On Saturday, June 7th, I left a movie theater disappointed by a Marvel film for the first time in my life. Here is my review for the studio’s new movie, Eternals, and my opinions on why the highly anticipated film fell short.
I first want to acknowledge the shockingly low Rotten Tomatoes score (48%) that Eternals received before even being released in theaters. Although I found several issues with this movie, none can account for this low of a rating. As many Marvel fans have stated, this score is likely a result of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, among critics. For context, Eternals was directed by the Chinese filmmaker Chloè Zhao and features the most diverse cast in a Marvel movie ever. Additionally, the movie showcases the first LGBTQ kiss for Marvel between two men-of-color and features the first deaf Marvel character, Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff. Although many (including myself) in the fandom were thrilled at the diversity of this cast, critics with biased and discriminatory ideologies are likely to blame for this low rating, especially considering that the majority of top film critics are white, straight, able, men.
The cast was not the problem with this movie at all, actually. I found that everyone, from Angelina Jolie to Kumail Nanjiani to Don Lee, was perfectly suited for their characters. My primary qualm with Eternals was the storytelling: it seemed like the writers had literally never seen a superhero movie in their life. After a Star Wars-style opening crawl introducing the audience to the history of the Eternals, their creators the Celestials, and their enemies the Deviants, the majority of the film still focused on the backstory of this group, rather than fleshing out the present-day storyline. We shifted in time from 2024 to 5000 BC to the beginning of human existence in order to contextualize this historically significant group of heroes, only to spend a short period of time dealing with the current issue plaguing the posse.
I felt that this excess of context took away from the plot points in the film that should have been highlighted. Sprite’s unrequited love for Icarus, Icarus’ ultimate betrayal of the Eternals, and Thena’s mental trauma are all interesting concepts, but they took the back seat to the behemoth and unnecessary stage-setting. When these points were finally introduced, their limited screen time made them unimportant, unclear, and unsubstantiated.
My final and largest critique of Eternals is the movie’s dialogue. I love Marvel because of their film writing. The iconic and undeniably quotable lines in the franchise like “On your left” and “that is America’s Ass” elevate these movies from your run-of-the-mill comic adaptation to classic, timeless films. In contrast, the Eternals dialogue felt stagnant and forced. Every joke made me cringe, every serious moment made me laugh, and the classic one-liners Marvel is known for were simply non-existent. In a film where there was more dialogue than action (another serious problem for an action-based superhero film), the writing should have been impeccable…but it was not.
I remain hopeful that the Eternals will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with much stronger future films. The characters –– and actors –– bring powerful and valuable contributions to the Marvel universe, and I am very excited to see where they will go next. In this next phase of the MCU, I hope that Marvel branches out into new storylines whilst still maintaining what made the earlier movies so lovable: strong dialogue, complex dynamics and relationships, and, most importantly, killer action.