To ancient Babylon and beyond with Marvel’s “Eternals”

By Liv Barry
Elm Staff Writer

After a year-long delay, Marvel’s “Eternals” was released on Nov. 5.

The film is the 25th addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and was anticipated to be the film that finally clued fans in to deep mythology of the MCU that the franchise’s phase four films have hinted at.

Unfortunately, instead of clearing up the new rules of the Marvel multiverse, “Eternals” left me with more questions by the end of the film than I had before watching.

With a run time of two hours and 37 minutes, “Eternals” had more than enough time to tell a concise story.

However, the film was packed with needless details that bogged down the story, making it difficult to determine what plot points were important to remember and what details were merely disposable.

In a jarring sequence about halfway through the film, the Eternals discover that their leader, Ajak, was killed, and almost immediately after the movie launches into a four-minute long Bollywood dance sequence that is never addressed.

There are many moments just like this scattered throughout the film – scenes disjointed from the rest of the movie, shot for the sole purpose of showcasing how much money Marvel is able to throw at its projects.

Because of these disjointed scenes, “Eternals” feels like three different movies forced together.

There was too much ground to cover in just one film; establishing a previously unknown universe, ten entirely new characters, and an independent story all in one movie is a difficult task, one that “Eternals” did not complete successfully.

However, despite the messiness of its plot structure and execution, “The Eternals” has a fascinating story and with the right marketing, “The Eternals” would have made an excellent limited Disney+ series.

Coming off of a Best Director win at the 2021 Academy Awards, director Chloé Zhao packed “Eternals” with gorgeous shots of nature, now a trademark of her films.

“Shooting natural light in this situation added to that realism, and we were able to just go into a world and not worry too much about setting up a lot of lights,” Zhao said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Our actors could actually interact with this environment, so you can believe them in their outfits and that they actually could have existed in ancient Babylon. We called it ‘National Geographic;’ it’s a more anthropological way of capturing things. That is natural light.”

Even when the plot was at its messiest, there was at least something interesting happening visually.

Sometimes, however, the dependence on CGI ran the film down, making some of its most pivotal moments feel cheap and almost unbearable to look at. There were a handful of CGI-laden moments, including the film’s twist, in which it’s revealed that the Eternals have been wiping out entire civilizations for billions of years without any memory of doing so, where the CGI was so bad that it made me physically cringe.

Despite this, Zhao was able to make up for the film’s dependence on CGI for its cosmic scenes by shooting on location as much as possible.

In doing this, Zhao made “Eternals” feel grounded, even though the film is dealing with the birth of gigantic cosmic beings that have the capability to wipe out humanity in seconds.

While there was not enough time to develop each of the 10 Eternals individually, one of the film’s positives was the chemistry that the cast had with each other.

When gathered together, the ensemble cast shined, playing off of each other’s energy with ease. Barry Keoghan as Druig and Lauren Ridloff as Makkari were standouts of the cast; the romantic tension between their characters was a delight to watch.

For all of its flaws, “Eternals” is still a worthy addition to the MCU.

Its existence marks a milestone for racial and LGBTQ+ diversity in the franchise; people who have previously felt unseen in the MCU are now represented by some of the most powerful forces in the franchise’s universe.

However, films that champion diversity need to give their diverse characters the time and space to grow, which “The Eternals” was unfortunately not able to do.

A story as hefty as this one is a difficult balancing act, and without the right pacing and character development, “The Eternals” toppled over, despite Zhao’s best efforts to keep it upright.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: “Eternals” has received less hype than previous Marvel releases. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film is presently the lowest rated MCU film.

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