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Film Review – Eternals (2021)

It’s always a bit strange constructing a review for something that has already been written a hundred times over because you already have a sense of what people have been saying. Good, bad, indifferent, there’s a strange sensation from seeing many people agree, or disagree, with you as you watch that “Holy GrailRotten Tomatoes score get the whole internet’s back up even if it’s an incredibly good rating. Such things are amplified ten fold when a Marvel film is involved: don’t like it and you’re the scourge of the Web, chastised by countless faceless commentators telling you you can’t do your job or that you shouldn’t be a critic because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Like it, and you’re in for similar treatment.

Well, we are back to that point in time once more as, for all intents and purposes, Marvel’s latest energetic effort Eternals, brought to the screen by the irrepressible Chloe Zhao, has suffered from the worst fan scrutiny since the MCU’s inception. Currently sitting at 53% at the time of writing, fans have already been up in arms about just why critics have taken shots at it. “It’s the most inclusive, diverse, all-encompassing film of the MCU, how dare you?!” sums up much of the disgust floating around the interweb with many furious that the score continues to drop.

For us, the RT score has never been anyone’s favourite tool for judging a film’s merit – too many grey areas, too many variables, shouldn’t be the judge, jury etc of a film’s credibility – but of course we are well aware that we are currently writing a reviewing said film and only adding more flames to the fire by saying that there is some “merit” to that score in that, well, Eternals is a bit of mess. A beautiful, at times mesmeric mess but a mess nevertheless, one that fails to sparkle and enthral as others that have come before.

Another huge swing for the fence for the studio after, say, Guardians of the Galaxy and WandaVision, Eternals was always going to be a difficult trick to pull off given the sheer scope of the comics – heck, they could have their very own expanded universe. But despite Zhao’s efforts and those of its stellar cast (well, almost all), it never comes together with its sprawling, lofty ambitions only sporadically providing some truly spectacular entertainment amongst the breadth of exposition. While Zhao’s humanist filmmaking is a perfect match something has been lost along the way, sent spiralling out of control as it gets bogged down in narrative, character and far too much explaining. Indeed, while the talent on the poster is eclectic as ever, only a few elevate it with Angelina Jolie, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff and Barry Keoghan the film’s stand-outs.

It says a lot about the impact and power of the MCU that, after 26 films, we are perhaps subconsciously waiting for the wheels to come off, for the studio to have a cataclysmic failure that brings them back to Earth with a bang. But despite some clunks along the way, there’s no stopping the behemoth, especially with a certain friendly neighbourhood friend about to tear up the box office (and the multiverse). Eternals feels lacking and like some other entries along the way, may be starting to show a small amount of mere mortality. You don’t feel the magic, wonder and splendour that has enthralled us for over 13 years and while it is never dull amongst the ever-increasing chaos, it’s sorely missing what has made the expanded universe so unique.

★★


Action, Adventure | USA, 2021 | 12A | 5th November 2021 | Cinema | Marvel Studios | Dir.Chloe Zhao | Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Lauren Ridloff, Angelina Jolie, Kit Harrington, Kumail Nanjiani