Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie
Director: Chloé Zhao
Running Time: 157 mins
Eternals is an American film and the twenty-sixth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After thousands of years watching over the Earth, the immortal race of Eternals emerge to save the planet once again, as the monstrous Deviants begin to resurface across the globe.
We’re now a good 13 years and 26 films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it’s fair to say that something a little different is a rather welcome addition to this most enormous of Hollywood franchises. Eternals, while never on the exhilarating, crowd-pleasing levels of The Avengers, is just that – a different, bold and consistently engaging superhero blockbuster that has an awful lot to say.
While you can say that the overarching plot of Eternals isn’t exactly groundbreaking in superhero cinema, the film certainly goes about telling its story in a unique way, with a patient, detailed and intricate story that combines tropes from previous MCU films with grand stakes, vibrant new characters and a strong blend of dramatic emotion and fantastic action.
From Nomadland director Chloé Zhao, Eternals features the slow, mellow pacing that Zhao is known for, but that doesn’t mean it’s in any way a boring watch. The two-and-a-half-hour-plus runtime might seem daunting at first, but Eternals packs a lot of action and story into that duration, meaning there really isn’t a dull moment.
Admittedly, the film may not have the breathless excitement of some of the MCU’s most action-packed adventures, but it builds upon the depth of comic book lore that the series has created by crafting an entirely new story within a world which we’re already familiar with from the previous 25 films.
That speaks volumes about the success of the world-building over the course of the MCU, but it also speaks volumes about Eternals’ ability to do something a little different, while also being able to lean on familiar Marvel lore that grounds its story in a world that we know.
With no less than 10 main characters (and one of Marvel’s best sidekicks) to introduce over 150 minutes of screen time, Eternals is economical and impressively concise with its exposition, allowing its central narrative to play out simultaneously to character introductions, which take place deep into the film’s final act.
There’s an argument to say that, with so many new heroes, that a few are left rather underdeveloped. However, because Eternals builds its own story alongside introducing you to these new heroes, it remains an engrossing three-act adventure that builds to a genuinely captivating crescendo.
Sharing gripping similarities with the best film in the MCU so far, Captain America: Civil War, Eternals blends classic Marvel action fare with an introspective look at its own sci-fi and fantasy lore, as the film boldly rejects the classic good vs. evil story and does something a little bit different.
The audacity of some of the narrative choices in the film’s final act give it real, weighty stakes that make the climax almost as dramatic as the entirety of Avengers: Endgame, bolstered by yet more spectacular special effects and a range of actors really showing their strengths when it comes to action.
Gemma Chan and Richard Madden lead this film spectacularly well, combining the charisma we expect of Marvel heroes with the more mellow, reflective tone that Eternals relies on throughout. Comic relief, meanwhile, is provided by a number of their co-stars, most notably Kumail Nanjiani and Harish Patel throughout.
All of the members of Eternals more than fit the bill as Marvel heroes, and although it’s fair to say that they don’t get the chance to shine as brightly as the Avengers, each of whom had their own movies for you to develop a bond with, this team proves to be one that I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more of.
I can understand why Eternals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s certainly not on the same level as the most exciting, crowd-pleasing blockbusters in the MCU. But after so many years and so many films, this movie provides a real breath of fresh air, opening up a bold new world of stories that should continue to see this dominant franchise thrive for years to come. And so, that’s why I’m giving Eternals a 7.7 overall.