Slow Spectacle: Our Review of ‘Marvel’s Eternals’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 04, 2021
Slow Spectacle: Our Review of ‘Marvel’s Eternals’

There’s always going to be times in life where you don’t necessarily get what you want, but you do get what you need.

In theatres tomorrow; Marvel’s Eternals certainly falls under that category because while it unquestionably opens up a myriad of storytelling avenues in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it feels occasionally flat as it delves a little too much into sweeping epic storytelling and not enough high octane superhero action to keep us all going.

Eternals follows a group of heroes from beyond the stars who have protected Earth since the dawn of man. When monstrous creatures called the Deviants, long thought lost to history, mysteriously return, the Eternals are forced to reunite in order to defend humanity once again.

From Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Taika Waititi, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck to the Russo Brothers, Marvel as a company has never been afraid to lean on the chops of indie filmmakers to make sure that the story gets serviced right alongside the action.  However on this installment the scale may have tipped ever so slightly in the wrong direction.

We’re by no means saying that director Chloe Zhao’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bad thing.  It’s in fact a beautiful and sweeping story that opens up so many options for future films and the stories that this universe wants to tell, but it’s actually a little too relaxed to really hit home.

Zhao’s focus to deal is as always immaculate as the film introduces and takes real care to present us with a legitimate romance, some centuries sweeping drama, a presentation of an LGBTQ relationship that isn’t ham-handed or tacky.  It’s actually a really sweet story as we see these characters that came to earth under the intent to help us learn that their long wait to go home actually never meant nearly as much as they hoped.

It serves as a beautiful reminder in the canon of these stories that all these heroes no matter where they come from have a shared humanity that can’t be ignored.

While it’s what Chloe Zhao excels at as a filmmaker, we may have just had a little too much of it here.

As beautiful as the film looks, it also lingers and is unquestionably overlong while the details spent getting us emotionally invested in these characters is done in expense of action sequences which aren’t necessarily well staged and never have us feeling any genuine peril for our heroes.  The people were always front and center in this film, but the spectacle always felt kind of hollow from the opening bell trying to do too much in to short of a time frame and the reality is that only some of the characters genuinely shine.

Gemma Chan unquestionably shows her ability to lead a film here as Sersi as she leads these new defenders of planet earth on a journey to discover their humanity as they try and save this planet that after centuries they have begrudgingly adopted as their home.  She’s not a superhero at the beginning of this film but she certainly evolves into one.

Richard Madden flashes the obvious movie star charm that you’d expect from someone who might be the next James Bond while Angelina Jolie gives the ultimate in a flawed badass warrior that we may have ever seen on screen and Salma Hayek settles into the sage role of leadership exceptionally well.

Sadly on the flip side of that coin the characters with much more entertainment value get ignored or swept under the rug as Kumail Nanjiani brings layers that go way deeper then comic relief while Brian Tyree Henry’s LGBTQ family man and Don Lee’s stalwart protector or Jolie’s Thena deserved a lot more run, while Lia McHugh and Kit Harrington almost getting forgotten during the whole process.

Ultimately I get the feeling that Marvel’s Eternals will improve with age once we see the larger piece of the puzzle and when that happens I certainly hope that a filmmaker with the unquestionable talent of Chloe Zhao gets to play a big part in closing the loop on this narrative that is only just giving us a hint of what it could give us.

 

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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