“Eternals,” the third movie to be released in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, premiered Friday Nov. 5. Despite the film’s world-renowned cast and the high anticipation surrounding its release, the movie is in fact 157 minutes of choppy plot lines and failed efforts to introduce too many new characters.
Opening with a black screen, within seconds, paragraphs of descriptions appear that pan down through the darkness. The words on the screen act as a type of glossary, defining the new characters that will emerge in the upcoming hours and contextualizing the setting of the movie like a riff on Star Wars. This type of opening, which was quiet and lackluster, is uncharacteristic of classic Marvel movies, and to the viewer, it seems as if Marvel is simply telling the audience what is about to arise, rather than showing them through acting.
The remaining movie follows the story of the Eternals, a group of extraterrestrial superheroes that are each endowed with unique powers. Tasked with leading human progress, the Eternals were sent to Earth at the dawn of civilization and have lurked in the shadows of humanity since the development of the first human communities. The plot of the film surrounds the moral dilemmas of the Eternals in relation to how much to interfere in natural human progress, even during lethal events that involve the mortals they care about.
Despite this rather straightforward plot, the poor execution of “Eternals” adds confusion and dissatisfaction to the viewing experience. In particular, the biggest shortcoming of the movie is the way in which the plot constantly oscillates between different eras and locations. Within the two and a half hours of the movie, the audience is taken to present-day London and India, Tenochtitlan in the Bronze Age and even further back to nomadic times.
The movie attempts to detail the life story of each of the ten Eternals, ultimately leading to the dissection of the movie into detached chunks. The brevity of each Eternal’s story adds a level of shallowness to the plot in general, and it ultimately dilutes the significance of the main conflict where all of the Eternals come together to take down the central antagonist.
Along with this disjointed plot, another dissonant centerpiece of “Eternals” is the excessive romantic ties between the heroes. While there have been semi-romantic relations in previous Marvel movies, such as between Black Widow and the Hulk, Marvel does not often devote extravagant detail to romance. However, in “Eternals,” there are romantic tensions between members of the group from the get-go. This new focus on romance, although adding another dimension of depth to the plot, ultimately distracts from the action and superhuman exploits of the heroes.
Despite poor plot execution and excessively intrusive romance, the saving grace of “Eternals” is its world-class cast. Composed of some of the biggest names in Hollywood like Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden and renowned Korean actor Ma Dong-seok, this stellar lineup of actors does not disappoint, as the talent and chemistry between the actors on screen are phenomenal.
Not only are the actors fittingly cast, the Eternals team itself brings a variety of leads to the screen, a cinematic detail not commonly present in Marvel movies. The Eternals team features a diverse series of characters, such as Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) who is hearing-impaired and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) who is a gay male. The Eternals are easily the most inclusive Marvel team to date.
On top of the superb casting and acting, the computer-generated imaging (CGI) and special graphics in “Eternals” do not disappoint. Despite shooting in more than five settings, some of which are set in BC eras, the scenery on screen is extremely realistic and appealing to the eye.
While “Eternals” is a valiant effort by Marvel to set the stage for a group of new superheroes with great graphics, the plot is stripped of any centralized conflict because of the large cast, leaving the film to be made up like an anthology book. However, by successfully introducing and setting the stage for a larger narrative universe beyond the Avengers, hopefully Marvel fans can look forward to future productions to see how the Eternals have a more impactful role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.