Eternals is a 2021 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics of the same name. It is the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Chloé Zhao, of Nomadland fame. As with most Marvel films, this one has an ensemble cast with even Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek joining some Television actors in a snorefest of a movie.
In short, Eternals is a story of immortal guardians charged with overseeing an Earth in perpetual evolution. Over thousands of years it tells a tale of selfless observation, where the journey, not the destination is everything. Sounds deep? It isn’t. Plus, it isn’t short either at 2.5 hours – made worse that we need to sit through extremely slow sex scenes, a wooden actress who was paid only for one expression and unnecessarily gay and non-binary characters forcibly changed to meet Americans desire for diversity for diversity’s sake and for the actors themselves to engage in virtue-signalling.
In 5000 BC, ten superpowered Eternals—Ajak, Sersi, Ikaris, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, Gilgamesh, and Thena—are sent by the Celestial Arishem to Earth on their starship, the Domo, to exterminate the invasive Deviants. The last Deviants are apparently killed in 1521, when the group’s opinions differ over their continued responsibilities and relationship with humankind. Over the next five hundred years they mostly live apart, waiting for Arishem to tell them that they can leave. The problems of the movie start with the Eternals themselves – firstly, the gender and sexuality changes just for the sake of it, which doesn’t allow any comic book fan to identify with the characters. Second, Eternals have never been the most popular Marvel creation, hence staying true to the characters would have atleast allowed some loyalists to enjoy the movie.
The obvious examples – just to fit in the star power Salma Hayek brings – Ajak who was male apparently went through a sex change operation right before the movie – it could be that he was possibly “confused”. Next up is Kingo, who spent centuries in Japan learning the ways of the Samurai, and is one of the most skilled swordsmen on the planet. In the present day and age, he has parlayed his skills into becoming a major action film star in Japan – now that is as per the comics but here we see him played by a Pakistani actor portraying an Indian Bollywood star and one of the worst Bollywood song-dance sequences ever shown on screen since The Big Bang Theory tried to make Raj dance. My question is Kingo, would have been portrayed by someone Japanese right? Diverse enough? So why the need to destroy all that comic book history and change the ethnicity?
And then Phastos becomes gay just to serve his corporate overlords who knows that sells as a lot of people in Hollywood would not miss the chance to jump on the virtue signalling and hashtag bandwagon by claiming it to be some sort of trail blazing moment, in a movie which would otherwise be forgotten in the dust bowl of history.
Then Sprite who is alternatively boy/girl, becomes a young girl (because apparently there weren’t enough women in the Eternals team). Makkari who is a man – the son of Verona and Mara becomes a black woman who is also deaf. Why? No clue but the diversity advocates are probably orgasming right now. Thena and Ikaris made sense in the casting and though portrayed by bored actors, atleast the casting was loyal to the comic books. Druig’s background was Soviet – Ivan Druig the name. But apparently Ireland has been part of Russia and we never knew it so it makes sense that he speaks with an Irish accent.
So the obvious flaws with the casting aside, why Chloe did you have to choose actors with such wooden expressions – Gemma Chan who literally has two expressions she brings to the movie. Angelina Jolie seems bored and wishing why she isn’t in Asia adopting more kids. Richard Madden does what Richard Madden does best – stoically stand aside when scenes call for more emotions to be displayed. Kumail Nanjiani, despite the poor casting as Kingo, was fun and brought his Silicon Valley humor to the role although, I wonder why more Indians haven’t brought out hashtags at his valet Karun Patel, who was quite lovable in a movie not worth loving. Although the stereotypical Indian accent should have annoyed a few woke people out there. Plus in a world where being offended by everything is the norm, why didn’t we see a few twitter battles that an Indian valet was serving a Pakistani master? Just a few things for the crazies of twitter to think about?
The action sequences are not bad but the villains are these unidentifiable alien monsters which do not allow you to feel sympathy and nor do they pose a real threat to the Eternals. Without a real threat, the Eternals are their own worst enemy it seems. There may be some DC hat tips apparent in Ikaris with his power of flight and heat vision overkill (Superman wannabe?), but he is much more than the sum of those parts – he is also wooden. Likewise, Sersi exudes a quiet calm which defines her emotionally and otherwise and allows Gemma Chan to show love,anger, frustration, happiness, sadness and shock with one single expression.
Bill Skarsgard draws the short straw here as Kro, the main villain, who is short changed on screen time and robbed of any build up. Aside from the fact that creating a dilemma for immortals is problematic, villainy in any conventional sense feels superfluous. Ultimately, Eternals is a vast movie on an infinite canvas, populated by immortals who struggle to maintain connections either between themselves or with the audiences. The movie suffers from a lack of wit, excessively diversified characters for the sake of it and confuses the audience as to its purpose – is it a Marvel entertainment blockbuster which people can enjoy or is it a movie defined by its kowtowing to brainless Twitter arm-chair Social Justice Warriors?
Watch it just to have something to talk about with friends who get offended for no reason and who have a habit of virtue-signalling just for them to shut up for a minute.