MCU’s weakest entry to date.
From “Iron Man” to “The Avengers” to “Guardians of the Galaxy” to “Black Panther,” the MCU has produced one entertaining superhero movie after another. But even this studio has had its weak spots like “Thor: The Dark World” and “Black Widow,” and now we have “Eternals” joining them.
It’s the fourth movie to be directed by Chloe Zhao, whose last three indies were the documentary “Songs My Brother Taught Me,” the horse-riding drama “The Rider” and the Oscar winner for Best Picture “Nomadland.” I was looking forward to this movie, because of the unlimited potential she has, but the problems with her first blockbuster are it’s way too long (running for 2 hours and 30 minutes), it has too many monster fights, and it leaves it’s characters wandering about with the obligatory rules of a superhero movie and a difficult plot about an evil force attacking our world. It’s repetitive and boring.
These Eternals are an alien race created by celestials from the planet Olympia, who are meant to protect the universe from evil beings known as deviants. The only reason why they could only fight wars against them and not against the Nazis or Thanos is because people had to learn from their mistakes.
They consist of Sersi (Gemma Chen), who can turn objects into different objects; Ikaris (Richard Madden), who can shoot energy beams from his eyes; Thena (Angelina Jolie), who often gets possessed by deviants; Kingo (Kumail Nanjani), who can shoot cosmic energy projectiles from his hands; Sprite (Lia McHugh), who can never grow old; Phasto (Brian Tyree Henry), the brilliant gay engineer; Makkari (deaf actress Lauren Ridloff), who is super fast and can sense things without hearing them; Druig (Barry Keoghan), who can manipulate minds and is the only one who wanted to help humanity fight their wars; Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the strongest of them all; and their wise leader Ajak (Salma Hayek), who tells them to follow their own paths.
Sersi is now a science professor in London with her boyfriend Dane (Kit Harrington) learning about her history. Sprite has a crush on Ikaris, which would be impossible because of their age difference. And Ikaris, who still loves Sersi, returns to Earth, when the deviants break free to raise some Hell, and when one of them Murders Ajak. And the end is near, so they must recruit the remaining eternals to save the world.
Every once in a while you get a chuckle with the best line coming from Phasto, who responds to Ikaris asking if his table is made from vibranium and then breaking it. “Fall Collection, IKEA, Ass.”
There is a flat triangular ship, which almost feels like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I’m no comic book expert, but I still feel that moment of nostalgia.
And you do get some likable performances from Chen, Madden, Nanjani, McHugh, and Henry, who all seem to take their delicate steps in entering the MCU universe. They have their strengths and weaknesses, and they have their vulnerabilities. And even the studio is respectful towards the deaf by casting Ridloff in the right role.
But unfortunately, all these qualities have to succumb to the dullness of “Eternals,” which didn’t speak to me the way most MCU movies did. If it was made by an artisan filmmaker like Chloe Zhao, then she should have taken these heroes to new heights like Ryan Coogler did with “Black Panther” or Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck with “Captain Marvel,” or Destin Daniel Cretton” with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” She should have done more with these characters but on a balanced pace with less fights and less issues.
All these characters do are mope, fight, and then mope and fight again. And these monsters they have to battle aren’t very interesting, at the same level as Christopher Eccelston’s Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World.” And the story has nowhere to go, and it lacks the kind of empathy you usually would find in this genre.
“Avengers Endgame” may have been 3-hours-long, but it still save Iron Man, Black Widow, and Captain America their depth and humanity, and it also brought in the laughs and epic showdown. “Eternals” is not epic.