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Film Review: Oscar Winner Chloé Zhao Brings New Life and Style to “Eternals”

By Steve Prokopy, Third rib examination:

In the original “Eternals” comics from creator / artist Jack Kirby, these immortal heroes have lived on Earth, directing, guiding, helping humans evolve for thousands of years, and protecting us from humanity’s oldest enemy, the deviant. And although they may have merged with the Earthlings, there was no possible confusion with these beings for what they are: gods. Now that Marvel has finally brought the Eternals to the big screen, under the leadership of recent Oscar winner Chloe Zhao (Nomadic country, The horseman), they call themselves gods but, for the most part, the reason they blend in so well with humans is that they are like us, with all of the same flaws, egos, and weaknesses of those we are they swore to protect. It might seem like a subtle change from comics to film, but it makes Eternals the movie looks slightly smaller and less than it should, despite being one of the longest-running Marvel movies ever made.

And it’s not entirely a review of the film, either. Part of the reason Zhao and co-writers Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo made these ancient beings seem so relevant is that, in one movie, having a storyline filled with nearly a dozen gods would feel so overloaded with gravity as to be unbearable. In this version of the Eternals, they are gentle protectors, following the lead of their benevolent overlords, the Celestials (yes, even the gods answer someone), who have asked them not to interfere in human affairs. unless it involves the Deviants. That’s why they didn’t step in when Thanos or Ultron made their intentions known, or when various wars and genocides happened, or when the Kardashians first had their own reality show. It’s a decent explanation for how these overpowered beings could have been all around us but never made their presence known as heroes.

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Eternals is as long as it is because there are a lot of stories to tell and a lot of characters to follow, and I love that Zhao and his team aren’t in a rush to rush to the next action sequence or to openly link this movie with the bigger MCU (in fact, aside from a few names of other Marvel characters, Eternals might be the least connected of these movies to the larger universe since the first guardians of the galaxy). So, when the Deviants reappear on Earth after hundreds of years of extinction (and causing major tragedy in the world of the Eternals), the troops rally together and the group must not only find these invaders, but figure out why this attack. particular feels different and more focused on them than on humans.

The most memorable cast of Eternals features Richard Madden as the usually powerful Ikaris who first stood out as a team leader, until his long lost love Sersi (Gemma Chan) was given the mantle of leader by Ajak ( Salma Hayek), the group’s direct link with the Celestials. Also on hand are Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), who became a Bollywood star in his spare time, with an assistant, Karun (Harish Patel), who documents his every move; Sprite (Lia McHugh), the old looking young soul; The super strong Gilgamesh (Don Lee), who acts as a kind of protector of the warrior goddess Thena (Angelina Jolie), who is slowly losing control of her mind due to a unique illness; the extraordinary inventor Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), one of the few Eternals to ever get married, which can be difficult for an immortal; speedster Makkari (deaf artist Lauren Ridloff); and Druig (Barry Keoghan), who controls spirits and is sort of a black sheep in the group. Together, they scour the world in search of pockets of deviants, at least one of which seems to have the ability to suck life force from the Eternals, making themselves stronger, smarter, and less monstrous. Kit Harrington, Sersi’s love interest Dane Whitman also hovers on the fringes of the story, which will likely be much bigger in future Marvel films (watch it).

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Eternals Also jumps back in time a bit, not only between the world events that shaped human history where the Eternals have been involved, but more recent history in which secrets about these new Deviants are revealed. We discover more about the internal dynamics within the group: who is more or less trustworthy than the others; who is more or less devoted to the letter of the law established by the Celestials; and finally, who wants to save the Earth from a rather savage fate. Allegiances change and then change again, factions are formed and lives are lost in the process. But very little of this movie feels like a traditional Marvel movie (a truth that may really bother some people), from Zhao’s emphasis on quaint visuals to how the battle sequences are handled. There are probably too many characters to give everyone their due in terms of character development, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling in love with a lot of the Eternals team.

While Eternals feels like it opens up possibilities in future Marvel movies, with its cliffhanger ending it feels like the first part of something a lot more standalone (again, kinda like the Guardians movies). I can’t say that I enjoyed all of the choices Zhao and his team make in terms of presenting the Deviants, and given that she’s supposed to be the main protagonist of this story, Sersi is probably the least interesting character. here. But this one grabbed my attention as well as my plot for this continuing story in a way I hadn’t anticipated, and based on the film’s two credits sequences, I’m extremely curious to see where those stories go. from here. No one filmmaker can please everyone, and I especially appreciate that Zhao made her style of filming for herself; she breathed a new lived spirit into superhero movies while keeping things entertaining and creative. Hopefully Marvel will take more risks like this in their future storytelling or at least let Zhao lead the promised sequel.

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Categories: Movie, Review, Screens

Tagged as: Angelina Jolie, Barry keoghan, Brian Tyree Henry, Chloe Zhao, Don lee, Gemma chan, Harish patel, Jack kirby, Kaz Firpo, Kit Harrington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Patrick burleigh, Richard madden, Ryan firpo, Salma hayek

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