Review of movie Eternals: Nothing lasts forever
It seems that since the launch of the Marvel cinematic universe, Kevin Feige has never taken such a risk as in 2021. Never before had he had so many opportunities to stumble. It seems that something is wrong with the Eternals movie?
The series on Disney+ might not take off, but they did. "Black Widow" obviously lay on the shelf and lost momentum after the "Finale", but still collected some money and showed itself on streaming. In the end, "Shang Chi" was so risky that even the head of "Disney" Bob Chapek disowned him before the release. But no - the Asian superhero managed to win both the box office and the love of the audience. It seemed that Feiga's team was invulnerable… And then the "Eternals" burst out.
48% on Rotten Tomatoes! Forty-eight! Even the second "Thor", a recognized MCU outsider, has 18% more. And only eight percent separate the Eternals from Whedon's Justice League. No, this does not mean that the film is exactly that bad: you should not unconditionally believe the aggregators - neither now nor ever again. But this means that Marvel has lost the support of the absolute majority of reviewers for the first time. For the first time in 13 years, the studio has released something truly controversial and controversial.
So, the universe in which the events of all Marvel films unfold was created not by natural physical processes and not by a bearded old man in white, but by mighty cosmobogs known as Celestials. It was they who forged stars from the energy of creation and collected galaxies. It was by their will that intelligent life appeared on Earth and other planets. But the universe is imperfect: every now and then mindless predators, nicknamed deviants, interfere with the natural course of evolution. In order to return everything to normal, the Celestials use their faithful servants of the Eternal - ageless humanoids endowed with superpowers. Their task is to exterminate deviants and look after the population of planets, but at the same time stay away from internal conflicts.
Seven thousand years ago, a detachment of such defenders arrived on Earth and successfully cleared it of monsters. Centuries have passed. The exploits of alien heroes have become myths, and they themselves have scattered who where. Some tried to get lost among mortals and lead an ordinary life, others preferred to get away from civilization. But then — already in our time - seemingly extinct deviants suddenly appeared, and their return promises great troubles. So, it's time to assemble a team again.
In the reviews, "Eternal" is often compared to "Justice League of Zack Snyder" (scale, pathos) and "Dune" by Denis Villeneuve (luxurious landscapes, unhurriedness, minimalism in the design of costumes and ships), but structurally, the film, oddly enough, is closest to "The Guardians". There is a long-disbanded team of superheroes, and a mysterious murder that serves as an omen of the coming apocalypse, and flashbacks scattered throughout the timekeeping. There are a couple more common features, but they are already from the spoiler area.
Except Chloe Zhao isn't Alan Moore or Zack Snyder. She is an Oscar-winning director of festival dramas where people dig into themselves against the background of stunningly filmed nature. And basically, "Eternal" is exactly such a movie… But only in those moments when he doesn't have to be a Marvel blockbuster. A similar identity crisis was in Ang Lee's "Hulk", where a movie comic about a green giant fought with a Greek tragedy, and as a result both lost. So Zhao's superhero epic does not complement the chamber drama, but shouts it over. In addition, the film bursts with an abundance of ideas, concepts and themes. Here is the theory of paleocontact, and the origin of myths, and the secret underside of history, and the tragedy of the centenarian, and the exorbitant price of the highest good… Oh yes, and there is also a central conflict, as well as ten (!) characters not familiar to the viewer. And for everything about everything two and a half hours.
Paradoxically, it was the heroes who succeeded best of all to the creators. Almost every one of them turned out, if not to reveal, then at least to imagine, and in such a way that their characters are remembered better than their abilities. Some even got full-fledged arches. For example, Sprite is a local analogue of Claudia from "Interview with a Vampire", that is, an adult woman trapped forever in the body of a teenage girl. She tries to suppress her unfulfilled desires, but she cannot, which is why she has been suffering for more than a century. And the harsh warrior Fina struggles with a kind of superhero dementia throughout the film: centuries of memories tear her consciousness to pieces, which is why she loses control of herself and becomes dangerous to others. And then there is the neurotic genius Fastos, who became disillusioned with humanity, but fell in love with man, and the sarcastic misanthrope Druig, whose views are teetering on the verge of extremism, and the smug jolly Kingo, and the good-natured Gilgamesh, and…
Ten is still too much. The team gathering alone takes three quarters of the timekeeping, which is why the plot is actually stalling on the spot. Like in Josh Trank's damn Fantastic Four, the movie begins, begins, begins and ends. In addition, because of such an abundance of characters, they reveal them at a minimum, albeit very vividly. The same applies to the formal protagonist - Cersei. Just a kind and sensitive girl gets lost against the motley background of her fellow tribesmen. One can, of course, say that all the Eternals are the main characters to one degree or another. But, as you know, "everyone" is at the same time "nobody". And making a movie without the main character is a task, if feasible, then extremely difficult.
It is no less difficult to make a superhero movie without a supervillain. Deviants are just mindless monsters with a rather boring design. They can be replaced at least by the chitauri from the first "Avengers", at least by the minions of Thanos from the last — hardly anyone will notice the substitution. Yes, there is one particularly strong evolving deviant among them, who eventually acquires the voice and facial features of Bill Skarsgard (that's a useless waste of a talented actor), but he does not reach the title of a worthy antagonist. The "Eternals" are trying to do without the usual megalomaniac, trying on the features of a disaster film, where the conditional enemy is a kind of force of nature devoid of motives. And the final confrontation is not a battle between good and evil, but an attempt to reconcile warring ideologies in the face of a common danger. Relevant, dramatic, adult-like... and yet boring to the point of gnashing teeth. Apparently, we will not wait for a worthy replacement for Thanos soon.
In general, in the "Eternal" there is an acute desire of Marvel Studios to make a "real" movie. Such that all the highbrow film critics gasped, and Martin Scorsese took back his offensive words. An instant classic, a pop-cultural pillar, no less. This is indicated by the abundance of stars in the most inclusive cast in the history of film comics, and the pathos soundtrack of Ramin Javadi, and the scale of events, from which even Doctor Strange would faint, and, of course, the choice of the director. Yes, Chloe Zhao was assigned to the project long before she received her Oscar, but even then she was a fashion creator from the festival environment. That is, a potentially new Nolan or Villeneuve is just what you need. Well, after receiving the golden statuette, Zhao became the main star of the entire enterprise. Only now it is clear that Feigi and the company did not fully trust their new favorite. Or she herself, as often happens, got lost on the set and was afraid to push her vision, instead obediently making edits from studio bosses. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: the "Eternal" are woven from contradictions. This is both a drama with an abundance of bright characters, but hastily screwed action, and an unacceptably slow superhero blockbuster, overloaded with chatter - the point of view depends on the audience's preferences. For some, "Eternal", according to the rating on "tomatoes", will be the worst that Marvel dared to release on the big screens, and for others - an ambitious, stunningly beautiful, albeit imperfect film.
One thing is for sure: Kevin Feige took an unprecedented risk, and time will tell whether he will justify himself.