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Eternals review: Chloe Zhao’s MCU film subverts the usual superhero tropes

Eternals is a film filled with an elaborated runtime and undeserving characters getting more screen time than the others.

Eternals review: Chloe Zhao’s MCU film subverts the usual superhero tropes

Last Updated: 12.29 PM, Nov 03, 2021


The Marvel Cinematic Universe's Eternals introduces an exciting new band of superheroes, ancient aliens that have been residing on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, an unexpected tragedy compels them to emerge from the shadows to face humanity's oldest foe, the Deviants.


'With great power comes great responsibility' says Spider-Man which stays true to every superhero created in comics and consequent movies. But it is also applicable to the filmmakers who translate the comics to the big screen by blending it with their talent of penning a screenplay which makes for a visual delight. Eternals is indeed a huge responsibility taken on by Academy Award-winning director Chloé Zhao, and did she excel in it? That has been a subject up for discussion across the globe.


The first impression of Eternals for me would be 'unity in diversity' which is an expression of harmony in our country too. The film united artists chosen from different cultures and also shows different character arcs given to each of them. Like every superhero having their unique powers, their individualities are also stark opposite from each other. But what goes wrong in Eternals that doesn't make it feel like an MCU film at all.

Yes, I would call it an out-and-out Chloé Zhao film rather than a Marvel outing which has made fans stick to the franchise for more than a decade now. With Eternals, Zhao brings out her usual elements which she brought out in Nomadland. The never-ageing Eternals have been a part of human life for 7000 years and with every passing decade, they adapt to a new life among new people.

The film shows all the important events in history from Mesopotamia civilisation, Babylon, Gupta Empire to the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, making for a documentary watch. Yes, but amid the human struggles in the advancement of technology and evolving from time to time, Eternals make an appearance to fight Deviants which can easily pass on to be the T-Rex of each century.

While we see Avengers fighting devils, Gods, superhumans, Eternals who have been a part of the Earth for thousands of years choose an easier mission which is shown as the difficult assignment they have signed up for.


Over a decade, we have seen Avengers losing their near and dear ones, also their own lives to save humanity, while Eternals have much more chiller missions which make them just mere spectators while humans are just finding a new purpose to kill each other. Thus, the timing of Eternals release beats the very intention of why it was made in the first place.

The ensemble cast includes Gemma Chan as Sersi, an empathetic one this time who after manipulating inanimate things for centuries settle as a museum curator at Natural History Museum. In the present day, she is in a relationship with Kit Harington as Dane Whitman who has a slight idea of her reality which of course he eventually has to find out, right?

Although she takes up the charge eventually in the film, Chan is what I would call the weakest performer in Eternals. Despite being a superhero, she comes across as a 'cry baby' most of the time. Sadly, with minimal expressions, the actor put forth a disappointing act.


Moreover, Chan and Madden’s chemistry is also a turn down in the film, despite them having the ‘first’ extended lovemaking sequence in an MCU film. They come across better as acquaintances than lovers for centuries.

Whereas, Harington was missed during most of the film, well, humans don't have much space in Eternals. With little of what was seen, his Romeo-like act is a blend of his character from Modern Love and the slightly mysterious aura which Jon Snow from Game of Thrones had.


However, for thousands of years, she has been in a relationship with Richard Madden as Ikaris, who is touted to be one of the most powerful Eternals. With 'Superman' like powers, oh yes that's mentioned in the film, he throws cosmic energy beams from his eyes. Ikaris' deep level romance with Sersi goes on for centuries but a 'long term' relationship has to end someday.

Madden is an actor to watch out for in Eternals. The actor with his charm, romantic looks and also as a power-packed superhero is delightful to witness on the big screen.


Salma Hayek as the spiritual leader of Eternals, Ajak puts up a decent act in the film. Her appearance is limited but mentioned throughout the film. So is Angelina Jolie, who deserved the most screen presence in the Eternals. Her vision in white appearance and stunning performance as the 'Goddess of War' Athena aka Thena will make one go weak in their knees.

This has been a major problem with Eternals, the actors who didn't deserve much of the screen space got it more than the deserving ones. The character arc of Jolie and her camaraderie with Don Lee as Gilgamesh, the strongest Eternal is too palpable for words. Don Lee has made his Hollywood debut with Eternals and what a debut! The actor looks the part and easily gets into the skin of his character.

Two actors who bring comic relief in Eternals are Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo and his valet Karun played by the veteran actor Harish Patel. They bring out the stereotypical Bollywood duo of 'Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge' as Karun has been Kingo's aid for more than 50 years.

Although both make for a great onscreen duo, with the backdrop of blah Bollywood dance numbers is a major buzzkill. When it comes to South Asian representation, Hollywood somehow always disappoints by choosing to portray the usual stereotypes.

When it comes to performances, Nanjiani with his beefed-up Zorro-like look and his incredible dialogue delivery will crack one up instantly. His references of Thor and Odin came across as a Mexican wave with the crowd laughing out loud, but the dialogue about K-Pop boy band BTS seemed forced.

Meanwhile, Patel is adorable as Karun and for that, one should thank Hollywood for giving the veteran actor an opportunity to show his acting prowess. He talks in Hindi, understands the plight of Eternals but also realises what human life has done to the planet, everything. Moreover, Patel is present throughout the film and it's not an 'extended' cameo appearance as a lot of South Asian actors are cast in Hollywood flicks.

The other actors such as Lia McHugh as Sprite, a 12-year-old Eternal whose age stays the same throughout, making her the youngest of them. However, it also is frustrating for someone who wishes companionship after looking at Seri and Ikaris’ undying love for centuries. McHugh with her Tinker Bell approach in her character is a good one but takes up too much of the screen time.

On the other hand, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos who is touted to be the first openly gay superhero deserved to be seen more. His power as an intelligent weapons and technology inventor was among the sole reasons for many inventions and destructive events which took place on Earth. I can repeat by saying that I wish there were more scenes written for him in Eternals.

Meanwhile, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari is the first deaf superhero in the MCU and although her superpowers have been seen in DC and X-Men outings, it’s the actor who plays it that makes it special.

After Chan, another disappointing act in Eternals is by Barry Keoghan who plays the role of Druig. This is why maybe he is hardly seen in the film.


Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo and Kaz Firpo’s screenplay could have been crispier if the runtime would have been shorter. But I give it to the makers about the fact that creative liberty should also be accepted by letting them show elaborative sequences.

However, just like how one of the major drawbacks of Avengers: Endgame were those flashback sequences wherein the superheroes go back to get those stones. Similarly, the flashback sequences in the first half are a death's head at a feast.

Craig Wood and Dylan Tichenor who have edited the film, of course, have a big hand in this. If only, they could have made the edits crispier and not distracting as they turned out to be.

But Ben Davis, the man behind the lens of many MCU films has taken the cinematography of Eternals to top-notch and deserves every credit for it. Some sequences were more of photo-realism, but it indeed hit like a reality.

Apart from Madden and Harington, another Game of Thrones connection in Eternals is the music by Ramin Djawadi, who earlier did his scores for Iron Man in 2008. Well, he knows to put an MCU charm in the film which was far far away from being a Marvel flick.

Getting to like Eternals is a tough nut to crack. But it can be accepted if you watch it like an individual film and not as a part of Phase Four of Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Yes, it’s amongst the weakest MCU films, but kudos to Zhao for a brave attempt of not sticking to the genre.


It’s not an easy verdict to pass or to say if you will like Eternals or not. Well, turns out, this is indeed Sophie's Choice.


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