Eternals review: an entertaining $200 million trailer for the Eternals sequel
Marvel's new epic arrives in Irish cinemas this week.
It took Marvel over a decade and twenty movies to jump from the solo adventures of Iron Man to the universe-saving epic-ness of Avengers: Endgame. With that phase of the MCU essentially put to bed, where do you go from there? While Shang-Chi felt like a step towards some more intimate stories, Eternals sees them go straight into setting up a whole new Avengers-esque group.
Millenia of personal relationships, mythos and definitions are squeezed into 157 minutes, and by the end credits one thing is painfully obvious: this movie should've been split down the middle, to give everyone in it (and us watching it) a bit more room to breathe.
The opening crawl tells of gods at the beginning of all creation - yep, we're going THAT far back - who created these Eternals to protect the universe from Deviants - inexplicably evil monsters that look a bit like the aliens from Edge of Tomorrow. One particular group of Eternals have been assigned to Earth to protect humanity, and we see the all-star cast in many different time periods successfully kill them all.
At least until one day in modern day London, matter manipulator Sersi (Gemma Chan) and her human boyfriend Dane (Kit Harrington) are attacked by a Deviant, so she decides it might be time to reunite the now-estranged family and see what's going on.
One by one we're introduced to each of the Eternals: the Superman alike Ikaris (Richard Madden) who also happens to be Sersi's ex, weapons creator and ultimate warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie), projectile hands and Bollywood star Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), eternally young and visual projector Sprite (Lia McHugh), mind controller Druig (Barry Keoghan), all round genius Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), super strong Gilgamesh (Don Lee), super speedy Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), and group leader and healer Ajak (Salma Hayek).
It is a testament to Chloe Zhao's directing and the intricate scripting that nobody ever really gets lost in the shuffle, there's never a sense of "Who is that again?", and the cast successfully bring an otherworldly nature to their roles, both god-like but embracing the humanity around them.
However, with so much of the movie setting up the characters and their interpersonal dynamics, there isn't much room left over for the usual Marvel bombast.
Not that every superhero movie needs to stick to the same rigid structure and formula, and this story certainly takes us to some very interesting times and places - Hiroshima in WWII, modern day Iraq, and the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon are all visited.
Plus, Eternals gives us our first openly queer superhero, our first deaf and mute superhero, and our first sex scene. The big ideas seem to be tackling the pros and cons of blind faith in religious leaders (you'll understand it when you see it), but also could be a vampire parable: the loneliness of living forever, never truly letting humanity know your true nature.
There is A LOT going here. Too much for one movie. It culminates in a decent, pressure-release action sequence around an erupting volcano, but perhaps the biggest problem with Eternals is that it feels like a $200 million trailer for the next Eternals movie. Now we've got to know everyone and the table has been properly set, maybe the next one won't feel so formal and we can have more fun with them.
Eternals arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 5 November.
All clips via Disney Ireland