Does ‘Marvel’s Eternals’ Really Merit Its Rotten Tomatoes Score? Spoiler-Free Review- ScreenHub Entertainment

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a pretty amazing track record with its critical average so far. With over 25 films to date, it’s a small feat that the insanely popular brand hasn’t had any rotten films on popular aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Even Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World remain positive. That all changed with the release of Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, a cosmic superhero film that earned the studio its first rotten rating (48% at the time of this writing. The film is many things, but rotten is not the word I would use to describe this film.

Much like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings before it, I went into Eternals knowing very little about the character and the world. After seeing it though, and seeing that the film is based on characters created by Jack Kirby, I felt that the movie overall had a lot of DC Comic undertones, specifically New Gods, which Kirby also created, and Watchmen. Eternals is a two-hour forty-minute cosmic epic spanning over 7000 years. The film centers on a group of beings known as Eternals who are sent to Earth by the Celestial being Arimesh to combat the Deviants and help mankind’s growth and evolution. Being immortals, the group has lived through many ages in our history and has even become part of our mythology. The film features an ensemble cast, including Gemma Chan as Sersi, Richard Madden as Ikaris, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Lia McHugh as Sprite and Salma Hayek as Ajak. Rounding out the complex and varied group are Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari and Barry Keoghan as Druig. The movie goes a good job at centring the film around a smaller group of the ten brings but also allows each member to have their own moment to shine, with their own motivations and personalities. Of the ten, I thought that Najiani’s Kingo gets relegated the most, as he’s mainly there for comic relief, followed by Kit Harrington as Dane Whitman, who isn’t an Eternal but is romantically involved with Sersi.

[Credit: Marvel Studios]

What doesn’t get sidelined though is the primary characters and the narrative. It’s a very engrossing tale with many grand questions to ask. There isn’t much in the way of right or wrong with this kind of situation and the film presents it, the main conflict of the film, as neither right nor wrong. It was honestly quite refreshing to have a Marvel movie be more ambiguous with its plot and characters. Even acts that would otherwise be seen as evil in other films are presented in a grey zone, with ample justification for the actions. This, along with the cosmic scale of the film and the god-like beings that are the Eternals is what gave the film its more DC feeling roots. Because of the immortal nature of the characters, we get to see them interacting through various points in history and how they struggled with the mandate of not interfering with the conflicts of humanity. They could easily bring about world peace, but getting too hands-on would remove free will from us, but is that a bad thing when the end result means no mass death and destruction?

[Credit: Marvel Studios]

While the core story and characters are interesting, the film’s primary villains, the Deviants, feel more like disposable plot devices, rather than interesting beings themselves. I think the movie thought it was going to make them more complex than they were, the Deviants, which are CGI alien animal things, just come off as generic monsters. They also break up the flow of the movie a bit. Eternals is a clever and complex film but sometimes it feels like a generic CGI was put into the movie by committee for the sake of having a fight scene to break up the chatter and debate. I feel the Deviants derailed the movie on more than one occasion and the film would have been stronger with less action overall. The end fight sequence as well went on for too long and could have easily been cut in half in terms of length. This movie is lengthy and throwing in action scenes because the studio believes that’s what audiences expect actually harms this particular film. Sure, action is a key part of any big-budget comicbook film (save maybe Joker), but for a movie that’s trying too hard to subvert expectations, it feels trapped by the tried, true and perhaps ageing formula that’s made the MCU so popular and lucrative.

[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Special effects are always an integral part of any superhero film and Eternals certainly shines bright in this department, certainly more than Shang-Chi’s effects did as a recent example. The scope feels big and the art design is vivid and naturalistic. This style is also echoed in the costume design, which feels pulled from a 1960s comic run with bold colours that may seem a little goofy but also feel earnest and proud of the source material. While I won’t be rushing out to buy the score anytime soon, Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi has the right music cues for the moment on screen.

[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Overall, Eternals in no way deserves the low critical score it got on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s one of the most complex and open-ended Marvel films to date that’s trying very hard to not feel like a standard Marvel movie. Weaker villains, generic fights and a padded runtime hold the film back from true exceptional greatness, coupled with the movie not being allowed to break away completely from the Marvel formula, no matter how hard it tries. In the end, Eternals was pleasantly layered and complex thanks to its moral ambiguity and compelling leads and the pros ultimately outweigh the cons. Oh, and because you’re totally wondering, there are two after-credit scenes awaiting you at the end, one may raise some eyebrows in confusion and perhaps even disbelief, while another may only resonate with those familiar with the source material.

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