Thursday, November 4, 2021

Eternals

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In the beginning, the Celestials created the universe and populated it with planets that could harbor sentient life, all for the purpose of the Emergence. To ensure the survival of the populace from those worlds’ APEX predators, the Deviants were created, who later evolved to become the very hunters they’re tasked to round up. This led to the birth of the humanoid Eternals, superpowered beings dispatched to counter the deviant threat. In 5000 BC, Celestial Arishem the Judge sends a group of ten to Earth: leader Ajak (Salma Hayek) who has the power to heal; sorceress Sersi (Gemma Chan) who can manipulate inanimate matter; ubermensch Ikaris (Richard Madden) who can fly and shoot laser beams from his eyes; technology inventor Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry) who creates innovative weapons; speedster Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) who has super speed; forever young Sprite (Lia McHugh) who can create illusions; trickster Kingo (Kumail Nanjani) who weaponizes energy blasts; aloof Druig (Barry Keoghan) who controls minds; strongman Gilgamesh (Don Lee) who has super strength; and warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie) who can form cosmic energy weapons with her hands.

The good. Eternals is beautiful. Literally beautiful. Zhao has done an excellent job in coming up with a Marvel film that is not all fight choreography. Here you see a cosmic and, perhaps, a take on the MCU that is a tad more mythological and metaphysical than the first two installments of Thor. With several centuries under her creative license, the director has plenty of visually appealing material grounded in human history and civilization to play around with, ending up with an enthralling visual feast.

The bad. The film is 2 ½ hours long and the plot is non-linear, which gives you the impression that the storyline is messy and all over the place. A chronological unfolding of events could have been a boring and tedious proposition, but the chosen style of execution easily puts off the casual fan used to being spoon-fed. The dialogues also leave a lot to be desired, with the tried-and-tested MCU formula of inserting a punchline everywhere feeling out of place in many scenes, albeit making the material appear like familiar territory.

The ugly. The Eternals are basically gods or conceptualized in such a way to make us believe that they were the very deities our ancestors worshipped back in the day. Thor had this major problem when he entered the MCU but his world has since been nerfed and downgraded so he can play around with the Avengers. They do the same to the Eternals, but only time will tell if they will be welcomed with open arms. Besides, with some of the ten ending up dead, off world, or totally shut out from continuing to take part in the narrative, only Sersi is practically left who could interact with the rest of Marvel’s onscreen heroes.

Jolie is obviously the biggest star among the bunch, but Thena’s character flaws ensure that she is relegated to a supporting role at best, which sucks a bit because her fight scenes are so badass, you’d probably also end up wanting to see more of her. If anything, it is Chan who gets a major upgrade from being a forgettable side character in Captain Marvel all the way to potentially becoming Marvel’s newest sweetheart. The problem is her portrayal of Sersi is rather bland. Either that or the character is just written as such. Let’s cross our fingers that she becomes more interesting should her MCU journey continue.

The controversial sex and gay kissing scene that resulted in the ban of the film in several countries are nothing more than a 10-second half body scene devoid of nudity and around five seconds of a peck in the lips between two guys, respectively, nothing too major to merit such a stir. That those two rather tame scenes ruffled some feathers is only indicative of the prejudiced and hypocritical world we all currently live in.

The mid-credits scene introduces yet another obscure character that has a direct connection with Thanos and leaves the door wide open should Marvel decide to come up with a sequel still contained within the Eternals universe. The post-credits scene hints at the birth of another character saga that could still be explored. Whether through cinema or Disney+ is still totally up in the air, but this no longer comes as a surprise given the casting announcements way back during this movie’s pre-production.

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