Eternals ★★★★★

A contemporary epic built both on the myths of its audience and the stories of its own universe, Chloé Zhao's "Eternals" is a sumptuously crafted and thrilling piece of blockbuster filmmaking. Vastly entertaining and meaningful, Zhao's film instantly earns of place in the uppermost tier of its canon and lands as one of the year's best.

Revolving around a band of extra-terrestrial beings living among humanity until summoned to take on a task of universe-expanding importance, the comic book-inspired tale finds these Eternals endeavoring to protect the earthlings with whom they have spent so many years. Facing conflicts within and without, the group becomes embroiled in a dramatic engine that could result in terrible danger to their beloved humans.

The story provides what has come to be expected from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: colorful and neatly drawn characters facing off against high-stakes threats. Where "Externals" excels, however, is in the narrative layers of tragedy, comedy, and heroic adventure it offers, smartly and excitingly dipped themes of reflective mythmaking and representative humanity.

Zhao tells her story with humor, heart, grace, and texture. Her ensemble of memorable faces handles larger-than-life theatrics with down-to-earth ease, each member adding energy to the work and never overshadowing the other. Action set-pieces blend with character beats seamlessly, and the works flows with a rhythm both outsized and personal.

Those rhythms are illustrated in detailed and lavish designs that pay homage to the work's source material and catch the eye. The color palette is lush and lively, polishing real-world and comic book imagery with both an classic mist and a contemporary pop.

Composed with vigor and class, Chloé Zhao's "Eternals" at once fulfills expected formula, holds a mirror to storytelling both ancient and current, and pushes its own form into the future. Lovely and grand, boisterous and personal, the film is a ravishingly appealing popcorn treat.

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