Marvel’s “Eternals” came to theaters this Friday with high expectations placed upon its shoulders. It’s among the first movies in “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU,) alongside “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
As such, fans expected this movie to deliver the action and charm of previous entries while simultaneously setting the stage for a new era in superhero storytelling.
With a score of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s hard to say if “Eternals” accomplished everything it set out to do. I’m not the type to judge a piece of media immediately after watching it or after having seen it only once, but as of writing, I’m certain of two things — the movie was both well made and entertaining.
At nearly three hours of runtime, “Eternals” packs so much information into one movie that it almost reaches the point of confusion. After all, there are pretty much 10 main characters to learn about and keep track of, in addition to the already complex and twisting plot. I found myself actually wanting to take notes in order to remember the characters’ names and relationships. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s understandable that it would turn some people off when they see it for the first time.
I have a feeling, though, that as Marvel’s Phase Four develops further and the characters introduced in “Eternals” find their way into the plots of other movies, viewers will warm up to the way in which they were introduced. People watch Marvel movies primarily for spectacle, action and plot that’s only as deep as it needs to be. On all of these fronts, “Eternals” delivered.
Another reason for the movie’s low rating could be that it showcases the most diversity of any Marvel movie to date. It features the MCU’s first on-screen kiss between two men. In addition, the main characters speak a variety of languages and interact with cultures all over the world during the movie’s runtime.
It’s a big step for Disney as a whole, who has been accused of limiting diversity efforts to small, inconsequential scenes that could be cut from movies before they’re shown in other countries. In “Eternals,” diversity is center stage and impossible to divorce from the fabric of the film itself. For this reason alone, it wouldn’t be surprising if some reviewers were upset.
“Eternals” also tries to break away from the cookie cutter style of storytelling that Marvel has shown over the years. It’s a non-linear story that focuses more on characters and relationships than plot. It uses action more strategically and purposefully in a way that viewers aren’t used to after years of gratuitous violence. In “Eternals,” conflict really means something, but that doesn’t mean it’s a snooze fest. The movie does a great job of punctuating its runtime with the cool CGI fights that we’ve come to know and love, but it approaches them in a new and interesting way.
All things considered, “Eternals” is a perfectly fine entry of the MCU that earns its spot among the other 7,000 movies that came before it. It might not be the scene-setting, hype-building kickoff for the next phase of movies that everyone was hoping for, but it’ll do. It accomplished some interesting things, showed off some cool, alien-punching action and had some funny jokes. And when you’re watching a Marvel movie, what more do you really need?