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‘Eternals’: Cluttered amusement

| Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Makayla Hernandez | The Observer

Few films achieve the mythical scale “Eternals” attempts to mold. The visuals are the film’s lifeline, giving the Celestials the best stage to premiere their awesome power, with cataclysmic flames also raising questions to their fallibility. On the one hand, this Marvel Cinematic Universe entry is ironically the best DC Extended Universe film ever put to screen, but on the other hand, there are too many characters with too many stories that never culminate.

Chloé Zhao excels behind the camera in her first blockbuster. The locations and sunlight glow in the warmth of Earth’s greatest historical pit-stops. The spurts of ancient civilizations collapsing in front of the immortals’ eyes are the best part of the film; the foundations of temples crack beneath their feet, and their faith cracks with them more and more each time. Even in the present day, the awe of the civilized world bleeds in its history. With all its beauty being shot on location, Zhao is the reason the tone reaches the epic peak of legend.

When it comes to the plot, the movie feels like a Netflix Original series that is missing the middle three episodes. The pacing drags right before the third act to let the audience catch up with every character, but it is too little too late. A lot of them are pushed to the background, one even leaving before the final battle — to the point where there seems to be twice as much screen time for each of them that never made the final cut. The film is already 2.5 hours long, and even though I didn’t feel the runtime as much as I did in “Shang-Chi,” it did feel like I was binging a TV show in my bedroom rather than experiencing a film in theaters.

Honestly, as much as I enjoy the team’s powers and flare, most of the characters individually fall flat. Gemma Chan nails the emotional weight as the center of the story, but her character, Sersi, has no internal spark. Her chemistry with Ikarus is missing entirely, as her warmth clashes with him constantly being cold, never allowing the audience to root for him. Angelina Jolie’s Thena and Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo are laughably underused in every scene. Sprite has an entire subplot that is only given attention at the end. Phastos, Druig and Makkari are the most interesting but get the least screen time.

The previous paragraph alone shows the central problem. There are too many characters, so much so that when a few were missing in a frame, I wouldn’t notice until it cut to the next scene. They were supposed to be the strongest keystone of this film, but they end up being the weakest and responsible for the narrative walls’ collapse.

In a constant cacophony of extremes echoing in the digital void, I found it best not to read any reviews about this film. There is too much hype and hate for such a simple piece of entertainment which I see no value in trashing even if I think it’s flawed. I enjoyed “Eternals.” The characters are flat, one of the villains is pointless, and the philosophical questions are never meant to be answered — but the action is visceral, the colors pop and man do those Celestials give me the chills every time they are on screen.

I recommend seeing this film not because I think it is good, but because it is part of something that you probably invested in for the past 13 years. The MCU is going in new directions with new faces and ideas, and that excites me more than just an individual plot hiccup. Will I ever watch this again? Probably not. Did I remember most of it the next day? Not really, but I know for a fact I will be doodling the eyes of Arishem and Tiamut in my notebook margins for years to come.

Title: “Eternals”

Starring: Gemma Chan, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani

Director(s): Chloé Zhao

If you like: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

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