Since many people aren't making it to theaters to see movies, I've been waiting for them to appear on home video before delving into my spoiler-laden thoughts. Not that I'm worried about spoilers, mind you, since I always hide things in an extended entry and give plenty of warning... but because it doesn't make sense to talk about something that many people haven't seen yet.
Today Eternals was released on Disney+ (though I bought it from iTunes anyway because I really want to support the movies I love), and so here we are...
And... spoilers ahead in an extended entry. You've been warned.
Eternals was good... not great. Though it was incredibly beautiful from start to finish, a trademark of director Chloé Zhao. Hard to imagine it being any more beautiful than this, so no complaints there. But I do have issues. Mostly due to an abundance of characters jamming up the film. They could have easily eliminated three or four of them and had a stronger movie by focusing on the more interesting characters. The worst part was the whole UNI-MIND ending, which was laughably deus ex machina in the worst way. To make the movie great they would have to address that as well.
Still enjoyed seeing it though.
Before going through some of the story beats I found interesting, I thought I'd rank the Eternals from my favorite to least favorite...
Thena (Angelina Jolie) is by far my favorite Eternal. Angelina Jolie was FLAWLESS. And her powers were sublimely great. I spent most of the movie hoping that I’d get to see more of her. She’s the one I want to see more of the most in future MCU projects. Give her a Disney+ series! Put her in the Avengers! Anything! She's history's greatest warrior, able to conjure weapons out of thin air.
Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) has the coolest powers. What’s so awesome is that he is the weakest Eternal only at first blush. He’s actually incredibly powerful, which I love about his character. Him laying Icarus to whale shit was hilarious. He is the technology guy, able to come up with cool devices that are limited only by his mind.
Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) was perfectly cast and added a fun element to the film that was desperately needed. Sure he just had finger-guns, but they were really cool finger guns! It was very interesting how they removed him from the final act. I guess it was to have nuance and show that everybody's reaction would be different, but I was bummed about it. His power is to shoot blasts of energy from his fingers.
Sersi (Gemma Chan). was amazing if, for no other reason that she was played by Gemma Chan. Her transmutational powers are cooler on-screen than they are in the comics. She can transmute matter to other things.
Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) was wasted. Though I did like her fighting Ikaris. The way her speed is portrayed is the best I've seen yet (she's actually fast instead of everything else being in slow-motion. She's even better than Quicksilver from the X-Men movies, which I never thought I’d see. She's super-fast.
Gilgamesh (Don Lee) was also wasted. Which is a damn shame because the character deserved better. As did any Koreans who were happy to see themselves finally represented. Since he (and all the Eternals) were revealed to be artificial beings, he could be re-made, but come on. He's super-strong, obviously the Gilgamesh from legend.
Ajak (Salma Hayek) is the leader of the group and defined by the ability to heal with love and stuff. Lord how boring. If it were anybody but Salma, I’d be mad that they even bothered.
Ikaris (Richard Madden) even though I have loved the actor in absolutely everything he's ever done, he was a terrible Ikaris. You never feel as though he cares for anybody else... even when he’s specifically trying to show it towards Sersi. The way they showed his powers, however, were sublime. He’s the most-Superman Superman ever. Even so, I hope he’s dead dead dead and stays dead. Easily the most powerful Eternal, he has flight, super-strength, laser vision, and is incredibly tough. You know... Superman.
Druig (Barry Keoghan) was played by an actor who really brought nothing to the role. Almost as if he didn't care enough to bother. Needless to say, I didn’t give a care about him. He could have been removed from the film with zero effect. Though in the comics he goes on to something that may be important.
Sprite (Lia McHugh). Oh God. The only character more stupid, useless, and annoying than Druig. I hope that her fate means we never have to see her again. I dearly wish she had flown into the sun with Ikaris. Annoying at every single turn, they couldn't even make her interesting when she turned against the other Eternals. Absolute garbage character. She can cast realistic illusions.
And now on to the movie, shall we?
The story begins with a black-screen text crawl. Always ominous. They have to explain that the before the Infinity Stones at the dawn of creation, the Celestials came (some of whom we've already seen in other Marvel Studios movies... The Collector, The Grandmaster, and Ego. They created the Eternals in order to combat the "Deviants" before they overran the universe with their dark evil. Or whatever.
