Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Continuing a cinematic universe with a similarly obnoxious lifespan, “Eternals” follows a group of god-like entities who protect humans from a dangerous life form known as the Deviants, but the movie itself can best be described like pie. In the outside layer, first impressions, “Eternals” seems pretty cliché and just another Marvel movie involving some bad and good guys battling for some glowy thing, maybe shooting some lasers into the sky along the way. However, in the second layer, watching the movie, I found a very interesting plot between disparate characters that have different answers to a central moral dilemma. Like with pie, as one dives deeper into the film, the bottom layer is the same as the first. At the end of its runtime, “Eternals” has the same tired Marvel tropes and aesthetics that turn characters into flimsy archetypes, romantic plotlines superficial and imaginative scenic ideas into bland backdrops. If you’ve seen a Marvel movie before, you’ll know what this movie looks, sounds and feels like, with added problems with character development to boot.
The movie follows a woman named Sersi who finds out that the Deviants have returned after 500 years of extinction, so she begins a quest to unite all the other Eternals to vanquish the threat again. Through a series of flashbacks, we get a sense of who each Eternal is and how they relate to the central question: should gods intervene in human affairs? The movie’s most positive aspect is seeing how each character comes to their own conclusions, some through conformity and others through reason, just like in real-life dilemmas. However, some characters, like Festus and Kingo, seem to be developed to have a certain position in this moral dilemma, but they have a completely different position for no reason except that the plot needs them to.
The plot for this movie looks really good on paper, building up its conflict well, throwing some twists and turns here and there, and leading to a grand conflict that pits many character dynamics against one another in a satisfying way. However, some characters were completely irrelevant to the plot and could have been easily cut out of the movie, to focus more on the characters that do matter. For example, Angelina Jolie’s character offers a unique dimension of the world and conditions that the Eternals are subject to, but her character really offers nothing to the plot, taking away screentime from far more interesting personalities. On the reverse side, the character Sprite actually offers a unique dimension of the world that IS relevant to the plot, and it’s only explored for a minute in the film’s final act, making her seem like an afterthought despite being one of the more interesting characters out of the team.
Additionally, some of the dynamics between characters didn’t feel deserved. While Sprite’s relationship with Sersi is well developed, a romantic relationship plays through between Sersi and another character that feels undeserved and shallow. “The Eternals” is the first Marvel movie to feature a sex scene, and it’s wholly undeserved since I didn’t care about either of the characters in the romance. Sersi is the main character, and I genuinely can’t name any definitive character traits about her. Most other characters have well-developed reasons for how they answer the central moral dilemma. However, Sersi really has no reason to land on the conclusion she does, except that the plot needs her to.
Most Marvel movies, on the whole, lack originality and stick to a very predictable formula, but they don’t ever have major problems with character motivations and always offer a fun ride even if it’s rehashed material. “Eternals” could have honestly been one of the greatest Marvel movies made, with its very strong plot outline and imaginative plays on the implications of deistic interference in human affairs. As it stands, though, “Eternals” has pretty glaring problems with character motivation that had me rolling my eyes at moments that could have been emotionally impactful. “Eternals” is surprisingly the worst Marvel movie I’ve seen, and I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5.