Marvel brings Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao into the MCU with Eternals (2021). Her previous three films bridged documentary and narrative formats, focusing on mostly non-actors performing a script that was loosely based on their real lives. Thus, Eternals is quite the departure, as it is her first big blockbuster that definitely doesn’t worry too much about reality as its protagonists are god-like beings from another planet. Yet, Zhao does manage to find the humanity within these superhumans and manages to craft one of Marvel’s more contemplative entries.
Led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), the Eternals were sent to Earth thousands of years ago to fight humanity’s greatest enemy: the Deviants. In the present day, the team has split up, and is living in secret across the earth. Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Sprite (Lia McHugh) encounter a new Deviant, and begin to search for the other Eternals – Ikaris (Richard Madden), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok), and Thena (Angelina Jolie).
The film utilizes nonlinear storytelling to help maintain the pacing. In many ways, the present-day content feels like the part of a heist movie where they are getting the team/band back together – only there isn’t initially a clear purpose as to why they are getting it back together, exactly. Once that is revealed it makes a little more sense…but it does seem a bit convoluted. However, the scenes where major moments from real-life history are tied into the Eternals and their role with humanity are somewhat compelling. You may notice some of the names of the characters are familiar but different. For me, that kind of thing always clicks, and this alternate version of history (or alternate explanations to history) always makes for interesting comic lore. Going back and forth between the past and present helps keep the over two-and-a-half-hour movie moving.
If you’ve been reading my reviews for the past couple of years, you’ll know that I am a big fan of Nanjiani. He is definitely my favorite part of the film, but he has some comedic help in the form of a valet named Karun (Harish Patel). The duo has some of the best laughs in this film, and Karun manages to steal several scenes from this star-studded cast. Zhao manages to do a decent enough job navigating all of these characters – who fans of the MCU do not know unless they also read the comics – and giving them all a chance to shine.
While Eternals isn’t a standout amongst the 25 other movies, it is still a solid film. It does seem to avoid tackling any of the multiverse stuff, and that kind of makes it feel like white noise after Wandavision, Loki, What If, and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Nevertheless, I enjoyed Eternals, and would certainly watch it again, or follow some of the characters in future tales. The newest entry in the MCU earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.