'Eternals' movie review: A beautifully directed affair

'Eternals' movie review: A beautifully directed affair

(L-R): Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee) in Eternals. Credit: thewaltdisneystudios


Director: Chloe Zhao

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani

Score: 3 stars

Marvel's 'Eternals' is not a film that will necessarily go down in history as one of the best Marvel movies. It may not even make the top 10 of the franchise, though that is a subjective matter. What it can do, however, is go down as one of the most beautifully directed Marvel movies.

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe steadily expanding into the cosmic sphere since Infinity War, it was only a matter of time till some of the more exotic elements of the franchise finally made it to the big screen - namely the Celestials. First seen in Guardians of the Galaxy way back in 2014, the Celestials finally make their big-screen appearance with a lot of potential to be a pedestal of horror and awe within the MCU, though that potential is not necessarily realised with the movie.

On the other hand are the Eternals themselves, an absolutely massive ensemble to give even the Avengers pause, and that is not necessarily a good thing either. Unlike the Avengers, the Eternals always operate as a team, and that gives the movie very little time to go into the nitty-gritty of each individual's backstory and motivations, feebily resigning any real character development to mere exposition or character moments. It's not really a failing of the movie itself, just the scope of what it is attempting to achieve.

The story is pretty standard Marvel fare - the Good Guys (the Eternals) are sent by their boss (the Celestial Arishem in this case) to Earth to protect the native race from the Bad Guys - the Deviants, in this case, a largely faceless horde of CGI monsters which gets all of 15 minutes to do anything more than just give the good guys some baddies to kill. It's almost a pity, because between the manner that the film begins, how one of the Eternals, Thena (Angelina Jolie) has to deal with a degenerative disease that makes her lash out, and how Arishem is portrayed, the movie had a lot of potential to be a horror film - it just wasn't realised.

Where the movie works, however, is in embracing the more 'out there' elements. Particularly of note is taking a literal Bollywood song and dance sequence, making it outwardly look awkward, but be actually hilariously well-executed, no small in part due to Nanjiani's embracing of his character. Another place where it works is portraying internal strife within certain characters and the group as a whole, which culminates into one of the better and rather moving third acts of the franchise.

Eternals, thus, is held together not by its story and not necessarily by its cast, but by its direction. Chloe Zhao, fresh with an Oscar for Nomadland, clearly shows a fair balance between a more personal experience as far as certain characters are concerned, and the weight of expanding the legs of a veritable cinematic celestial like Marvel, if you would pardon the pun. There's a lot to pack in the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, and the movie's pace does suffer from the repeated exposition that gets thrown in every now and then, but there's not a lot else Zhao could have done with what she had.

The end result of all this is a film that is not necessarily great, nor is it necessarily bad. It gets messy at times, both literally and figuratively, but Eternals is, overall, a fairly decent take into the more exotic parts of Marvel lore - if you can call it that.