And then the Eternals arrive on ancient earth 5,000 years BC! And their ship weaves them really cool costumes out of golden light threads! And they save some people from the evil Deviants (well, except the guy who got eaten)! It's an awesome start to the film, and I fell in love with Angelina Jolie's Thena immediately. The way she fights and uses her powers is just beyond cool. In other first impressions, Phastos and his technology powers are also wickedly nifty.
It's important to note that the way super-powers are manifested in Eternals is remarkably well-thought-out. The golden energy threads neatly add a uniqueness to these heroes which allow them to stand apart from others who may have similar powers.
Flash forward to today. Sersi is an archeology teacher who notes that a knife she transformed 7,000 years ago is a signature piece in an archeology exhibit. Cute. At this point we're just ten minutes in and things are already going off the rails. In addition to the gaggle of Eternals we have to keep track of, there's also Gemma Chan's love interest (played by Kit Harrington). He's Dane Whitman, who eventually becomes The Black Knight (a long-time favorite character of mine. A sad reminder that Marvel is happy to sacrifice streamlining a current movie if they can introduce future stories and characters. This has always been a good thing, but in a movie with ten main characters? Yikes.
The Deviants come back, of course, and already Sprite is being horribly annoying. Though maybe I would be too if I was trapped in a child's body for 7,000 years. The least they could have done was given her a normal name so we don't have to listen to Dane keep screaming "SPRITE!" which just sounds inane the more times you hear it. A big battle ensues with Ikaris doing his very best Superman impression (heat vision and all).
And here it comes... an explanation as to why the Eternals sat on the sidelines when Thanos attacked. They were instructed by the Celestials to not do that because they would interfere with the natural development of humanity. They can only act when Deviants are involved. Which is weird considering A) They supposedly killed all the Deviants thousands of years ago, and B) They actually interfered throughout history, as confirmed at several points throughout the movie.
More awesome flashbacks to the Eternals battling Deviants throughout history, this time in Babylon. Special effects are incredible, with the Deviants looking increasingly scary and the super-heroics looking fantastic. The way Ikaris flies and drops to earth. The way Makari zips around the battlefield. The way Thena fights. The way Kingo zaps bad guys with his finger guns. It goes on and on. We didn't need this fight, but it helps break-up a bunch of talking, so there's that.
Now we start getting to more backstory that didn't need to be seen... watching Sersi marry Ikaris. Something that was entirely superfluous given that we've already learned they were together for 5,000 years and he left. It's long stretches of stuff like this which should have been reconsidered. They're pretty and everything, but they are just filler which distract from the Big Picture. Something Marvel usually manages to avoid. They could have easily devoted this time to more pressing current events, but I guess Marvel is wanting to try something different with this movie? Who knows. It's not "bad" exactly, but it is frustrating.
What's not frustrating is finding out that Thena has a problem where she goes into a mindless rage which results in her to attack her fellow Eternals. Eventually we find out that this is a glitch in her programming caused by the many times her mind has been wiped by the Celestials. And of course Angelina Jolie knows exactly how to play the tragedy of it all. Which quickly gets interrupted by Druig mumbling his way through very bad dialogue. His ability to control the minds of men causes a fracture amongst the Eternals, who are hanging around on earth until the Celestials are called home to planet Olympia. Everybody goes their separate ways until that day arrives.
We're now 45 minutes into the film. It truly boggles my mind how cluttered and unnecessary it was. They could have easily condensed this down to 15 minutes and devoted another half hour to MUCH MORE SCENES WITH KINGO, WHO IS AN ABSOLUTE RIOT AND WHAT WE'RE HERE TO SEE! His Bollywood number is just great, and his humor adds so much to the film ("We just got BTS to do a cameo!"). And the way he's smartly played being the son of himself playing the son of himself playing the son of himself for generations is great.
From here it's just more of "getting the band back together again." Something that's also taking way too much screen-time and could have been avoided if we didn't have so many dang characters. How in the heck did the people behind this story not see that? We also get some inconsistencies. "Thor used to follow me around like a puppy!" means that Thor is aware of the Eternals (and why wouldn't he be?) but never mentioned them at all in any other Marvel movie?
