Monday With Mildred: “The Eternals”

The Eternals movie poster

The Eternals

Like most people in the world, I have a small library of about twenty Marvel movies that I couldn’t really afford in the first place, but which I determined in the day to be something I really wanted. I was never a comics geek, and I’ll end up googling fairly extensively every time I watch a film with characters that are a mystery to me but which apparently are worthy of billion dollar movie productions. I’m not unhappy to have bought them. Most of the Marvel films are a lot of fun and worthy of a re-watch, either because it’s good action adventure or good humor, or both of those at once. If it’s like the first Thor movie it’s just plain trippy and impossible to really describe. There are a couple of real stinkers – looking at you, Thor II – but they’re a big exception to the rule. It’s still easier than buying a thousand comic books to keep up with the million storylines.

The Eternals are, well, immortal, hence the moniker. Knowing up front that they live forever takes a teensy bit of tension out of the fight scene that opens the movie. Set in homo sapiens early agrarian history, we see them battle huge monsters who charge out of the sea looking for some villager tar tar. They fight and then they assemble for a Hollywood Who’s Who money shot and then they disperse. Standard Marvel movie stuff, though most films only have one money shot. This one had several. I guess immortals are a little vain. And then we see one of the Eternals bridging the gap of time in modern London where she is apparently just a person now, a few thousand years later. They’ve disbanded long ago with the monsters finally defeated. The film then spends I kid you not an hour and a half getting the band back to together to take on an unexpected foe. The whole while I just could not get over how very solemn everything is. Even the humor Marvel has perfected over the last more than ten years is muted and practically hidden under a clock of solemnity. The music doesn’t help at all. Normally I don’t notice music in a Marvel movie, and I’ve always felt that aspect of all the films has been relegated to a back burner except when they’re showing off their pop music chops. This time, I wish I hadn’t noticed it because it is dorky. Insipid even.

I want to really call out the much needed, beautifully done and underused comic genius of Harish Patel who plays The Valet With A Thousand Cameras. Every time he opens his mouth, even from off camera, he is hilarious and only part of that is the writers’ fault. I also really enjoyed the character Sprite who is the closest thing to a non-binary character I’ve seen in one of these movies. Phastos is an openly gay character, and I quite enjoyed his snarky bitchiness.

Now for the part of this review you’ve been anticipating with bated breath. Did I like The Eternals or not? Because a lot of people hated this movie a lot. Like, a LOT. I assumed it was yet another round of fanboys whining that they don’t get to hang onto every muscle and macho smirk of the leading men. This film has a lot of women in it, and they’re all heroic. I was afraid that it was a bunch of people who couldn’t get over how very international the cast is, and that the director is a Chinese woman. Hopefully, Sprite’s seeming non-binary status was intentional, and hopefully that wasn’t a big reason for the hating heaped on The Eternals. After actually watching it, though, I have to say most people are right that this movie just isn’t very good. It’s not outright horrible like Thor II, but it’s not a good movie and that’s really a shame since I’ve gotten so much enjoyment out of so many fine films in the franchise.

The biggest problem was how flabby the script is. We should not spend a half hour exploring in deep detail the backstory and DC-like emotional baggage of a baseball team sized gang of heroes. Thousands

of years will give anyone more than a train car full of baggage, and I for one didn’t feel the need to wallow in it for hours. This is, at the end of the day, a comic book movie and I missed the typical Marvel theme of “Bad guys are bad. Kill bad guys.” This is the only movie directed by Chloé Zhao, who recently won an Oscar for best picture, that I’ve ever seen and I cared so little for this one that I don’t feel a need to look for her earlier works. The movie was slowly paced, especially for an action film, and there was a lot of time spent on whole scenes that weren’t really needed to advance the plot and on nearly every scene throughout. As I’ve mentioned, the music is lame. I also noticed that the action cgi was sub-standard for a movie with a thousand graphics people listed in the credits. Movements were too fluid, weight was off, and the characters often looked absolutely fake way too often. I was happy to have missed it at the theater because I could only imagine how much worse it would have looked on a theater screen. In one of the after credits scenes, Patten Oswalt’s character looked especially cartoony and I wondered if that was on purpose. Even Howard the Duck looked more lifelike.

If you’re a big Marvel movie fan you have to see this like you’ve seen the hundred other films. Sometimes fanning is hard work. When you do eventually see it, be prepared to take a bathroom break at least once and watch it on the smallest screen you have so the cgi doesn’t look so fake. The actors were fine all the way across but nothing strong enough to make the too long scenes more bearable. I didn’t hate it but I do have to rank it near the bottom of the franchise heap, and that’s a shame considering they finally have a gay character, a great deaf character, some non-binary action, and a wonderfully international cast.


CFR: In Addition: Mildred was worried I wouldn’t like her review. Nope. I like it fine. I thought the movie was also too slowly paced. It was beautiful and I did enjoy it and yes, it could have been more. 🙂 Love you, Mildred.

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