I think it’s safe to say that this Marvel wave of films has been the closest thing to an assembly line for movies since the old Hollywood studio system of the 1950s. It’s brutally efficient and is usually churning out a consistent product, but recently I think we’ve been seeing some kinks in the machinery. I don’t want to say the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to suddenly die out because of the occasional flop, but this is not nothing. I’ve grown cynical in the past few years of Marvel movies, so this may be just my biases of these movies getting the better of me, but I think more moviegoers are starting to see the same issues that I see.
The Eternals, heroes from the planet Olympia, have been sent to Earth by the celestial Arishem (David Kaye) to protect its people. Led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), these Eternals include Ikaris (Richard Madden), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-Seok), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Rdiloff) and Druig (Barry Keoghan). Living throughout human history, these heroes are tasked only with protecting the human race from the deviants, a race that would look to consume all human life if left unchecked. Why are they tasked with this specific job? The secret of their mission is much more sinister than you may expect.
With most of Marvel’s offerings that have been coming out, the problem I see most is not what the film is, but what it could have been. We have a fantastic cast on our hands, a director who just the year prior won the Oscar for Best Director and a studio that has had a history of cranking out quality pictures. What does that get us? Ultimately, I think we get a film that is mostly shades of gray, with characters that don’t have enough screen time and a script that is about as milquetoast as we have seen. The Eternals in the comics is generally a fun story with poppy colors and big-time galactic plots, but this film ends up looking more like a gray-brown blob when you squint hard enough. I would hate to see what this film would’ve looked like with a lesser director behind the camera. I’m not going to go out and say that this film is flat-out bad because I do quite like some of the elements at work here, but there’s just not enough good stuff going on in this movie to even out the stuff that is the film equivalent of corn flakes. Everything is just sort of … meh.
I don’t think this is a mistake that Marvel is going to make twice. They have too much money and far too much talent to fail at this point. But, for one fleeting moment, we have ourselves a Marvel offering that has left more of a bitter taste than all the others. I’ll say it again: there’s good stuff here! I just wish that Marvel Studios allowed more freedom on the end of the filmmakers, which is what my diagnosis of this film would be.