Eternals ★★★

Eternals may be one of the ten most serious films I’ve ever seen. And it’s a superhero movie. I mean, it’s so serious even Zack Snyder got jealous. Rumor is he walked out of a screening and did a double take on the movie poster when it didn’t say “DC.” (Nope. Didn’t happen). What I’m trying to say is this film has all the weight and heft of an afternoon special on childhood leukemia. But, here’s the kicker: I kinda dug it.

However you want to parse and dissect where this lands in the MCU canon - top-tier, mid-tier, shed tears (that original movies are dead), one thing is for damn sure, this is the best cinematography that Mr. Feige has EVER seen, hands down. The film is, simply put, visually stunning. No one shoots landscapes like Chloe Zhao. It is because of her great eye that my most oft-cited MCU critique, namely that these pictures always devolve into a CGI smorgasbord, falls flat. That’s not to say that there isn’t any (Marvel still batting .1000 on bloated, final CGI battles). But it works here because the shots around it are just so freaking spectacular.

Though the story is complex, layered, and littered with terms we’ve never heard before, it coheres. And let’s face it, some of the DC cross-gazing makes a modicum of sense. The latter was always obsessed with casting its heroes as a sort of modern Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses. (Superman as Zeus, etc.) Here we actually finally have a Marvel story which COULD command that kind of gravitas. (Recall, the plot centers around celestial beings essentially directly confronting a god).

This really does Zhao’s take a favor in two ways. First, it lets her traipse the runtime out to a cool 150 minutes, travel the globe with its stars, and cast this pall of self-seriousness around their every movement. People pissed about this film kind of befuddle me in several ways. I suspect it’s more of an IP thing - Where are the superheroes I recognize?! Boohoo! - than really anything else. Regardless, the Thanos snap endangered HALF the planet. Here, Arishem is after the whole kit and kaboodle. Weighty themes are kinda justified.

Secondly, if this is celestial beings doing war with created alien/robot-y/entity/thingies (?), then whatever their warring will loo like, it sure as hell can’t be rendered with practical effects. CGI as the order of the day is actually necessitated here. And I’ve gotta say, to hearken back to my earlier point, it is pretty well-rendered.

Now look, I get it. The movie sometimes feels 17 hours long and as overcrowded with characters as a Thanksgiving dinner where the hosts forgot to pare down the guest list. The themes bandied about are SO heavy that most of the attempts at diversionary love or connections or humor fall flat. (I still love you Bryan Tyree Henry and Barry Keoghan). But I liked most of the performances, connected with a number of these weird characters, and could name 15-20 jaw-dropping shots. It’s a mess of a film that aims for “epic” and lands somewhere around “beautiful.” It’s almost like Eternals is the most unique flick we’ve seen in the franchise yet. Which is to say, Chloe Zhao made a Marvel movie.

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