Movie: “The Eternals”
Director: Chloé Zhao
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani
Studio: Marvel Studios
From the moment the opening notes of “Time” by Pink Floyd take form in the opening scene of “The Eternals,” it’s clear this is far from what Marvel fans are used to.
That’s because “The Eternals” isn’t a superhero film. Rather, it’s a multi-millennium-spanning epic about the supreme beings who act as overseers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Far godlier — and funnier — than “The Avengers,” the titular Eternals have roamed Earth for 7,000 years, protecting it from a species of evil known as Deviants. After being separated for around 500 years, the team is forced to reconvene amid a new, deadlier threat.
While the film’s central conflict naturally takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” one of the film’s highlights is easily its numerous flashbacks which occur across its 157-minute runtime. Ranging from their first arrival on Earth in 5000 B.C. to Tenochtitlan in the 1500s, these scenes are the perfect example of just how much effort Disney pours into their movies, demonstrating exceptional production values and on-location filming.
Thankfully, this money was anything-but-wasted, as these beautiful locations allow for some eye-catching cinematography and display all kinds of beautiful landscapes.
Thanks in large part to the runtime (2:37) and the aforementioned globetrotting production, “Eternals” feels much more like a Zack Snyder film than anything put out by Marvel, with every character given time to shine with grandiose exposition.
Luckily, those characters are what save an otherwise tired set up. Much like the Avengers, the Eternals have a wide-ranging dynamic, where every team member has a unique relationship with each other, fostering a much more familial feeling than previous Marvel teams.
This is strengthened by the fact that this is not a group of people who are learning to work together, like many superhero team-ups as of late. This is a family reunion, and while they tend to clash as all families do, even the greatest of intra-team conflicts can do nothing to undercut the love they have for one another.
Of course, these characters would be nothing without the humans behind them. While everyone gets their due time, the film’s highlight is undoubtedly Gemma Chan, who plays Sersi. One of Marvel’s most exciting protagonists in years, Sersi acts as the heart and soul of the film, valuing her companions far more than the mission, while still gathering plenty of time to demonstrate her God-like power.
Other heroes include Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, who is known for his role as Kumar in the “Harold and Kumar” series; Don Lee, who is best-known from “Train to Busan”; and Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, who earned acclaim in “Game of Thrones.” Madden’s former castmate Kit Harrington takes on a minor role as Dane Whitman, Sersi’s love interest.
Arguably the most badass onscreen warrior in years, Angelina Jolie portrays “Theena,” an Eternal who can create any weapon from her hands, which she effectively uses while battling her own internal conflicts, which her team — no, family — supports her in taking on every step of the film, showing what a true family is all about.
Partially due to these well-portrayed familial mechanics, “Eternals” is one of the funniest superhero films ever made, eschewing forced laughs from a family audience for both inside jokes among the titular team as well as a barrage of comic relief in the form of Harish Patel’s Karun, Kingo’s hilarious yet classy assistant. Despite acting as one of the film’s least significant characters, Patel’s performance breathes life into an otherwise forgettable sidekick, as he unexpectedly steals the show from under the rug.
While the film undoubtedly follows the typical Marvel plot structure people are so polarized about, “Eternals” feels more like a prologue to what’s next in the MCU. Displayed since the first scene and established by the finale, “Eternals” makes one thing clear: fans have only seen a speck of the MCU.
The films and characters seen before this — yes, even Endgame — feel insignificant with the seeds planted throughout the film, which provide a backbone for a number of potential future projects.
Just as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury told Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man in “Iron Man,” “Eternals” is Disney’s way of telling fans: “You’ve become a part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”
Speaking of which, the mid/post-credits scenes are must-sees, providing even further-reaching looks into the future for fans.
Despite a generally cookie-cutter plot structure, “Eternals” makes up for this flaw in nearly every other facet, containing everything from loveable acting to glorious cinematography to its ability to make the audience feel small with an exciting glimpse at what’s to come.
Alex Falter is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com