'Eternals' Is An Ambitious Slow-Burn That Works
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'Eternals' Is An Ambitious Slow-Burn That Works

This is unlike any Marvel Cinematic Universe film you'd ever seen. Depending on your tastes, that's a good or bad thing

A still image from Marvel's "Eternals" including (left to right) Lauren Ridloff (Makkari), Ma Dong-seok (Gilgamesh), Angelina Jolie (Thena), Richard Madden (Ikaris), Salma Hayek (Ajak), Gemma Chan (Sersi), Lia McHugh (Sprite) and Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos).
Walt Disney Company/Marvel

When "Eternals" director Chloé Zhao earned an Oscar for her film "Nomadland" in 2021, all movie-goers' eyes were on her next project about god-like superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The expectations were already high, and – from this point of view – she nailed it.

It's hard to explain the movie's plot without spoiling it, but here's a non-spoiler synopsis: 10 centuries-old superheroes in the MCU have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Their original purpose is to protect mankind from their most ancient enemy: aliens called Deviants. But after the events of "Avengers: Endgame," a sudden tragedy forces them out of hiding to reunite. The film stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry and Barry Keoghan.

Marvel Studios' Eternals | Final Trailer youtu.be

For a general audience that doesn't read Marvel comics, these superheroes are unknowns until now. Their powers range from mind control and matter manipulation, to illusions and super strength. In a stacked character cast like this, it's virtually impossible to give each one a meaningful presence in the film. But Zhao brings each Eternal down to earth with human connection and relatable, believable emotions: a signature move for Zhao's films.

All actors do a phenomenal job of bringing their counterparts to life, so it'll be hard to pick a favorite.

“Introducing The Eternals" Featurette | Marvel Studios' Eternals www.youtube.com

Between the awe-inspiring production design, stunning visual effects and gorgeous costume design, there's plenty to love in this epic film. But "Eternals" thrives in its story-telling and plot by lacing in real-life historical locations and early civilizations. It adds depth to these characters and their situations, but it also adds rich history that hasn't been achieved by a Marvel film at this scale yet. Yes, there's A LOT to unpack, but it doesn't feel overstuffed. With a run time of two hours and 37 minutes, the film uses each moment wisely.

The fact that it doesn't feel like a Marvel movie is a good thing. Gone are the oddly-timed jokes and meaningless, drawn-out fight scenes. Instead, they're replaced with jokes that don't ruin the mood and fights with a purpose that feels more relevant to the characters' relationships and fate of humankind.

As exciting as the movie is, there are a couple of character choices that are questionable in the last half of the movie. It's easy to spin the decisions as part of the character's personality therefore it's a logical choice, but there's something about the two major decisions doesn't sit well. It would be a spoiler to reveal the "who" and the "what," so this review doesn't go into specifics.

Other than the minor flaws, this film is fantastic and deserves all the opening weekend support. For those who can enjoy the slow burn with an open mind, there's a huge reward in the experience of watching "Eternals."

Score: 9/10

See "Eternals" in theaters starting Friday, November 5. There are two credit scenes.

Follow the reporter Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia or follow her podcast Plot Devices.

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