entertainment

The Eternals review: 'An ambitious and unique Marvel entry - and a first for gay representation'

Spoiler-free, FYI!

2021-10-27

Words: Joey Passmore; picture: Disney

This year has been the most Marvel-packed to date. From TV shows like WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Solider to movies like Black Widow and Shang Chi, Disney has kept us on our toes, to… varying degrees of success.

In November, a group of immortal beings that helped shape civilisation centuries ago, come to the big screen for the first time to save humanity from the deadly Deviants.

But with fewer immediately recognisable Marvel characters than most, a story far removed from what we’ve seen so far, a huge shift in tone as well as one of the longest-running times yet, does The Eternals bite off more than it can chew?

Over the years, Disney has become more and more innovative with their choices of filmmakers for the MCU, and multi-Oscar winning, indie director Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) is no departure from this. It’s a shame for The Eternals that it came out so close to the massively anticipated Dune - both sprawling, cinematography-focused blockbusters with a unique and unconventional approach. And in most departments, Dune pulls this off to greater success. 

But in its own universe, it’s still one of Marvel’s greater triumphs. Given it’s a more ambitious and unique entry, The Eternals will divide opinion more than your Iron Mans or Captain Americas: it's far more character and story-driven than any of the films that have led up to it, as Zang takes the time and care to develop each of her 10 heroes in expense of the fast-paced, action-filled affair we just got with Shang Chi, for example. Some of the character development in this one film is more intriguing than what some Avengers have had in 10 years of movies. 

No one is here simply for throwaway one-liners; everyone contributes something to the emotional core of the narrative. Angelina Jolie is one of the highlights as Thena, the powerful but somewhat damaged warrior. And Lauren Ridloff excels as the lightning-fast Makkari, who is gender-swapped from the comics and is our first deaf superhero.

And on the subject of firsts, we finally have our first gay representation in an MCU movie. And we don’t mean a blink and you miss it cameo from an unnamed extra… but a walking, talking, superhero with a story arc, superhuman abilities, and a same-sex relationship. Despite being long overdue, seeing this on a big screen is still a huge, emotional step forward for audiences as well as the superhero and blockbuster genres. Let’s hope that this is only the start and LGBTQ+ representation only increases from here on out.

One of the film's biggest successes is the grand task of somehow making the far-fetched reasonings as to why these superhumans wouldn’t have lent a helping hand over the years make sense. (With, say, the world wars, or half the population being wiped out.)

The world-building here is something to be proud of and although the dramatic shift in tone from the rest of the universe may be difficult for some to swallow, The Eternals is still a huge accomplishment in filmmaking that has a lot to satisfy fans with.

4/5

The Eternals is out in cinemas on 5 November 2021.