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The Eternals

Review: written Nov 2021

Not so Marvellous Misfire

The Eternals

The end of Marvel Phase 3 was a triumph for Marvel, with Infinity War and Endgame looking like a finely tuned machine firing on all cylinders. Now Marvel are looking ahead at the next ‘Phase’, and the new model they’ve replaced it with definitely has teething issues..

Eternals namechecks the blip, and even incorporates it as part of the driving events behind this new narrative, but other than that you could be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a completely different franchise. We are introduced to a wide cast of characters, and while some are definitely intriguing, we never do have enough screen time to do them all justice.

The Eternals

The Eternals themselves, beings who came to our planet to defend it against “The Deviants” millenia ago, are coming together again after centuries apart. With instructions to not interfere with mankinds development, and to stay hidden on Earth only to eradicate the deviants, their purpose is reignited when events indicate a deviant has reappeared after long being thought eradicated. The movie certainly wants to grapple with existential comments on what it means to be alive, to be human – and it also wants to be a franchise starter, and it also wants to be a dazzling action movie. In trying to bite off too much story, and too many characters, it has shortchanged all these elements, even though some moments of beauty, interesting story and intriguing characters exist. Kudos in fact for the diversity of characters (and cast – I was particularly thrilled to see Lauren Ridloff, who is not just deaf, black and Mexican, but more importantly a genuinely charismatic actor who brings her character to life even while having relatively few scenes) - but what use is that if we don’t spend enough time really getting to know them beyond their labels? At times I couldn’t help feeling the cast just didn’t look excited to be there – compare to Robert Downey Jr appearing in Iron Man, and the feeling that he really made that character and you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it. Here, lines appear interchangeable between characters and nobody feels indispensable. When the movie takes a sudden turn into Bollywood pastiche in the middle, you may feel, as I did, that the movie had lost my goodwill. It’s one thing to add levity, Lord knows most superhero movies need it, but it’s another to take such a radical and undeserved sudden change in tone and expect the audience to go with it. The visuals too, clearly have some amazing design work yet things never look as spectacular as the moment seems to call for. The costumes are stunning with beautiful colours, yet somehow filmed in a way that subdued their beauty, making the design of the movie so much effort for little effect.

The Eternals

To extend my car metaphor then, this shiny glossy exciting looking car has been given the wrong fuel, and to stretch the metaphor is spluttering its way along before limping to a stop rather than reach a destination. One suspects some maintenance will be required to get the Marvel Universe finely tuned again after this misfire..

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