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Chloé Zhao disappoints with ‘Eternals’ introduction to MCU

Chloé Zhao disappoints with ‘Eternals’ introduction to MCU

Chloé Zhao disappoints with ‘Eternals’ introduction to MCU
November 11
12:00 2021

Though cinematically different and admittedly not the worst Marvel movie to grace the big screen, Chloé Zhao’s “Eternals” is rushed, lacks character development and attempts to take on too many storylines than a movie its length can handle.

The film follows a group of 10 semi-immortal Eternals: Ajak, Sersi, Ikaris, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, Gilgamesh and Thena, and their journey to eliminate the invasive Deviants. Both the Eternals and Deviants were created by the Celestial Arishem, who has facilitated the growth of life on Earth since its beginning.

Initially meant to wipe out predators and assist humans in expanding their population, the Deviants turned on the humans in 5000 B.C., forcing Arishem to send the Eternals to defeat them. After believing to have wiped out the Deviants in the 1500s, the Eternals part ways and live peacefully, unable to interfere with human affairs per the instructions of their leader.

The real plot of the film occurs present-day when protagonist Sersi discovers the Deviants are still alive and learns Arishem’s real intention: the birth of a new celestial and the ultimate eradication of Earth. The rest of the film follows her attempt to reunite the Eternals to stop Arishem’s plot from commencing.

Ultimately the film’s biggest downfall results from the writing. For an origin story, not nearly enough time is spent introducing the audience to its massive ensemble cast. Led by actress Gemma Chan (Sersi), the cast consists of big names such as Richard Madden (Ikaris), Angelina Jolie (Thena) and Salma Hayek (Ajak).

Despite spending half of its 2-hour and 37-minute runtime introducing its characters, the film leaves little time for the audience to grow attached to them or understand their relationships, conflicts or desires. The film tells more than it shows and suffers in turn. In fact, the opening scene begins with a block of text detailing the history of the Eternals, unneeded information that is covered later in the film.

We’re told Sersi has an unconditional love for humans via dialogue, hence her desire to stop the eradication of Earth, but almost nowhere in the film are we shown why she does. She never has a significant or life-altering interaction with a human that would change her opinion. We’re told Sprite is infatuated with Ikaris and would betray her fellow Eternals for him, but they interact so little that their relationship is almost nonexistent

Continuously, the film relies on dialogue to tell the audience what’s happening rather than strategically juxtaposing shots and using them to build tension or relationships. As a result, its pacing is simultaneously painfully slow and extremely rushed.

The writers’ (Zhao, Kaz Firpo, Ryan Firpo and Patrick Burleigh) decision to tackle the arcs of 10 different characters on top of the introduction of side characters like Black Knight (Kit Harrington) was ultimately the downfall of this film. The characters are unrelatable, stale and not given ample screen time to effectively connect with viewers.

Cinematographically, “Eternals” is unlike previous Marvel movies. Zhao retains her naturalistic style, opting to shoot on location with lots of light rather than on a soundstage. Her decision results in a more realistic-looking picture as opposed to the green and blue screens and computer-generated imagery scenes commonly used in other Marvel films. The film succeeds at larger-than-life extreme long shots, making characters and viewers feel small compared to Arishem’s immense stature.

Although the writing fell short, it was clear by the end of the film that Eternals will have a large role to play in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the departure of Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), the Eternals have big shoes to fill, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Harry Styles (Eros) rises to the occasion in the next film.

Madeleine’s Final Rating: 3/5

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Madeleine Moore

Madeleine Moore

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