'Eternals' spoilers review: Where did Chloé Zhao fail and succeed with MCU's latest experiment?

Eternals (Image via Marvel Studios)
Eternals (Image via Marvel Studios)

At the time of publishing this review, Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao's Eternals sits at an abysmal critic score of 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, which made it Marvel Studios' first certified rotten film. However, many would argue that the latest addition to Kevin Feige's interwoven cinematic tapestry does not deserve such a low score. Nonetheless, it is challenging to defend the film's hollow logic at specific points.

Even ignoring the confirmation bias set by the viral RT score, those parts of Eternals' worthy of praise unfortunately fall short of upholding those that were dull and groundless. While the attempt is admirable, the first experiment of Kevin Feige to break the repetitive model of MCU films fails to radicalize the genre.

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However, it must be noted that Eternals, while in no way the best MCU or the genre itself has to offer, does not deserve such a bad reputation. With the existence of films like Iron Man 3 and Black Widow, Eternals should be seated above these films in the hierarchy of the main MCU films.


Eternals' poor critical response is unfortunate for Marvel fans and not entirely deserved

Ever since the movie's announcement, Marvel head Kevin Feige has been hyping up Chloe Zhao and Eternals. Meanwhile, the director, coming fresh off the Oscar win for Nomadland, added to the anticipation behind the film.

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Feige even claimed in a featurette:

"The impact Eternals will have on the MCU will be nothing less than redefining the cinematic universe entirely."

With 25 film-sized shoes to fill, Eternals simply comes out as overhyped.


What DID work for Zhao's Eternals?

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Cinematography:

As expected, Zhao brought her distinctive approach from her Oscar-winning film, Nomadland. Furthermore, Marvel's go-to cinematographer, Ben Davis, gelled nicely with Chloé's style and vision. Shot almost entirely in real locations, the movie also uses a lot of natural light, which adds to a fresh visual aspect not seen much in this genre.


VFX

Eternals manages to have a palpable touch in its VFX, making it a bit different from other MCU films. The way the group of Eternals uses their technologies and their interaction with their suits feels strikingly new.

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While Ikaris' flight scene and eye laser may remind viewers of Zack Snyder's approach in Man of Steel, Makkari's speed runs are visibly different from that of other speedsters like Flash and Quicksilver.


Humour

Another way Eternals set itself apart from other MCU films is by nixing their trademark quipping. The comedic scenes are presented as organic without being forcibly silly in nature.


Diversification

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The diversification in all characters in Eternals works harmoniously without overshadowing others. The movie represented impairment, same-s*x companionship, as well as multiple actors of color. Eternals also represented mental health conditions through Thena.


Icarus Ikaris Eternals flew too close to the Sun: What DID NOT work?

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Pacing:

At two hours and thirty-seven minutes long, Eternals has a serious pacing issue. Although the film is beautifully shot and a longer time to establish the story is appreciated, Zhao and the other screenwriters did not prioritize the content well.

The movie spends far too long setting up the transition between timelines and focusing on Sersei and Ikaris' love story. While the love between the two will serve as an essential plot point in the climax, it could have been done with a bit less screen time.


Eternals failed Kumail Nanjiani's Kingo

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Kingo is perhaps one of the most charming Eternals in the movie. However, Kingo leaving right before the climax after hitting back at Ikaris for hurting his family is absurd. It is equally strange how Kingo's valet Karun does not appear to plead with him to stay despite being a human himself.


Soundtrack:

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Like 2016's Doctor Strange, the music prepared for the Eternals trailer was created by someone other than the lead sound artist Ramin Djawadi. The score in the trailers, which was significantly more memorable than the one in the movie, was created by Valentin Kallaur.


Action

At its very core, Eternals seems to have action dialed in low-gear, which is also evident in several fight scenes, barring characters like Ikaris, Thena and Makkari. In the action department, Kingo, with his limited screen time, seemed to have the most disappointing action sequence.


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However, despite the criticism received, Kevin Feige and Chloé Zhao need to be applauded for taking the risk of breaking out of the MCU films' formula. Eternals most definitely does not deserve such low scores, and despite its apparent issues, it presents something new that the MCU has been lacking.

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Edited by Sabine Algur
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