Eternals – Spoiler Review


Image from Marvel Studios

The core Eternals (Nanjiani, Ridloff, Lee, Jolie, Madden, Hayek, Chan, McHugh, Tyree Henry, Keoghan) arriving on Earth.

The Eternals were created by Celestials millions of years ago. The group consisting of Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Spritec (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), all led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), were sent to Earth 5000 BC to eliminate all of the Deviants. When an unexpected tragedy occurs in the present day, they are forced to reunite.

Before the marketing campaign ramped up for this film, I could never grasp onto a storyline as well as who the characters were, where they were from, or what they do. Now that I’ve seen the film, I know who the Eternals are. This corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is wildly investing, and this group merely adds another layer to the never-ending story. The film opens with text against a black screen that reads, “The Prime Celestial Arishem (David Kaye), who has been around since before the Infinity Stones even existed, created the universe. But once creatures called the Deviants arrived on worlds, threatened life and began to evolve, the Celestials created the Eternals. Led by the Prime Eternal Ajak, they were sent to worlds to assist in any mishaps with Deviants and to unknowingly pave the path to the emergence of new Celestials – thus would destroy that very planet in the process – every few million years, without interfering in any domestic conflict unless Deviants are explicitly involved.” In a nutshell, that is the best possible explanation you could get out of any source material with a limited fanbase being adapted to the screen. 

Chloé Zhao’s foreign knowledge to the comic book community is one of the aspects I was most curious about. She’s not an action or comedic director, and those are definitely two things that hold a high value of presence in these films. Unlike her previous films, “Nomadland” or “The Rider,” it’s not overly apparent that she directed this film (aside from maybe the scenes set in South Dakota), but I would argue that it doesn’t need to be. Zhao pairs the MCU formula with her brilliant craftsmanship and creates something different than nearly any comic book movie to come before it; it’s most comparable to the philosophical sides of Zack Snyder’s work at DC, minus all of the dark and brooding scenes. The technical work is only the cherry on top for “Eternals.” This is unquestionably the best shot MCU film to date. Much of the film is shot on location, and the costume work is brilliant as well. The visuals are mesmerizing and the score hits on the tone it needs to.

Image from Marvel Studios

The ever-decreasing Rotten Tomatoes score and inexplicably negative critic reviews are simply baffling to my mind. I’ve seen everything from “this doesn’t feel Chloé Zhao enough” to “it’s boring and not funny, nor [has] enough punching and explosions.” The first hour of the film hops back and forth over the 7,000 year spanning story, but it’s never overwhelming, nor is it when we hop from location to location. It transitions very smoothly, and the near three hour runtime never bothered me. There are ten main characters in this film, so it feeling overwhelming at some points is bound to occur. Overall, the film was a bit passive considering its grander scale. It’s risky having someone who is unaware of directing a film like this to come in and make something so disconnected from a priorly established franchise (the biggest and most successful currently). That, I respect to a high degree. Largely, it seems like the complaints are there because the film did not live up to the expectations of an Oscar winner directing it.

In having ten main characters, I was surprised how they nearly nailed every one of them in juggling how to introduce each one of them, development and screen time. I was unaware that they each had individual powers, but watching them combine their powers and work together put almost each one to good use. Sersi is our leading character of the film and Gemma Chan leads phenomenally, despite how overly passive she is. I never realized how good of an actress she was with all of her supporting roles, including a wasted role in “Captain Marvel,” but she seriously killed it here. She was chosen as Ajak’s successor as the Prime Eternal once she died, and her conversations with Arishem revealed a lot about the story (through exposition dumps, but I’ll get to that). It was odd once we understood the Eternals true purpose, which was how they’re basically robots built by Arishem. Why were they given empathy if the purpose was to watch species die on planets and planets to come? Sersi’s relationship with Ikaris was intriguing through the years, though I felt we should’ve had a little more of it. On the other hand, her relationship with Dane Whitman has only just begun, and I can’t wait to see more from yet another superhero couple.

