I was as shocked as the next person when it was announced that Eternals had a low score on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing, the critic score is 49%.) This still did not deter me, as I had a good amount of hope knowing that Chloe Zhao was at the helm (more on her later).
When it was over, I left the theater knowing I was on the fence for this film as much as I have been for any film in some time.
The plot is definitely not the easiest to describe, but thankfully the premise is. Since the beginning of the earth’s history, a group of ten extraterrestrial beings from the planet Olympia have dwelled amongst us. There mission: seek and destroy this mythological beings called Deviants (big dog like creatures that seem to come from the ocean). They protect the humans from this creatures, but do not interfere with anything else. Each has their own unique abilities.
The group leader is Ajak (Salma Hayek), who is able to self-heal and heal others. As leader, she is given direct contact to Arishem, the entity who brought the eternals to Earth in the first place. The eternal with the most power is clearly Ikaris (Richard Madden), who has the basic powers of Superman (minus the ice breath). He has been in a long term relationship (so to speak) relationship with Sersi (Gemma Chan), who is able to change and control inanimate matter.
Rounding out the rest of the team is Kumail Nanjiani (who cleary was doing some work outs for the role) as Kingo, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as Druig, Lauren Ridloff (the first deaf actor to portray a main character in the MCU) as Makkari, Lia McHugh as Sprite, and Angelina Jolie as Thena.
When the MCU introduced Phase 4 at the start of 2021 (which, like many things, was delayed due to COVID), it was the start of the TV mini-series for the MCU. I bring this up for one direct reason: the material in Eternals would have worked better as a mini-series (which hurts me to say, since I would pick movies over TV nearly every day of the week.) Of course, the film is better to behold on a bigger screen. Thanks to director Chloe Zhao, some of the best scenes of the film are the ones without any CGI. She is impeccable at scenes shot outdoors, reminding me of Terrence Malick or even John Ford.
The problem is that, story wise, the plot can get jumbled up. Many scenes are flashbacks, occurring when we least expect them. Structure wise, this could work out better if told in a episode format. Also, while the film does have some character development in a good amount of the team members (there is a budding romance between Druig and Makkari, Sprite has to deal with living as a twelve year old girl, etc), we are not given as much time to care about so many main characters (even with a rather long 2 ½ hour plus runtime). The film is basically cinematic style imagery with a mini-series plot.
Parents, even with a PG-13 rating, I admit I was taken aback by the first time you see a sex scene in a marvel film (it happens in the first 30-40 minutes or so, lasting no longer than 30 seconds). There is no nudity (other than the back of an actor, but it is clear what is happening. There are also some swearing, but none that the average middle schooler would not have heard of. I would say the PG-13 rating is justified, but it is not a “soft” PG-13.
Not long before the movie started, a voice in my head said I would need to prepare myself to defend Chloe Zhao. I am not sure if she was the right choice for the film, but I also don’t feel it is entirely her fault. Keep in mind, this is only her fourth movie, and her last one, Nomadland, won her the Oscar for Best Director (as well as Best Picture).
There was a strange fear I had in thinking I would need to defend Zhao from haters like I did Rian Johnson from haters of 2017’s The Last Jedi (to be fair, that is still one of the most divisive films in history). I have admired all three of her previous films, maybe even loved them.
And when you love something, you protect it.