‘Eternals’ Explores The Scope Of Humanity And The Power Of Compassion – Review
“When you love something, you protect it. It’s the most natural thing in the world.”
November 5, 2021, could not come sooner for Eternals to officially come out in theatres. I remember seeing the Eternals announcement at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 and the immediate excitement I felt. After the amazing privilege of getting to see this movie at the world premiere, I was astounded by what this cast and crew have created. When I first saw how large this ensemble was, I was concerned that the movie would feel split with no guidance on who to focus on. In actuality, through Chloe Zhao’s vision and the incredible ensemble, we can connect and see everyone’s story and relationships. This can make the movie feel a little slow at times because it leads to a lot of exposition, especially in the beginning, but it sets up a great third act in the movie.
Eternals is truly a beautiful and compelling story on the complexity, vulnerability, and strength of humankind while challenging the boundaries of morality. Because the Eternals are powerful, long-living beings, we see through their point of view how humankind evolved over the course of history, and we are reminded of both the great horrors of humanity but also the great kindness of humanity.
With an ensemble this large, the movie manages to explore all of the characters and their motivations and their relationships with one another over the centuries they spend together. The writing team of Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo weave these stories together through masterful uses of vignettes that tie together the past and the present. As a result, some of the film’s most striking scenes often deliver beautifully poetic moments or a gut-punching narrative impact.
I would be remiss if I did not touch upon and celebrate the diversity of this cast and these characters, and also how dang beautiful this entire cast is. Given how many different characters there are and how much we got to see their relationships and backgrounds, I truly believe everyone will find someone that they resonate with on screen. Kumail Nunjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, and Lauren Ridloff were such triumphs in their respective roles and, despite how long the movie already is, I wanted more of them and their stories. Salma Hayek delivers a beautifully complex maternal role and Angelina Jolie is a stunner with the perfect balance of ferocity and vulnerability as Thena. Lee and Jolie’s roles as Gilgamesh and Thena had such fantastic chemistry that made me want so much more screen time of them together. Richard Madden as Ikaris has such a strength that’s expected from the typical hero and is such a fantastic contrast and opposite to Gemma Chan’s Sersei.
What I loved most about this movie, which I must attribute to the phenomenal work of Zhao, Gemma Chan, and the writing team, is Sersei’s role throughout the entirety of this movie. Sersei is truly like no other hero we’ve seen in the MCU. She’s a reminder that kindness and compassion are not weaknesses for a hero; it is what makes her a hero.
To anyone who knows me, they will know about my love for Gemma Chan and her incredible acting and story-telling. As Sersei, Chan is phenomenal and delivers a softness, gentleness, and vulnerability to her character that showcases how strong the Eternal is. Her portrayal constantly makes you root for Sersei and, because we see so much of the movie from her perspective, you can’t help but fall in love with humanity all over again because of how much she loves humankind. I truly believe Marvel recasting her from Minn-Erva to Sersei has been one of the smartest casting decisions on their part because Chan shines in this role.
Eternals is beautiful in its visuals and its storytelling. Zhao has brought a very new take on a Marvel movie. Whereas Marvel movies typically contain a constantly moving or a fast-paced narrative, Zhao has the audience sit in the quiet, thoughtful moments. It reminds me of ma, where the negative space of art holds just as much importance and weight as the rest of the art piece. In the still moments that Zhao chooses to showcase, the audience is forced to ruminate alongside the characters on screen just what actions they will take and what their actions have already done.
Given all of that, I will admit that Eternals starts a little slow because of how many characters there are in the main ensemble and how much exposition is needed to lay the foundation. The vignettes, as beautifully done as they are and as necessary as they are to push the story forward, were frequent and sometimes pulled me out of the moment. I do think Zhao and the writing team were given a fairly difficult story to tell and they met that challenge in spades. This movie is visually stunning. The special effects team killed it, as they usually do in Marvel movies, but the style and aesthetic are so ethereal, futuristic, and cosmic all at the same time that I was in awe every time I saw it on screen.
Overall, Eternals is a triumph in storytelling and I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to experience it. Also, an incredibly important message: there are two post-credit scenes with major reveals so stick around to catch them.