What? Never heard of these guys? Not surprised. Based on Jack Kirby’s long-forgotten comic book series, these ten superheroes from the planet Olympia have hidden in the shadows for over 7,000 years, but they’ve got to come out and play sometime, right?
Originally sent to Earth by the cosmic Celestials to get rid of some mindless alien creatures called the Deviants, the Eternals defeated them and then stuck around to help humans thrive and prosper, all the while hiding in plain sight. These good guys are: matter-controller Sersi (Gemma Chan), cosmically powerful Ikaris (Richard Madden), wisecracking Bollywood star Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), illusionist tween Sprite (Lia McHugh), engineer & inventor Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), deaf & super-fast Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), mind controller Druig (Barry Keoghan), team leader Ajak (Salma Hayek), elite warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie), and super-strong Gilgamesh (Don Lee).
BUT! The Deviants are just itching for round two and they finally get it after 5000 years. Just after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Iron Man “snapping” everyone back, a worldwide earthquake awakens more Deviants, prompting the “band to get back together”. But in the midst of all this, there are multiple storylines bouncing around (and with 10 main characters, it’s a lot to follow). The lead story deals with Arishem, the cosmic Celestial who has some bad news to give Sersi, once she’s made the leader of the gang; the destruction of Earth is at hand! This event is called the Emergence and the Eternals must try and figure a way to stop it from happening.
Meanwhile, you have backstories aplenty from different time periods, plus a star-crossed lover’s quadrangle between Sersi, her human boyfriend, Dane (Kit Harington), Ikaris, and young Sprite. You also have a schism within the group as Druig hates his non-interfering role, Thena is having major issues with her mind going all schizoid on her, Phastos has a family to think about, and one of the Deviants suddenly acquires conscientiousness and can speak & reason. Not a good sign! And, with this large gathering of dysfunctional “family members”, you always have the tried ‘n’ true bickering, squabbling, and one of them who eventually has to betray the others at some point.
At a lengthy 2hrs and 35mins, it does get long in the tooth, especially with all the backstories, side stories, and that drawn-out “track-down-and-find-the-others” trope which gets old fast. The action and fight sequences are nicely handled and filmed, but the ending is rather anti-climatic, with the MCU’s usual mid-credits teaser promising more to come. Written by director Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), Patrick Burleigh (Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway), and newbie writing cousins, Ryan & Kaz Firpo, the plot isn’t anything special and lacks the creative pizzazz and wow-factor of The X-men, The Avengers, or any of the other MCU mega-blockbusters. Oh sure, it does have all the comic book flavor and trappings we’ve come to expect, but it feels empty and shallow. Not that Zhao didn’t have a handle on the direction; that was well crafted and a highlight of the movie.
And you couldn’t fault the actors, either. For such a large ensemble, each one had some choice moments, but others did shine more than others. It’s no secret that Chan & Madden are BFF’s IRL and it shows on the screen with their chemistry, but for sheer comedic relief, you have to give it to Nanjiani and his agent, Karum (Harish Patel), plus Henry, who had some terrific scenes. Jolie and her bodyguard, Lee were very good, while there simply wasn’t enough Hayek. As of now, Eternals has not been given a green light for any future sequels, despite the fact the ending (and both teasers) left it wide open for one or more. But hey, that’s not the first time that’s happened, right?
**Now showing only in theaters