And now we get to the thrust of the plot... nearly one hour in. The Celestials reproduce by being born at the center of a world, and once the population is great enough to have produced enough life energy, that Celestial bursts out of the planet, destroying it and killing everybody on it. The Eternals were created to safeguard the Celestials from the Deviants while it's being born. PLOT TWIST: The Celestials created the Deviants but lost control of them as they evolved. The Eternals have done this thousands of times across the universe for millions of years. And each time their memory is wiped so they can start over again. This is what's plaguing Thena, because she's remembering the many times she's gone through all this before. The Eternals now have to decide whether they will allow earth to be destroyed or if they're going to try and stop the emergence and save the world.
And now we get to Phastos.
And the bombshell drop that DC Comics heroes exist in the Marvel Cinematic Unverse... albeit as fictional characters. To their credit, Ikaris being Superman is acknowledged. That the MCU implies that Ikaris is the inspiration for Superman and not the other way around is pretty funny. Also existing in the MCU? IKEA! — A big deal was made about Makari being the first deaf super-hero in the MCU. But she's so woefully underutilized as to be more of a gimmick than an actual character. Likewise, Phastos is the first gay super-hero in the MCU. And while he is also a bit of a gimmick, to a certain extent, at least they actually show him being gay with a husband and kid. That's not nothing. As is the fact that they don't fridge the two characters... killing them as a plot device instead of letting them exist so they can... exist
And then they make their way to their spaceship where Makari has been hanging out for centuries. Phastos creates The Uni-Mind (a way for the Eternals to share their energy and fight off the emergence). Ikaris is shown to have known about the emergence and killed Ajak because she wanted to stop it (too bad her love and healing powers weren't good in a fight!). Ikaris and Sprite turn against the Eternals so the Celestials can destroy the earth. The Eternals win in an amazing battle that is about the coolest thing I saw last year. Ikaris flies into the sun because he feels bad that he betrayed Sersi. Sprite's energy is removed by the Uni-Mind so she can grow old. The only Eternals left on earth... Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo... are abducted by the head Celestial. Queue the cool credits showing how the Eternals have existed as historical figures throughout history (even though they were not supposed to be involved with history unless Deviants showed up). The End.
Until the mid-credits scenes, of course.
First we have the appearance of Starfox... aka Eros... played by Harry Styles, of all people. They don't even be a little obtuse about it. Prince of Titan. Brother of Thanos. Now, in the comics, I loved Starfox. But it will be interesting to see how "The Knave of Hearts" will be played in the MCU since he's historically been more than a little misogynistic. His power is to stimulate the pleasure center in the brain, after all. Starfox was accompanied by Pip the Troll, as voiced by Patton Oswalt. An actor who may or may not be canceled. I can't keep up. Thanos was a mutant... kinda an Eternal/Deviant hybrid... which makes it interesting as to why the Eternals were not allowed to battle him when he came to earth. Especially since his eliminating half the population would delay the emergence. And this brings up a slew of questions. Why would Thanos bother wiping out half of all life in the universe when he knows that eventually Celestial emergence will do the job for him, to start. I don't know if we'll ever be given any answers, and that's kinda weird given how Marvel (mostly) tries hard to keep everything tied together.
Second credits scene features Dane Whitman (who has a family secret he never got around to telling Sersi) opening a box with the Ebony Blade in it (something Sprite mentioned earlier in the film). This is, of course, the weapon of The Black Knight from the comics. It's been confirmed that the voice behind Dane was, in fact, Blade the Vampire Hunter (Mahershala Ali). Setting up even more of the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
The last thing we see is "Eternals Will Return...
And, despite a lukewarm reception by moviegoers and critics, I don't doubt it.
You don't establish the world-ending all-powerful Celestials and then forget they exist. The current phase of the MCU is revolving around The Multiverse. I thought for certain that the next phase would center around the coming of Galactus, so we can establish The Fantastic Four. But maybe it will actually be the Celestials? They are a considerable godlike threat that could certainly bring together all the super-heroes we have. Though how they would manage to fight them is anybody's guess. The comic books have a spotty record of good stories that feature man-vs-gods scenarios, I'd hate for the movies to take that risk.
Good, not great. Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...
Ant-Man and The Wasp... A-
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Avengers: Infinity War... A
Avengers: Endgame... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Black Panther... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A+
Captain Marvel... B+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Deadpool 2... A
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Fantastic Four (2005)... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Fantastic Four (2015)... D+
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... A
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Justice League... F
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Amazing Spider-Man 2... B-
Spider-Man: Homecoming... A+
Spider-Man: Far From Home... A
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse... A
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
Thor: Ragnarok... A+
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
Wonder Woman 1984... D-
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+