‘Eternals’ is ambitious and ‘refreshingly diverse’, but overcrowded and ‘a nap’, critics say

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An ambitious and unique film, “Eternals” is arguably one of the most divisive installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Disney film, which introduces nearly a dozen new main characters into the canon, has received mostly positive reviews ahead of its release next week. Attempts to build knowledge, flesh out key heroes, and link back to previous films in the series make the film feel overcrowded, critics say.

Directed by Academy Award winner Chloe Zhao, “Eternals” introduces 10 members of a race of immortal beings who spent 7,000 years on Earth defending it from beasts known as Deviants.

Today, these creatures are scattered across different regions, with Sirse (Gemma Chan) working as a museum curator in London. She has had a love affair with Ikaris (Richard Madden) over the centuries, but is currently involved with a human named Dane (Kit Harington).

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) is a popular Bollywood star, Gilgamesh (Don Lee) is a strongman living in isolation in the Australian outback and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) lives with his husband and son in suburban Chicago.

Sprite (Lia McHugh) appears as an androgynous preteen with the ability to create illusions and Druig (Barry Keoghan) has distanced himself from the rest of the group because he disagrees with how they have treated humanity through the ages.

The other Eternals are Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), who is deaf and has super speed; Thena (Angelina Jolie), a fierce warrior struggling with a mental illness that stems from having too many memories; and Ajak (Salma Hayek), the leader of the group, who keeps a secret about why the team was sent to Earth in the first place.

Their free-flowing, all-for-one unity extends in spirit to the diversity of its characters, something the film presents with a no-big-deal boldness that makes them a winning prototype of a more dynamically inclusive superhero world,” Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review of the film for Variety. “Four of the Eternals are white, three are Asian, two are black and one is Latina. One is gay, one is deaf and one is an androgynous tween who never matures.”

For some critics, Zhao’s directing coupled with a “refreshingly diverse” cast is enough to make “Eternals” stand out from other entries in the MCU. Others are less convinced, disappointed that film will eventually fall back into Marvel’s traditional formula.

“You walk out with the depressing realization that you’ve just seen one of the more interesting movies Marvel will ever make, and hopefully the least interesting Chloe Zhao will ever make,” wrote Justin Chang in his review for The Los Angeles Times.

Currently, the film has a 62% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 107 reviews. This percentage may change over the next week as more reviews are added to the site.

Here’s what critics thought of Marvel’s “Eternals” ahead of its November 5 theatrical release:

Esther Zuckerman, thriller

“Marvel has gained a reputation for hiring fantastic filmmakers and flattening their styles, and while ‘Eternals’ certainly doesn’t play like everything else Zhao has done, nor does it dampen her vision,” Esther Zuckerman wrote in her review of the film for Thrillist.

“Amid all the magic and austere costumes, Zhao has created a film that is both humane and earthy, but also wonderfully weird, a film where the internal debates between superhumans are more interesting than the punches they throw,” she said.

Zuckerman noted that the film is a bit messy and full to the brim with plot points that get bogged down and overcomplicate the overall story.

“‘Eternals’ is, of course, part of a bigger plan, as evidenced by the much-discussed post-credits scenes that weren’t shown during the New York screening I attended, but were instantly spoiled by some in Los Angeles,” she added. . . “It’s a film that comes into its own best when it floats in a more primordial space, disconnected from what preceded it.”

Read the full Thrillist review.

John Nugent, Empire

“Eternals” is storytelling on an “epic scale,” wrote John Nugent in Empire’s review of the film.

The film is from 5,000 BC. to the present day and relies heavily on flashbacks to explain what the Eternals have been up to for over 7,000 years.

“When you play on such a colossal stage, it is inevitably a challenge to keep the focus on the (super)human level,” he wrote. “Zhao takes the time to introduce everyone, and spends much of the running time (at 157 minutes, this is the MCU’s second-longest movie after ‘Endgame’) trying to get the team of ten back together, after centuries of difference.”

“It’s undeniably refreshing to see such a mix in the lineup – these ancient immortals talk in Irish brogues or American Sign Language without ever feeling the need to tackle it – but some characters leave more of an impression than others, Nugent added.

He pointed to Nanjiani as a star in the film, but noted that other characters such as Sersi and Ikaris are saddled with generic dialogue and “stifling seriousness.”

Read the full Empire review.

Mick LaSalle, Datebook

Much of Marvel’s latest film revolves around Sersi traveling the world to pick up her colleagues and convince them to join her to save the planet, Mick LaSalle explained in his review for Datebook.

“Some do, some don’t,” he wrote. “Some need to be talked into it. Some don’t care at all. ‘Eternals’ is like a movie about a horse race that focuses all the attention on characters who don’t own a horse and don’t like to gamble.”

“It takes a special kind of anti-magic film to make an entire audience indifferent to the possible destruction of Earth and all life on it,” LaSalle wrote. “‘Eternals’ manages it.”

Read the full Datebook review.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

“Seriously, what a snooze,” Johnny Oleksinski wrote in his review for the New York Post. Fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Director for ‘Nomadland,’ Chloe Zhao has nailed one of the MCU’s worst films in ages.

“Angelina Jolie’s Thena has a bar of soap personality and an accent that suggests her semester abroad in London was the best four months of her life,” he wrote.

“All the characters are equally boring,” he said, criticizing the superhero team for being generic and not well developed. While each member of the Eternals has a special power, they share similar abilities such as super strength, invulnerability, accelerated healing, and flight.

“But here you go ticket buyers — a much worse, uniformed collective of super-beings with strikingly similar powers and a vague, grandiose mission to save humanity,” Oleksinski wrote. “Well, where were our amazing protectors when hundreds of innocent people walked into a crappy two-hour and 37-minute movie Monday night?”

Read the full New York Post review.

Revelation: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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