Those of you who know me know that I have been a comic book reader and collector since age 8 and yet while I have read a LOT of comics, I have not read them all. The Eternals falls into the category of 'currently unread'. I was aware of their presence in the Marvel universe and significance as one of the late great Jack Kirby titles that defined his ambitious style but I admit, I’ve never picked up a copy. Normally, I try to familiarize myself with the source content before viewing anything from the MCU but this time around I wanted to have a fresh perspective and view Eternals from a ‘non-believer’ standpoint (a.k.a. the way most critics, non collectors, non comic culture fans would experience the film).
I’m really glad I took this approach because it allowed me to enter the theatre with excitement but without preconceived expectations. Instead of thinking about what the film was ‘supposed to be’, I was able to engage with what it was. So, what was it? From the opening crawl through the flashback sequences all the way to the end credit scenes (yes there are two), Eternals is a love letter to the comic art form presented through an art film perspective. Director Chloé Zhao, who wrote the screenplay with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo wove together multiple perspectives and storylines from the Eternal comic stories which is quite an accomplishment. When the cinematography of Ben Davis is added, the scale and scope of the Eternals story is further realized. Instead of building sets to pay homage to the artistic style of Jack Kirby (which was done for planet Sakaar for Thor: Ragnarok), Eternals interprets Kirby’s artistic style by using various locations on our own planet that are rich with color, texture and detail to create hyper realistic effects for each time period represented. I highly recommend seeing this film in theatres because it will be the best way to experience the beauty and approach of the film.
At a run time of 2 hours and 37 minutes, this film is the second longest in the MCU (Avengers: Endgame holding the top run time spot) and I won’t mince words, you kinda feel it at some points. However, when you consider that a timeline of 7,000 years is addressed in this story, it's nothing short of amazing that Eternals wasn’t turned into a Snyder Cut scenario or a television series (like Inhumans). Another surprising feat of the film is that all 10 Eternals characters are able to share the screen and move the plot along with fairly well executed character development.
Part ensemble production, part origin story, the all star cast of Eternals includes Gemma Chan (Sersi), Richard Madden (Ikaris), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo), Lia McHugh (Sprite), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Lauren Ridloff (Makkari), Barry Keoghan (Druig), Don Lee (Gilgamesh), Salma Hayek (Ajak), and Angelina Jolie (Thena). The only two human characters in the film include Kit Harington’s portrayal of Sersi's boyfriend Dane Whitman (a man with a mysterious family history) and Harish Patel as Kingo’s valet, Karun. Both these human characters provide grounding for the Eternals in different ways but Patel’s portrayal steals quite a few scenes in both heartwarming and heartbreaking ways.
The most puzzling part about the press and reviews for this film has been in relation to how this film is the most diverse and inclusive cast of the entire MCU. Isn’t that a good thing? Personally I think it is a wonderful milestone to FINALLY accomplish and it shouldn’t be the last time it happens. For those who are concerned with what critics have called ‘woke culture effecting the MCU’, I can honestly say that the casting choices do not negatively affect the film at all (except I personally kept thinking of Tomb Raider in every scene that Angelina Jolie was in, but that's probably just a 'me' problem). Besides the breath of fresh perspective and representation into the MCU, the casting also addresses one of the main themes of the film: our world is composed of a wide range of humans (culture, race, gender, sexual identity, age, etc) and while life can be difficult, it is worth fighting for.
There is so much to unpack about the themes of this film, it’s place in the MCU and how it reflects the questions of our ongoing human existence but it's really hard to discuss any of that without significant spoilers. So for now I recommend ignoring the 48% Rotten Tomato rating, listen to the 81% audience score, see the film in theatres and take away your own opinion of Eternals.
NOTE: Despite the fact that McDonald’s is giving Eternals toys in their kids meals (bad choice marketing department), this is NOT a kid friendly movie - from the run time, to the themes, violence and the ‘sex scene’, I agree with Common Sense Media and I do NOT recommended for kids under 14.
For those of you who want to get to know the Eternals through source material I recommend the following:
While I have included online purchase links, I ALWAYS recommend contacting your local comic book store to see if they have a copy before purchasing online. Don’t know where your local comic book store is? Find it today here: https://findacomicshop.com/
Official Eternals Trailer: https://www.marvel.com/movies/eternals
For AFTER watching the movie: