Slow, laborious & way too long
Marvel’s Phase 4 has been a bit of a mixed bag so far, starting brightly with WandaVision and then sort of meandering around through different movies and shows. Nowhere else is that more evident than in Marvel’s latest big-screen bonanza, Eternals. Overlong and painfully slow, this movie is arguably one of Marvel’s biggest disappointments to date.
Eternals does buck the usual trend of Marvel movies, with a much more thought provoking concept and a lot of philosophical ideas being pedaled around one’s purpose in the world. Unlike the politically charged drama seen in something like Watchmen, Eternals doesn’t have the panache to dive deeply into its material while simultaneously juggling all its different characters and world-ending threat.
Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Eternals centers on a race of immortal aliens called the Eternals. They’ve been secretly living on Earth for over 7000 years, tasked with protecting humans and allowing them to populate the Earth… except when they don’t. When Thanos is defeated, it triggers a world-ending threat known as “the emergence”, as deviants (the Eternals’ enemies) rise up and threaten to destroy humanity.
Now, right from the word go, Eternals poses a problem and the film is actually self-aware of its own plot holes, trying desperate to bandage up this gunshot wound with a band aid. With the Eternals’ tasked with protecting humans and allowing them to populate Earth, there’s a sort of shrug and a half-baked explanation why they didn’t get involved in both Thanos and Ultron’s plans. They were “instructed not to”, rightio.
There are other, more niggling issues with the basic premise and plot developments but for spoiler purposes, I won’t divulge those here. If you can look past the plot issues, Eternals has quite a mountain of a task to achieve in its eye-watering 2 hour 35 minute run-time.
Not only does this movie have to introduce 10 brand new characters, giving them all a consistent arc and reason for fighting, it also has to introduce the Deviants, the history leading up to the present day, explain away its plot holes and nail its trademark Marvel humour. The result is a blended mess of flavours; some that work and others that really don’t.
At the center of this plot is a love story between two of the Eternals, Sersi and Ikaris. There’s been a lot said about the sex scene included in this and while a welcome step forward for maturity, adds absolutely nothing to the story. This is a consistent problem throughout Eternals’ run-time, with far too many characters and not enough run-time to flesh them all out.
In fact, while watching I couldn’t help but feel that this should have been a miniseries like Watchmen was, allowing enough time to actually introduce its characters rather than juggling everything at once and ending up with a pile of smashed plates on the floor.
For all of its flaws, Eternals is undeniably a visual treat to behold. The CGI is great, for the most part, the score is actually pretty good and some of the vistas through time are gorgeously rendered. Some of the fighting sequences are a little janky though, but the long, establishing shots are beautifully rendered.
Ultimately though, Eternals has some good ideas but they’re lost thanks to a painfully slow pace and laborious screenplay that feels like it goes on for eternity. This film is in desperate need of some punchy editing but given the Director, Chloe Zhao, is known for producing slow movies exploring deep themes, is anyone really surprised? Add 10 brand new characters that need backstories and motivations, crowbarred Marvel humour and a litany of half-baked ideas, you end up with something that’s a bit of a mess.
Verdict - 4/10