Eternals has arrived on Disney+. The 26th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – directed by Chloé Zhao – sees the titular immortal alien race emerging from hiding after thousands of years, in order to protect Earth from imminent destruction.
The movie reveals that the group had been given strict instructions to stay out of earthly conflicts, explaining why nobody knew of their existence up until this point.
It has the lowest ever Rotten Tomatoes score for an MCU movie – just 47% – which means that it’s split opinion massively.
In this piece, we’ll be discussing the aspects of the movie that make it so divisive.
While you’re here, please take a look at why Shang-Chi is the most important MCU movie to date.
Eternals had a lot of people on side from the start, thanks to its hugely diverse cast and within it, Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos really shines. He’s the first superhero to be depicted as gay in an MCU film, which further increases the movie’s inclusivity – and the two-father family he ended up portraying with a human partner in the movie was wonderful.
It’s also aesthetically stunning, with lavish and sometimes elegant special effects and carefully crafted cinematography.
The movie’s scenery is a delight, with Zhao predominantly opting to use natural light in real locations, instead of artificial lighting and CGI. So when you see the sun shining on perfect beaches and rocky canyons, that scenery is genuine.
There are also some truly awe-inspiring action sequences, with the final battle taking place as a humongous Celestial being emerges from the Earth’s core being a prime example.
Additionally, Eternals is an extremely emotive movie; there’s excitement and anticipation, an impending sense of dread, loss and bereavement, love and romance (it even has the MCU’s first, albeit very tame, sex scene), a few minor laughs and, ultimately, some relief and elation.
It takes the MCU in a wondrous new cosmic direction and greatly expands on the existing mythos – just knowing these characters were hiding in the shadows during every event that we’ve seen unfold in the franchise since 2008 (and during pretty much everything that happened before that) makes you look at them all with renewed curiosity. For instance, what would’ve happened if they’d defied their aforementioned instructions to stay out of Earth’s conflicts and assisted against the likes of the Chitauri, Ultron, Ego and/or Thanos?
But there are just as many bad points to Eternals as there are good ones.
A very valid criticism of the movie is that, despite its epic scale and amazing visual effects, it still manages to plod along in a manner that feels a little too efficient and workmanlike. It essentially feels like it’s trying too hard to prove that it’s “cinema” (an attempt to prove Martin Scorsese wrong, perhaps, after the Taxi Driver director claimed that Marvel movies could never fall under that category?). As a result, it somewhat neglects the usual fun and flowing nature of MCU offerings.
That could also be, in part, due to its many subplots, which it quite clearly struggles to juggle. For example, while the potential destruction of the Earth due to the emergence of a Celestial was an investing and worthwhile inclusion, there was enough going on without the addition of the Deviants, which would probably have been better kept for a sequel. Essentially, there’s far too much happening in Eternals – even for a movie that lasts 2 hours and 37 minutes (which, in itself, is seen by some as problematic, as the movie ends up dragging) – and it becomes convoluted long before it reaches its climax.
The dialogue is also a source of criticism, with some of it being hammy and cheesy as a ham-and-cheese toasty. The overly earnest exchanging of “I love yous” during the aforementioned sex scene between two actors who clearly didn’t have much chemistry is a prime example of that, albeit an admittedly cute one.
We’ve also come to expect a lot of wit and humour in MCU movies. There’s definitely some of that in Eternals, but it mostly takes itself very seriously – perhaps a little too much so. Those viewers expecting to enjoy another cosmic laugh-a-thon in the mould of Guardians of the Galaxy would have been sorely disappointed.
With so many arguments as to why this movie is both good and bad, it’s understandably divisive, but it’s possible that the main reason for that is because it’s so unlike any MCU movie before it. The tone is actually more like that of a DC movie (and Madden’s Ikaris being very Superman-esque only aids that notion), which is a controversial point in staunch Marvel fans’ eyes.