In the world of comics, whenever people sit down and talk about the great creators of the industry, one of the first names that comes to mind is the great Jack Kirby,
In the mid-1970’s, Kirby, known for co-creating a few Marvel Comics characters in the 1960’s with Stan Lee (ex: The Incredible Hulk, X-Men) returned to work for the publisher after a legendary run at DC Comics which would include work on Superman, and The New Gods, Kirby created a fictional extra-terrestrial race of humanoids originally called “The Celestials”, however, after a couple of name changes Kirby and Marvel decided to stick with The Eternals. Issue #1 of the original comic series was published in July of 1976, and many iterations have followed in the pages of Marvel Comics throughout the years.
More than 45 years later, Jack Kirby’s otherworldly god-like creations are finally introduced to the big screen, via the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in the much-anticipated film, simply titled Eternals. Directed by recent Academy Award-Winner Chloe’ Zhao (Nomadland), Eternals, similar to the comics, tells the story of god-like members of a small immortal alien race sent by Arisham, a being who is known as a Celestial– essentially, the architect of the entire universe. Each of the beings that Arisham sends, Ajak (played by Salma Hayek), Kingo (played by Kumail Nanjiani), Ikaris (played by Richard Madden), Sersi (played by Gemma Chan), Druig (played by Barry Keoghan), Phastos (played by Brian Tyree McHenry), Gilgamesh (played by Don Lee), Makkari (played Lauren Ridloff), Thena (played by Angelina Jolie), and Sprite, who comes in the form of a little girl (played by Lia McHugh) would protect humanity from the Deviants for several millennia, using their various abilities, such as Sersi’s manipulation of matter, Makkari super-speed (which would make The Flash and Sonic the hedgehog seem slower than a Toyota Prius by comparison), and Phastos’ technomancing (aka, being the ultimate technological genius). Even after they seemingly defeat all of the Deviants by the 1500’s, they are still forbidden from interfering in any human affairs, regardless of any human life that may be lost. Once we get to present day, a resurgence of Deviants kickstarts a series of events that may put them in position to break their centuries-old mandate.
Though the film is full of beautiful action set pieces, and superb acting, however, the greatest aspect of this film is undoubtedly the relationships and interactions between characters, namely, the Eternals themselves. Granted, the acting across the board is on-point in this film, and the aforementioned action sequences were pretty amazing, the interactions that appealed to me the most were those between Ikaris and Sersei (given their love affair), Makkari and Druig, and the caretaker/”cared for” relationship between Gilgamesh and Thena. These three relationships in particular were equal parts joyful, intriguing, and at times, heartbreaking.
The cinematography is also really well done. It adds just that little bit more of verisimilitude to this sweeping fantastical (and Metaphysical) tale. One example of this is the Bollywood Sequence featuring Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo. I could probably watch that scene alone on repeat given how colorful it is. Along with the music in the Bollywood sequence, the film has a very endearing use of certain classic rock tracks, one in particular by experimental rock band Pink Floyd…you’ll know it when you hear it.
With as much as I enjoyed this film, there is at least one bit of a downer here. The Deviants themselves fall into a long-standing trend of uninteresting villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Iron Man‘s Obidiah Stane or Ant-Man‘s Yellowjacket. I guess something had to be lacking in this film, and it’s main antagonists are it. Come to think of it, there aren’t any true villains in the story at all. (Cant tell you why that is without spoiling the movie, and we’re not doing that today.)
Eternals is not your typical comic book movie, let alone standard MCU fare. If you’re expecting the usual superhero story full of one-liners and many visual connections to the greater universe, there’s a significant chance that you might not be feeling this one. I’ll be the first to admit, as much as I adore this film, it can be a lot to take in, given its themes of philosophy and what it means to be human, and how the film may change one’s perception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. With all of that being said, there is still far too much positively strong material for you to just skip this movie. Along with being one of the most accessible films in the MCU (Seriously, you really don’t have to know a damn thing about Marvel characters, or even comics as a whole, to enjoy this film. Storywise, you will not be lost, I promise.), the film has a very diverse cast with strong representation without the feeling like it’s shoehorned in, and a couple of small, but welcomed (at least for myself) firsts for the Marvel Studios franchise. Every so often a film in the MCU, changes the game and causes a bit of a paradigm shift– one that the superhero genre and the MCU desperately needs. Eternals, is exactly that.