Image from Marvel Studios

Early on, Ikaris was described as “the boy who flew too close to the sun;” well done on the foreshadowing. Of course, he did fly into the sun after the Eternals stopped the emergence – I don’t think he’s dead – because of his guilt, but nobody feels sorry for him. He literally fed Ajak to the Deviants and left Gilgamesh to die as well. If there was a primary antagonist of the film, I would say it’s Arishem, but I could stand an argument for Ikaris. He didn’t have to let the emergence continue, and in the end it was all for nothing. Tiamut did not emerge from Earth’s core entirely and the remaining Deviants were eradicated. Anyway, many people come back from the dead in this universe. If you don’t see them die with your own eyes, it shouldn’t even be put into consideration, they’re coming back some day or another. He’s also way too good of a character to kill off, even with the redundancy of evil Superman rip-offs these days.

I can’t say how long I think Angelina Jolie will stick around in the Marvel world because her caliber of talent feels superior to being a superhero, but everyone has to play one eventually, and supposedly she really enjoyed starring in this film. Her role of Thena had probably the meatiest background of the supporting Eternals. The “Mad Weary” is the side effect that she has after a multitude of erased memories built up from the previous emergences, and this conflict proves the stakes are high when they kicked in right as Kro faced off against Gilgamesh, leading to his demise. Jolie didn’t need to show off in the slightest for this movie, but she did anyway. Her weapon creation powers were extremely satisfying, and what I liked most about Thena is that it never felt like Angelina Jolie was the actress playing her. She just felt like any other member of the team without having to make everything such a triumphant spectacle simply because of Jolie, and I’m glad she grew accustomed to this genre so quickly.

Barry Keoghan is one of those actors who, whenever they show up in something, always makes it better. While he’s not a key member of the team, Druig’s presence was fun to be around. Especially any scene he has with Makkari, of whom he has more than just a friendship with. This as one of many superhero couples in the film is the one I support the most. Makkari was an incredibly likable character with so much personality despite not speaking a word. The reason she’d place so low on my overall character ranking of the Eternals is because her screen time is limited. She’s the last one to get picked up because she was in the starship, the Domo, for nearly five hundred years, but plays a big role in the finale after that. Her one-on-one with Ikaris is one of the best action sequences present in the film.

Image from Marvel Studios

Kumail Nanjiani is funny as always, but being absent during the emergence finale and completely bailing on humanity was odd and upsetting. He has probably the coolest powers, and I didn’t see how it was at all necessary to write him out of the end of the movie. The Bollywood jokes didn’t hit as hard as they could’ve and the overall dance number wasn’t as energetic as it should’ve been. However, with Bollywood comes Karun (Harish Patel), Kingo’s valet. Karun is present throughout the film in just about every scene Kingo is in and steals every single one of those scenes. If he had more of a role I would say he’s in contention for the best character of the movie. Regarding the film’s lack of humor overall, the comedy of his character packed the punch the film needed.

Lia McHugh gave a notable performance for only being in her pre-teens. Sprite’s role was centrally focused on her urge to want to know what it is like to live as a human, as well as an inappropriate crush on Ikaris and selfish jealousy targeted at Sersi. I’m on the same page as Sprite, because it doesn’t make any sense why Arishem would make a child Eternal, rather than allowing them all to age at a slow pace. Sprite stays a teenager for 7,000 years. If the necessity was to have age diversity to make the characters feel more real, that still wouldn’t explain why she hasn’t at least grown up over the years. The love triangle between Sersi, Ikaris, and Sprite is convoluted, and yet so minuscule that I can work around ignoring it. By bringing the romance aspect of her character back in near the end of the movie and having her choose Ikaris out of love rather than assisting her family felt out of character for her.

Disney has all around had trouble executing well with representation, and “Eternals” takes a step forward by not only including one of the first ever deaf superheroes on-screen, but the first openly LGBTQ+ superhero with Phastos. The kiss shown between him and his husband has made the film banned in numerous countries overseas, regardless it was front and center and never forced. His powers aren’t put to extremely good use throughout the movie, but he’s yet another character I enjoyed watching throw in a few punches at Ikaris.

