Eternals review: Well that was a weird one

Eternals is a real odd duck. Most people keeping up the MCU are becoming more accustomed to the strange intergalactic, cosmic side of Marvel that has existed in the comics for the longest time, but even with that background this movie is plain weird.

Let’s start with the basics. The Eternals are a whole team of new heroes to the MCU which have actually been on Earth for thousands of years. They were put here to protect humanity from a race of monsters called Deviants. Saying much more would veer massively into spoilers so we’re going to come back around to the plot and tip toe around some other details.

A list of the cast can be found elsewhere but Marvel seems to be rather proud that it’s dropping a ten person superhero squad on audiences right from the start. This isn’t the first Avengers (2012) where each hero got their own movie to be introduced, and this also isn’t Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) where a smaller team was introduced all at once so that everyone got enough screen time.

This is a big part of this movie’s first problem: pacing. With so many characters just on the main team, and then smaller characters and the Deviants, everyone needs to get some time to shine and their own scenes but all of them are too short.

We’re actually quite impressed with the writers and how they managed to convey so much of each character’s personality in such a short time, but it’s all rushed and unsatisfying.

Think of it like this: we all had the kid in class who got perfect marks all the time. Eternals and its pacing / writing problems are like that kid who forgot to do a big project and knocked it out the night before. The work is still good but it’s evident that this isn’t their best effort and more time and care could have made the work better.

The weight of so many characters is compounded by a script that really needed a few more edits before it was committed to film.

Again explaining why would lead into spoilers but what we can say is that many parts of this movie are superfluous and could have been cut entirely. We’re pretty sure some elements were just included because they were in the comics and / or Disney wanted to sell toys.

There’s conflict that only picks up steam in the third act that should have been the main impetus for the story from the very beginning.

We called this movie weird right on top because it wants to deal with some pretty weighty subjects. War and following orders, the meaning of free will, mortality, religion, mental illness, evolution, the entire meaning of life… these are all heady topics the movie tackles to various extents with characters complicated in their feelings of them due to being almost godlike entities, but with so much going on it becomes muddled.

We would never scold a movie for ambition, and there’s heaps here, but there’s only so much that can be done justice in the run time of a film.

The cast does their best with what they have on their plate when what they have is trite and makes no sense, even in the bonkers lore of the MCU.

Our standout was Barry Keoghan as Druig, a character who the movie portrays as a cocky egotist who slowly reveals more personality and depth as the movie goes on.

This isn’t to say the rest of this big cast did a bad job, just that they usually had less to do or their arcs weren’t as interesting.

The visuals were pleasing but a bit dark. We don’t mean that in a tonal way, it’s literally too dark with not enough light or pops of colour.

This wasn’t a theatre problem – just look at the trailers embedded on this page – but rather a colour grading design choice that makes the movie look muted and a bit lifeless.

This was seemingly intentional for the more brooding nature of the film but it became a chore to look at.

The CGI is… fine? There’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s all competent and functional, but there’s no intrigue or scenes of note that people will be talking about.

Equally forgettable is the music but saying the score in a Marvel movie is bland is like saying water is wet.

When the credits finally roll on Eternals it’s like we’re looking at some drab, greyish paint. The individual elements could have shone on their own as individual colours, and could have been all the more bright with some polish and extra attention, but all mashed together you’re left with something unappealing and muddled.

This movie is far from bad, but it quickly loses itself in lofty ambitions and all the spinning plates come crashing down.

A quick rant about amateur-level audio levels in professional movies 

Most of judging media is subjective opinion but we have to take some time to talk about a massive objective problem with this movie: its god awful sound mixing.

It’s become a common complaint that new movies in the theatres are almost incomprehensible with talking that is far too quiet and mumbled combined with loud music and sound effects which will blow your eardrums out.

Tenet was the poster child for this problem earlier this year, but we also ran into it in Dune. Eternals is not just the latest movie to suffer from this problem, but may be one of the worst.

Like Tenet, Eternals wants to dump endless mounds of exposition and made up words on audiences, but it then has the gall to mix the dialogue so poorly that most of it is inaudible.

We know “boycotting” is a diluted word in recent years but something has to be done on the public side to tell movie makers to stop with this BS. Multi-million Dollar movies from established studios raking in billions should not have audio quality that is outdone by one person content creators on places like YouTube.

At this point, even with full vaccinations and the pandemic being beaten back, we’re still inclined to watch movies at home where we can fiddle with the audio and turn on subtitles.

At the end of the day we picked up most of what Eternals was putting down with its plot and how it’s conveyed to the audience, but this problem seems to be getting worse with every new movie.


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