Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Written by: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo
Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, Haaz Sleiman
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Superhero / Action
The most anticipated Marvel film since Endgame, with a talented cast, massive budget, and brilliant source material, Eternals is the tale of a group of god-like beings sent to live on Earth for thousands of years as humanity evolves. I’ve been excited about this movie since it was announced several years ago, but it is ultimately disappointing for a variety of reasons.
At 156 minutes, the movie feels every bit like a slog; it’s very long, and very boring. It starts by trying to grab the audience’s attention with misguided casting choices. Richard Madden and Kit Harington seem to be in the movie simply to gain Game of Thrones viewers. It is laughable and distracting, especially given Harington’s tiny role. This might be a small complaint, but I feel it pulled me out of the moment and was surely a purposeful casting choice that should have been avoided.
The opening scenes, when not spoon-feeding us Game of Thrones Easter eggs, are full of uninspired foreshadowing and lazy character development. The settings and explanations given for what the Eternals are and the acts they’ve contributed to throughout history are pivotal to the story, yet are glossed over quickly and haphazardly, jumping from scene to scene, place to place, and time to time in a hodgepodge of disconnected montages that are neither interesting nor exciting. This leaves the viewer with no new knowledge and apathetic toward the characters.
This is extremely disappointing because the movie’s one strength is its cast. Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Lauren Ridloff, and Barry Keoghan all shine in their individual roles. Each is a joy to watch and together they save the movie from being totally unwatchable. Nanjiani has in my opinion the most powerful speech from the entire movie, delivering it with emotion and conviction. Henry is not only funny but also believable and strong; I could see him handling a lead role brilliantly. Ma Dong-seok, as you’ll know if you’re familiar with Korean cinema, is always a master, and he’s great here. Patel is a charming peripheral character, while Ridloff shines in her relatively minor screen time. Keoghan is brilliant and remains an underrated name that you’ll soon be hearing more about.
The great potential of the source material combined with the great acting performances makes this failure all the more painful. It really could have been a great film, maybe Marvel’s best yet.
But in the end the writing and direction are too poor to recover from. The time lapses and discontinuities are poorly done. Almost every scene with Icarus is underwhelming, ranging from boring all the way to eyeroll-inducing. The historical locations are lazily conceived and seem like nothing more than afterthoughts when they should be the centerpieces of the film. Several of the characters, Sprite and Thena in particular, are one-dimensional in every sense of the word.
I wanted to enjoy this movie, giving it every chance, but the only reason I stayed until the end was because I wanted to ensure my review was whole and honest. I was disappointed, bored, uninterested, and blown away that this is the final cut of a film with so much potential. Not recommended to anyone and one of Marvel’s very worst offerings ever.