Image from Marvel Studios

Salma Hayek was great as the parental figure of the group, and I liked how she interacted with everyone in the flashbacks, but she was killed way too early and nearly all of her scenes have been shown in the trailers. Her doubt of the celestials is what provokes such intrigue in this century-spanning family’s relationship. The emergence is inevitable, yet the choice to stop it was made because the leader of the Eternals – later giving the leading role to successor Sersi – saw greater good within humanity after learning and growing with them over the years. The morally compromising dilemma they must face with one of the members’ betrayal, sparking conflict is a brilliant pitch story.

Unfortunately, Don Lee’s Gilgamesh was my least favorite of the core Eternals. He wasn’t bad so to speak, but his character is almost entirely shaped around the relationship he has with Thena (although I can’t say I didn’t like a single relationship in this film). Following the eradication of the Deviants in the 1500’s, he volunteers to watch over Thena in Australia up until the point we see them together in present day. After that, they go to the Amazon to meet with Druig, which is where his character is last alive. This might be where they missed on the emotion because these characters are so new, although we did see them progress with humanity in a handful of scenes.

Kit Harington didn’t have much of a role beyond male love interest in any part of the film, outside of an end credits teaser. He’s really only there as a Black Knight easter egg. There’s even an indirect reference to his uncle, Nathan Garrett, who was also Black Knight in the comics. His relationship with Sersi is not developed; they have a scene at the beginning and at the end, that’s it. The Ebony Blade will be an insanely cool weapon going forth, and the generational tale of Black Knight’s heritage is fascinating. It’s the second credits scene’s big reveal of the voice of Mahershala Ali’s that may have been done as a little too subtle. Some people in my theater weren’t able to recognize who’s voice it was even though I, of course, did. They should at least have shown a second-long shot of him. 

Image from Marvel Studios

I completely understand the role the Deviants are meant to play. But absolutely no development was given to them for being the sole enemy of the Eternals (the reason the Eternals exist nonetheless), and these creatures are completely irrelevant following the ambush in the Amazon forest. Marvel continues to have a villain problem, as anyone on the planet could’ve recorded less than two pages of line readings for Kro. Spending money on Bill Skarsgård was not needed. Each have a very unique character design, and following the absorption of Ajak’s and Gilgamesh’s powers, Kro at least upgraded and evolved further. I thought it was cool when Thena killed him, yet I felt nothing else because of the lack of focus put on these creatures halfway through.

Throughout the movie, it’s never entirely clear who the film’s primary antagonist is. Destroying Earth for the sake of the emergence of the Celestial Tiamut is a conflict in and of itself, and Arishem is not exactly a “villain” for that reason. He’s only doing what he has done throughout history. The ending left us on a major cliffhanger with Arishem “kidnapping” the remaining three Eternals left on Earth: Sersi, Kingo and Phastos. Arishem said he would let the people of Earth go unharmed even though the Eternals stopped the emergence, but why did he pull the Eternals from Earth just because they wanted to stay on the planet? Arishem does a lot of exposition delivery in the scenes he’s in, but his appearance is so striking and arresting that there couldn’t be a better character doing so. This was the one scene I continued to notice the length of upon rewatch. However, exposition sequences always require “show don’t tell” instructions, and they passed that test.

Image from Marvel Studios

The first credits scene was the big shocker in revealing that Harry Styles is officially playing Eros aka Starfox, brother of Thanos, and Patton Oswalt is playing Pip the Troll. The CGI definitely needs to be worked on, considering Pip will be a consistently recurring character. Whatever happens with the Eternals characters next, Thena, Druig, and Makkari are the only ones left to deal with it, and the thought of Harry Styles and Angelina Jolie having to team up with one another is something that will need some adjusting to.

Evidently this movie isn’t for everybody, but I can’t seem to narrow down as to why. I’ve seen it three times in theaters now, and my issues are only decreasing in meaning and effect to the film’s whole. I don’t understand the overly passionate criticisms, but I absolutely adored this film and hope one poorly reviewed film out of the twenty plus currently in this franchise and numerous more already in development doesn’t rewrite plans for the future. Most importantly, the future of the Eternals. That aside, the final impression the film gave us was “Eternals will return.”


Final Grade: A