The MCU unveils its latest film this week, and Chloe Zhao delivers the most diverse, and inclusive cast and storyline that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen to date. It’s also one of the comics in the Marvel family that I don’t know very well, but that allowed me to go into the film blissfully unaware of anything but what the synopsis gave me.
A group of immortal beings arrive on Earth (dare I say, ancient aliens?), seven thousand years ago, and gently guide and protect us, lurking amongst our histories, religions and stories. I actually like this idea; comics are very much the modern mythology, the new version of the ancient gods and their stories, so why not combine the mythologies? That some of these characters inspired those very mythos that we all know so well.
They have lived a secret history alongside ours, and our faithful to their mission and their god/creator, a giant celestial (one of a race) named Arishem. Over those millennia, they have protected us from creatures known as deviants (with lots of superhero poses thrown in for good measure), which will hunt and kill anything, and were somehow delivered to Earth. When their initial mission is complete, their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek) disbands them, and tells them to go out and live a life, see the world and its people.
Sersei (Gemma Chan) has been in love with humanity, and its world since her first arrival, and has recently, in the present day, fallen for Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), leaving behind Ikaris (Richard Madden), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) Druig (Barry Keoghan), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok). Each of them are gifted with abilities, and each have their relationships, personalities, and arcs, that guide them through this tale, not to mention their histories, and memories, whether they recall them or not.
When the deviants return, and seem more more powerful than before, they have to get the band back together, but the deviants are only the beginning, and soon, they will be fighting to save the entire planet in a battle no one else will no about until it’s all over.
I won’t lie, it took the first half of this movie to pass before I was drawn into it. I felt that I couldn’t find a way into the story or the characters, let alone their relationships, the arrival of Kingo and his valet, Karun (Harish Patel) helped to change that. As the story progressed I was rather touched by the message at its heart; that humanity, life, love, all the good things we are capable of are so important, no matter how transient and temporary they are.
While there are action beats, this one feels like a slower, quieter film than some of the other MCU entries, though the climax is big and loud, and has some great pay offs, and of course there are the seeded being planted, the tie-ins to the rest of the MCU, including the mid- and post-credit scenes.
Zhao moves the story easily back and forth through time, and works to make sure that each of the film’s leads get their moments, their arcs, and the actors layer them as much as they can, and one does grow to care for them, even as you realize where they came from in our mythologies.
I loved seeing the celestials onscreen, and love they way they look, you can see Jack Kirby all over them, and you know that Kit Harrington is being set up for something else, he’s in the film too little to be there for any other reason than that.
Eternals is a solid entry in the MCU, Zhao creates some beautiful images, and the cast is a welcome addition to the ranks that have come before, and expands the universe yet again. It also makes you wonder in what direction this Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going, and what adventures await.
Eternals may not have the name recognition of Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America, but there was a time when Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t mean a lot to people. And honestly, I love the representation that is on the screen in this film, its important that all Marvel fans see themselves on represented on screen, and Eternals does that wonderfully.
It’s a beautiful film, with some stunning locations, a moving message, and prepares us for what is to come. Eternals opens this Friday.