A quick review of The Eternals
The Eternals is a very good movie. It's beautiful to look at, exciting, and gets viewers invested in its characters. It makes no major mistakes. It's easy to rate a move when they fail at any of these things, but when there's nothing wrong, what's left to debate is whether a film is good or great.
I'm inclined to call Eternals the later: it's boldly ambitious. One can debate whether it succeeded in those ambitions -- I thought it did -- but I think it is beyond dispute that everyone involved aspired to something monumental, which is something I will praise regardless of outcome. There is a sense of enormity to the film that brings to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ultimately, though, every film's reception depends on what the viewer is looking for.
This is a movie aimed at comic book nerds who also read books. It's not a kids film. There's nothing a kid couldn't enjoy, but the pacing and themes are clearly intended for adults. In one moment, we're treated to a very intimate lovemaking scene, which is a big departure for a studio known for modeling all romance off of middle-school crushes. The maturity is one of the best things about this movie. We see a gay character whose sexuality is no more of interest than that of the straight characters. It's ironic in some ways that a movie with characters so unrelatable and inhuman have so many people that exist in ways that real people are rarely shown doing. And even more remarkably, it doesn't feel like pandering because the movie communicates to us clearly that while a deaf person or a middle-aged Indian man may be unique, it isn't because of those qualities directly, only in the ways that those qualities might've colored their personality, which itself is all of what we find interesting about them.
This movie is an attempt to adapt a certain set of artistic concepts within American comics that have long felt unadaptable. Jack Kirby pioneered a style of storytelling focused on heroes of mythic proportion. These concepts aren't foreign: almost every comic book author tries to one-up their peers by telling a story where the universe itself will be wiped to nothingness by a vengeful god if a hero can't stop them with powers over all space and matter. But translating this to a film requires convincing the audience of the power involved while also maintaining an investment and keeping the limits and boundaries defined enough for any conflict to be more than random glowing bullshit and clenched jaws. Kirby's vision was essentially to merge Homeric epics of feuding gods with the funkiest art he could think of. It is not for people who like things simple or prefer their characters grounded and relatable. It's also not for those with limited interest or patience. Other than that, I have a hard time imaging a curious viewer not appreciating what was clearly a work of deep passion for director Chloé Zhao and the rest of the film's incredible cast and crew.
This movie told a story using constant flashbacks to critical junctures in history to root the characters in the story of humanity itself, and I would recommend it to any comic book fan who enjoys serious stories in which that seriousness isn't just built upon darkness or violence. Its wonderful story would've worked better as a miniseries, but I appreciate the need to put this on a large screen. I found it moving and exciting. I loved it, and would give it 4/5 stars.