off Deviants during 500 bc Mesopotamia. For a movie based one of Kirby's established works, absolutely none of his art was shown during Marvel's flip page title card and that's already not a good sign.
While the pacing is slow, I have to admire part of the storyline, that features how the Eternals despite their immortality, try to co-exist within society over the ages as shown during a few Highlander type scenes, most featured Salma Hayek as Ajak who this great seer is or rather "sage" who holds a secret that could threaten the entire planet as in the “emergence!”
In certain ways, Eternals is part drama, with a modicum of suspense leading to one climatic battle and after a two-hour slog, that's where the film finally pays off!
Now let’s talk about the characters involved as none of them really bares the comics counterparts. Honestly, I didn't care for the swaps all that much, however, if each Eternal were designed after various ethnicities, to covertly blend in to protect mankind, I can't fault this implementation on narrative wise. except for Sprite who had the more interesting story arc, of a young girl who is condemned to live as a prepubescent teenager, never to experience true love nor reach womanhood. This although adapted from Gaiman's magnificent Graphic Novel, made more sense regarding the gender swap otherwise Sprite might as well be a super-powered incel.
Personally, I think Angelina Jolie would've been more adept had she been cast as Sersi as opposed to Thena. And with Richard Madden and Kit Harrington as Ikaris and Dale Whitman respectively, this was like some Games of Thrones reunion but with a soap opera angle when you include Gemma Chan's Sersi who in the Graphic Novels had a thing going on with Makkari, but that's been voided in exchange for Ikaris. Madden is at times, stiff as Ikaris who judging by the source material, is this brash, valiant "Superman" of the group. And what's funny is that Ikaris has been referenced as DC's Man of Steel in the movie. Instead, he's played too stoic even during romantic scenes. Yes, Eternals features the first sex scene from a Marvel/Disney movie.
The diverse cast when assembled, looks like they came from an Old Navy ad and to further home in on diversity, Marvel Studios not only gender swapped Ajax with Hayek who still looks stunning, but also Makkari, who now is portrayed by Black Mexican mute woman??
Despite a few shining moments of heroism Lauren Ridloff's Makkari seemed a bit limited compared to Thena, Gilgimesh and Kinto, the latter being the comedy relief while Druig's character development. shows more promise at least during the first 90 minutes.
I couldn't help but roll my eyes during a scene where the prime Celestial, Arishem communicates with Ajax who had a thick Mexican accent. (Well, that kinda makes sense as Ajak even in the comics, had co-existed among the South American natives for centuries.) And why does Arishem's voice sounds like Inspector Gadget's Dr. Claw? I don't recall any of the celestials speaking, but again, that was during the Kirby/Gaiman books so perhaps things changed afterwards? I’ll admit that there is a somewhat valid explanation regarding the Eternals' origin and purpose, not the origin I would have come up with, but some intriguing background of the Celestials' Master race, and their motives when fighting the Deviants.
Now let’s talk about the 260-pound elephant in the room. Phastos.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I cannot cosign on Disney/Marvel as with other Movie and television studios, using a Black Man as a proxy to further promote the LGBTQ agenda.
It's been a fad since the Arrowverse's Mr.Terrific and from there, we see Hooded Justice from HBO's Watchmen. Now here, you have Phastos an inventor and sorta like James Bond's Q, yet not only is he established as homosexual, but in one scene, Phastos acted like the cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz while the rest of the cast is all dashing and heroic. "shades of Mr. Terrific" from Arrow. Phastos blames himself for causing wars and destruction after sharing his advanced technology to Humans.
One may view the Hiroshima scene as an allegory of Anti-Asian hate crimes committed by blacks, but it’s all left to one's interpretation, I guess. Regardless, it’s still a bad idea and another sign that Hollywood is rife with insecurities. Hopefully, Disney won't shoehorn any of that experiment in the Black Panther 2.
I say ‘experiment’ within the contextual accusation of this being just another lazy ass ploy, and while I encourage diversity or fictional characters with different backgrounds, exploiting black men, well, black people in general is the new “blackface”. Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit. but still, its a backhanded dis, with a lets ‘play it safe” tacky tactic. For example, the Eternals consist of humanoids representing various background and ethnicities; Asian, Hispanic, Black, White and Female. Why couldn’t Zhao and/or the studio have Kinto as the LGBTQ hero instead of Phastos who in the comics, is a heterosexual male with a family? During the story, we have Kinto as a Bollywood superstar, who designed his stage costume after Ikaris and latter on in the movie, mentions how he would follow him everywhere. Kinto expressing his adoration could easily be interpreted as one bearing a homosexual crush as with Phil Coulson with Steve Rogers during Avengers (2012). So, If anyone should have been used as the “token LGBTQ” it should have been Kinto but Marvel and Disney was afraid of any potential backlash from India if not Asians in general. I did hear of how some black audience members walked out of theater early, so there's that.
As for The Deviants, they are more like giant creatures than humanoids for the most part, and when watching the Eternals do battle with them, was more like akin to the Monster Hunter games. That's if the hunters were Superheroes.
Marvel's or rather, "Jack Kirby's" Eternals has its share of overblown clichés i.e., dramatic entrances when the group forms together), shallow villains, cinematography that looks like a Poland spring commercial, confined set pieces and a slow burn until the film reaches the 3rd act within a 2.5-hour movie! I would be very upset had I seen this in the theaters so thank the heavens for streaming services and a bit of patience however, one’s millage may vary.
Eternals is now available for Disney Plus.
"The New United Colors of Banneton?"