Marvel Eternals

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Chloe Zhao
prd Kevin Feige, Nate Moore
scr Chloe Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo
with Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Lauren Ridloff, Kit Harington, Harish Patel Haaz Sleiman, Bill Skarsgard, Patton Oswalt, Harry Styles
release US/UK 5.Nov.21
21/UK Marvel 2h37

hayek jolie henry
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

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Nanjiani, McHugh, Madden and Chan
When making a movie called Eternals, you need to be careful about things like pacing, repetition and clarity. All three are problems in this intriguing superhero epic, which looks particularly gorgeous in scenes that aren't overrun by digital effects. Chloe Zhao maintains a terrific spark in the character interaction, and the plot has some thrilling twists and turns. But the demands of the Marvel franchise are heavy ones.
Eternals were sent to Earth 7,000 years ago by Celestials to guard humanity from monsters called Deviants, which were finally vanquished 500 years ago. So when a Deviant attacks Sersi (Chan) in present-day London, she travels with cohorts Ikaris (Madden) and Sprite (McHugh) to South Dakota to find their leader Ajak (Hayek), then reassemble the scattered team: warrior Thena (Jolie), powerful Gilgamesh (Lee), firebomber Kingo (Nanjiani), mindbender Druig (Keoghan), tech whiz Phastos (Henry) and super-fast Makkari (Ridloff). Together, they discover the truth about their mission to Earth, and are divided about how to take action.
Of course, the fate of the entire planet is at stake once again, although while there are references to the Avengers, none of them ever turn up. Instead, the film sets out to establish this group's mythology, including the way they inspired much of human mythology over the millennia. The globe-hopping plot offers a picturesque travelogue. Mere mortals along for the ride for romantic and comical purposes include Sersi's professor boyfriend Dane (Harington) and Kingo's valet Karun (Patel), who amusingly is shooting a doc throughout this adventure.

Offhanded improv-style banter between the team members is the best thing about the film, reflecting their long relationships as well as the jarring discoveries they're making now. This also adds some natural wit that punctures the frequent painfully earnest speeches. Each actor gets a chance to shine as characters are forced to make momentous decisions along the way. Chan is particularly strong as the film's heart, while Madden offers some steely complexity and Henry brings some textured soulfulness.

Effects bubble up into pretty much every scene in the film, but Zhao is skilled at keeping the focus on the people and the beautiful settings. The density of the plot exposition weighs the film down, and action sequences involving Deviants feel eerily similar to each other. Thankfully, there are some bigger themes gurgling underneath the mayhem, including a few fascinating spins on the concept of free will. And the sheer star power of this cast makes us want to see more.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 3.Nov.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall