I can only assume Disney planned the November 5 release date of “Eternals” very carefully. This big budget action film will hit theaters just in time for Thanksgiving, which reaches the chef’s kiss of utter perfection — because it’s a $200 million turkey.
Billed by Marvel Studios as an “exciting” new team of superheroes (what on Earth is the publicity department smoking?), the Eternals are ancient aliens who have been living on Earth for thousands of years. They look over humans and fight the menacing Deviants, giant monsters who exist in this cinematic world solely so there can be fight scenes. The film struggles to tie in the characters and plot with other MCU stories (like name-dropping Steve Rogers at the dinner table), which is getting ridiculous because a movie doesn’t need to be made about every single character in the universe.
Director Chloé Zhao tries to create an epic action movie with a touch more focus on the characters, but her style and approach don’t work on a grand scale. The film expects an emotional connection with the audience very quickly, but Zhao doesn’t bother to put in the effort early on to develop one, so there is none. There’s little warmth to these characters, and I didn’t care about their relationships. Not only are there a lot of new faces to learn and keep up with, but they’re introduced in a jumble. Adding to the confusion is the disjointed storytelling, as the film constantly jumps around in time.
The film expects some background knowledge of the original comic book, which in itself is a deep-dive for a Marvel-literate crowd. These aren’t outrageously popular characters, and the movie doesn’t adequately explain who they are, especially in the beginning. Even worse is that the actors (Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Ma Dong-seok, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Richard Madden, and Barry Keoghan) are largely miscast in a studio ploy that feels like a forced diversity initiative rather than consciously choosing the best person for each role. To be fair, the characters are unappealing and boring to begin with, so it’s easier to tolerate Jolie’s overacting or Nanjiani’s strained attempts at humor. There’s very little star power, and nobody steps up to carry the movie.
It’s important to celebrate diversity and practice inclusivity, but this movie tries too hard to be “woke.” There’s a sex scene and a homosexual kiss that are no big deal except that they are in a Marvel movie, which makes both of them feel like a publicity stunt rather than meaningful and organic. This in turn cheapens any mainstream boundaries that are broken, which is a shame.
The action scenes are passable, with lots of gold squiggles and swords and running and kicking. The grand finale battle is unintentionally funny because the costumes our heroes are wearing make them look like a bunch of low-rent Power Rangers. The film’s only real strength are the outstanding visual effects, which really do set the bar. They’re practically flawless, but not enough to make the movie fun or exciting.
“Eternals” is painfully s-l-o-w and draggy, a superhero movie that’s too confusing, too complicated, and too convoluted.