Eternals (2021)
Eternals (2021)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 37 min.

Release Date: November 5th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Chloe Zhao Actors: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Harish Patel

 


 

W

hen ferocious predators dubbed “Deviants” arrive on Earth, devouring human populations, the Celestial Arishem (David Kaye), a divine being in charge of crafting worlds, recruits the “Eternals,” a race of immortal warriors, to protect the puny earthlings. But as the ageless fighters, including Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh, whose character is ripped straight from “Near Dark”), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), and Druig (Barry Keoghan) carry out their assignment, they soon become enamored with the burgeoning peoples they strive to protect. When the Eternals’ mission is complete, leader Ajak sets them free to live amongst mankind to find their own purposes and fulfillment. Thousands of years pass and Sersi now resides in London, working as a teacher and contemplating moving in with her professor paramour Dane Whitman (Kit Harington). But when a Deviant suddenly appears and attacks Sersi, the intrepid defender must seek out her brethren and reunite the Eternals once more, for the resurgence of the long-thought-extinct beasts exposes new perils and revelations that will change the guardian heroes forever.

With Greek mythology, creationistic concepts, and “Prometheus”-like references to the originations of mankind, “Eternals” sets out to introduce a wealth of omnipotent entities that have long ruled the universe – and Earth, in particular – with stern voices, glowing ropes of electric lights, and other CG-augmented orbs or projectiles of energy. Plus, they’re in an ancient battle against flying dragons and other hellions, which must be fended off with Superman-like laser blasts from the eyes, magical weaponry, and extraordinary physical strength. Essentially, it’s a mix of the most generic superhero tropes (and powers, such as lightning speed and mind control), dished out to various personas in rubbery costumes, like those of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.

“Are you a wizard? Like Doctor Strange?” Marvel Studio’s version of Earth is now one that has to acknowledge all of the previous, supernatural misadventures involving destructive clashes against alien invaders and otherworldly warlords bent on wreaking havoc across the galaxy. It’s a post-Thanos era, which looks a lot like 2021 (dubbed present day), but it’s also completely outlandish, since various super-beings live among normal humans. Disbelief should be a thing of the past, considering how frequently humankind has experienced concretely occult interactions.

And yet, the main characters in “Eternals” are continually incredulous, reluctant to believe that former enemies have returned, that humanity and fellow immortals are capable of abominable actions or betrayal, and that their mission on the planet – dictated by yet another godlike monstrosity – includes more than simply beating back hordes of animalistic Deviants. At least it provides commentary on free will and the idea that even superheroes can be pawns in the morbid machinations of ever more powerful minds. Unfortunately, that leads to one of the major problems: when the conflicts are so existential in nature, so massively far-reaching, and governed by omniscient titans with no limits to their capabilities, the happenings down on Earth seem terribly inconsequential, trifling, and futile. Why should audiences care about these insignificant protagonists?

But it’s not just the premise itself that is working against the focus on a platoon of preternatural saviors; the script is also shockingly dull. Numerous comic relief attempts fall flat, while one-liners are mild and forgettable. And the action sequences are routine and unmemorable, blending physics-defying movements with uninspired beasts. None of the roles here have much chemistry; despite far too many characters (when the band tries to get back together, it’s easy to forget the lesser participants and their special abilities), there doesn’t seem to be any harmony among the clan. A love triangle is unconvincing, a chain-of-command is never really identified, and teamwork feels completely unnatural. These personas are just too vapid to warrant their quantity, and many of them are the types of antiheroes that inspire contempt rather than amusement.

“Something’s happening to Earth …” By the end of it all (which takes a long time to reach, considering the colossal length), the unexplained powers and the utter lack of definitions surrounding the stars and their opponents lends to the feeling that solutions and resolutions are made up on the spot. Handy bits of tech come into play at all the right moments – i.e., just in the nick of time – preventing any sense of satisfaction. No one truly earns their survival, or even fully understands how they save the day when they inevitably save the day; the finale is a frustratingly protracted rumpus of showdowns and duels in which characters spontaneously summon unknown talents to best combatants with equally undisclosed faculties. And then it concludes with an astonishingly absurd parting shot, suggesting that nothing of any real consequence has actually been accomplished.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10