The Eternals review: Lacking urgency and inspiration, this celestial troop fails to fill the void left by the Avengers in MCU
After the Avengers Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have been feeling bereft and waiting for another super troop to arrive and take over the reins. I am disappointed to report the Eternals will not be that group despite 7000 years of expertise in the department. The whole group put together brings perhaps MCU’s most uninspired and insipid origin story we have seen of late.
The film starts with the arrival of The Eternals on planet Earth in 5000 B.C. The ten super-powered beings hail from Olympia and are here on a mission to rid the planet of Deviants. Salma Hayek as Ajak is charged by the Celestial Arishem to lead this group and keep them away from interfering in any human conflicts or matters which do not pertain to the Deviants (shiny multi-coloured CGI beings ravaging the earth and threatening the human race). There you go, that is your answer to why we never saw them fighting alongside the Avengers as Thanos snapped his finger and wiped off half the world.
For a group that isn’t supposed to get too attached to the human race (but does), that’s a pretty convenient and (unconvincing) response to a crisis, especially since these powerful beings love to discuss ‘the blip’ every opportunity they get in the present with Richard Madden’s Ikaris also being utterly convinced that he could lead the Avengers now and Don Lee’s Phastos even working on inventions to help aid human evolution. Well, this isn’t about the Avengers but the entire film is certainly as unconvincing as their argument about keeping away.
The Eternals is as divided a group as any other. The gang that loves to stand in formation before and after each group victory disbands after having killed all Deviants and each goes their own way to discover their purpose and live seemingly normal lives only to unite again in the 21st century when a Deviant (surprise surprise) seeks out Gemma Chan’s Sersi and Lia Mchugh’s Sprite who have been living in London together. Sersi who married Ikrais centuries ago is seen dating Kit Harrington’s Dane who she works with at the Natural History Museum. Sersi and Sprite are barely surviving the combat till Ikaris arrives and drives the beast away. The three reunited Eternals set out to find the rest of their fellow Olympians after discovering that the Deviants still roam the Earth and kick off the plot which is a total bore-fest.
You can feel the eternity-long mission weighing down on these immortal beings unlike any other origin story of a superhero film where the excitement builds with the discovery of their one true purpose. As we come to the third act, some like Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo don’t even mind giving up the whole job in favour of a comparatively monotonous life on Earth, instead of taking on an inspired new mission. While Chloé Zhao succeeds as a filmmaker convincingly transports us back and forth over 7000 years, she fails to make us believe in the urgency of the purpose of the Eternals. The stunning visuals and the lush scenery does little to attract attention when some of the key actors are wasting away in the narrative which is two-and-half-hours long.
Angelia Jolie’s Thena, for example, is there in the plot but absent when it comes to contributing to the group’s own survival in a crisis. Salma Hayek as Ajak too is far too removed to actually count as trouble comes knocking. It is certainly established that the plot is to be pushed forward by Gemma’s Sersi and Richard’s Ikaris who are united by love but divided by purpose. As for the rest, the Deviants aren’t villainous enough and the Eternals are united enough to count.
Despite the gloom, that mars the plot, Harish Patel and Kumail Nanjiani shoulder the responsibility to deliver laughs and succeed to a large extent. Kumail plays a Bollywood star as Kingo and is as good as Hollywood’s imagined and stereotypical sense of Bollywood goes. There’s a scene where he’s fighting a Deviant in the present with the rest of the Eternals and goes ‘dishoom’ on actually managing to kill one all alone. Harish, the actual Bollywood representation in the project plays Kingo’s valet Karun who goes around capturing his adventures with the Eternals on camera.
The diversity on display in The Eternals is amazing and commendable as these immortals roam all corners of the Earth over their thousands of years of existence. Cultural, ethnic, gender, sexuality – the film has several layers of inclusiveness involved to make a point but it certainly does nothing to help the plot that is consistently leaving you with more questions as the movie progresses. For example at one point, Kumail’s Kingo reveals he knew Odin’s son Thor since he was a child pointing to the fact that an Avenger actually knew that the Eternals existed. This makes you wonder why he didn’t ever (even in the direst and desperate circumstances) approach him to seek help.
There are a few such instances that leave you baffled and are actually the things that stay with you hours after the movie. It is hard to say you know the Eternals as a group or as individuals by the end of the film which is the fact which stumped me the most. The curiosity over this new MCU offering can certainly drive you to the theatres but would this super troop be able to bring you back there again is the real question that the makers have to find a solution for after this underwhelming outing.