Shang-Chi was the first step away from what the loud, brash films that fans around the world came to know and love. It had its fair share of battle sequences but the Asian cinema influence on the film was very clear and now with Eternals we see Marvel try something else new – alternative film-making.
Directed by Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), Eternals does everything it can do to try and separate itself from Marvel’s past, but you could argue that the film doesn’t exactly tick off all of its goals even though it is still an enjoyable watch.
The film centres around a group of heroes (literally Gods) sent to this Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from beings known as Deviants. Over the years relationships formed between the Eternals – Ikaris (Richard Madden – Cinderella) and Cersei (Gemma Chan – Let Them All Talk) got married and then broke up while for her own mental stability Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok – Train To Busan) took Thena (Angelina Jolie – Maleficent) away from humanity completely.
Now in modern times Cersei is living in London with Sprite (Lia McHugh – The Lodge) and is romantically attached to a human – the intelligent Dane Whitman (Kit Harington – Game Of Thrones) but their world is suddenly turned upside down when the thought-to-be-extinct Deviants suddenly reappear and begin attacking the Eternals themselves.
To be honest there are more Eternals in this film than I can mention here and that is one of the biggest flaws of this film. There are so many characters here that it is difficult to find yourself getting attached to any of them. Sure Druig (Barry Keoghan – Dunkirk) and Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani – Stuber) stand out because of their over-the-top personalities but too many of the other Eternals become background noise as the audience focuses on Thena, Ikaris and Cersei. This feels like an ensemble film like The Avengers or the later X-Men movies but the issue is the audience really hasn’t had time to get to know the characters yet.
Still there are more plusses than negatives to the film. The characters that do stand-out are instantly likable and it is easy to see that at some time stand-alone films will be needed especially for Cersei and Thena and in a way you do find yourself liking the characters so much that you almost wish that this was the start of a television series that could allow you to see the characters become fleshed out a little more.
As a director Chloe Zhao does all she can to give this film its own identity. She tries to bring in more characterisation and introduces a more ‘adult’ feel to the film with scenes of romance and sex. It works, as does Zhao’s expert way of showing how the Eternals have coexisted with humans throughout the ages but at the end of the day this is a Marvel movie and at some time Zhao had to bite the bullet and deliver some action sequences.
Yes, Zhao does steer the film away from AC/DC-laden, city-crushing sequences and while the forest battle that ensues after the Eternals reunite with Druig works really well with its Asian-cinema-inspired feel, the grand finale of this film lacks that memorable moment that it should have had. Yes, it moved the characters’ journeys along a lot and revealed a lot of secrets that begin a whole new adventure but even with volcanoes and rising statues it lacks the ‘wow’ factor that it needed.
Having said all that, Eternals is still a worthy watch. It does introduce the audience to some characters that you feel are going to be very important going forward and it is obvious that Gemma Chan and Angelina Jolie had a lot of fun with their roles. Likewise the alternative feel throughout the film does work well but sadly the film is a little overshadowed by the ‘transition’ feel that is ever present as fans everywhere get used to Marvel films without Iron-Man and Captain America. To sum up though – Eternals is really only for the hardcore Marvel fans.
Eternals is now screening in Phuket and is classified 13.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus