ETERNALS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace thought the movie was called Eternals, not that it just went on forever!
I’ll admit that I haven’t watched new Marvel movies with the urgency I used to; the virus has made me wary of movie theaters. With that said, I’m grateful for Disney+ making them as easy to watch as it has. Such was me watching Eternals, adapting comics with which I had no familiarity at all.

I quite liked the opening; the very first shot after the now-famous Marvel intro reminded strongly of a Star Wars movie, with a large ship rendered black in contrast with a blazing star. It encapsulates so much of what I liked about this movie: it is tinged with the space opera I grew up with, and the grandeur of the Golden Age of Science Fiction that I grew up reading. It’s a tone that is more serious than Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain Marvel, with more of the sobriety of something from the middle of the twentieth century.

The premise likewise feels old-school, of ancient (by human standards) beings that nevertheless look like humans dispatched by a cosmic entity to defend humanity from a malevolent alien species. They land in ancient Babylon, and interspersed through the narrative are scenes set in different points in the past in locations spread widely throughout the world. It is this grandeur in its ambitions that is perhaps the film’s greatest strength; there is a great diversity of visual aesthetics that puts you in the mindsets of beings with greater longevity than the average human.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers films, this is another Marvel venture into the world of ensemble casts. It is a strong one; you have Gemma Chan, Richard Madden (who I quite liked in 1917), Kumail Nanjani (who was quite funny in Death to 2020), Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, and Angelina Jolie as your heroes. Of these, Ridloff stands out the most, delivering a performance as a deaf character who communicates only in sign language (and Ridloff is deaf herself). They are all capable of showing off their acting chops at one point or another.

Where the film begins to suffer is when all these characters have to interact. You have eight heroes, along with other characters, and this takes a strain on the themes the plot can address. Eternals is a film that feels distinctly top-heavy; each character gets a degree of development, but not enough to turn them into truly compelling people. This ends up with many cutouts of characters slinging brightly-colored special effects at other cutouts of characters. The whole thing felt a little hollow by the end.

And that ending comes a bit later than it feels it should have. It is a long movie, pushing three hours. I could not help but have thought that this could have been trimmed down to two hours or so (adding maybe fifteen minutes if I’m feeling particularly generous). Here, again, the film feels top-heavy; there simply isn’t enough content to justify the runtime.

Eternals got mixed reviews, and it is a thoroughly mixed film. There is a real ambition in its goals, but its resources are martialed inconsistently. Unfortunately, I know that Marvel can, and has, done far better than this film, as much as I enjoyed the space opera.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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