Wednesday, December 1, 2021

‘Eternals’ Review: A Beautiful and Refreshing New Venture for the MCU

Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster Eternals has officially hit theaters, presenting audiences with Chloé Zhao’s fresh take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a multitude of new beginnings for the franchise. Created by Jack Kirby and first born on the pages of Marvel Comics in the late 70s, this film marks the live-action debut of the Eternals, a group of heroes from beyond the stars who have protected Earth since the dawn of man.

While substantially different than the vast collection of films that have made up the entirety of the MCU up until this point, Eternals is a delightfully refreshing take on the superhero genre. Changes are afoot throughout Phase 4 in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, with projects like WandaVision and Loki challenging the norm and ushering in a new era for the future of Marvel. Eternals boldly charts its own path, too, diverging from the road that has long been travelled by its predecessors. That being said, it still feels connected to this overall universe, but the look and feel of it convey an atmosphere that’s wholly unique.

Zhao leans heavily into her own style of natural lighting and soft colors, which is something that works surprisingly well for a superhero movie — despite the fact that some have come to associate these films with bright, bold hues. Paired with the heavy focus on emotional storytelling, the film’s palette layers the scenes with an alluring, captivating tone. Many past MCU films have used greenscreens liberally, because it’s a necessity given the types of larger than life stories that take place. While Eternals does as well, Zhao also remained very dedicated to utilizing sprawling, breathtaking natural landscapes when possible. These choices play a major part in what sets this film apart, coming together to produce a final product that’s undeniably visually stunning.

Eternals still frame
Marvel Studios
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Eternals may be laden with a more comprehensive and verbose story than some Marvel fans are used to, but rest assured that we still do see our heroes in action, and the visual effects complement the film fantastically. Richard Madden’s Ikaris has cosmic energy manipulation abilities that manifest in the form of beams that shoot out of his eyes; paired with deep, reverberating sounds, this effect was intense and came across remarkably well. And rather than attributing individual pops of color to represent of the team’s various powers, they’re all tied together with the same kind of sleek, wispy golden animations. This fits perfectly against the film’s aforementioned lighting, color tones, and landscape, which ultimately made the fight scenes a very mesmerizing, visually pleasing experience. Angelina Jolie’s Thena was particularly wonderful to watch it action when she used her powers of manifestation to transform cosmic energy into weapons.

Eternals boasts a large ensemble cast, introducing an array of 10 brand-new heroes (and some other key players, like Kit Harington’s Dane Whitman!) to the MCU. This was a feat in and of itself, because in contrast, the Avengers and their allies have always been slowly introduced over time with solo origin stories before coming together as a team. The Guardians of the Galaxy are an exception to this formula, but the team was also half the size. With Eternals, beyond a couple of throwaway comments about past and current heroic entities in the MCU, the film had no existing, familiar foundation for audiences to grasp onto.

So needless to say, bringing in such a large team in one go was a risky venture, but it was ultimately a success. Throughout the course of its runtime, while juggling a story that bounced back and forth between the past and the present, Eternals successfully managed to allow audiences to forge an emotional connection with each of its characters — even someone minor like Kingo’s assistant Karun (and if Harish Patel isn’t back for a future film, we riot). The film had much ground to cover with introductions, and yet it took care to leave ample time for character development, allowing each character to feel distinct. Emotional investment is key to a story like this. Eternals also offers some much-needed diversity and representation in its team, with characters like the MCU’s first Deaf superhero, Makkari, and Phastos, an openly gay superhero who is portrayed alongside his husband and son.

Eternals still frame
Marvel Studios

The film was filled with impressive performances across the board. Gemma Chan was a lovely central figure as Sersi, with Madden standing alongside her with a riveting, layered performance as Ikaris, and Harington held his ground as her intriguing human boyfriend. (Three cheers for a long-awaited Stark family reunion!) Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, and Brian Tyree Henry all brought an infectious energy to the table full of personality and humor. Meanwhile, Jolie and Salma Hayek were both strong, fierce female characters. Lia McHugh, tasked with portraying the team’s perpetual child, brought in a youthful, snarky element. And while the film touted the epic love story of Sersi and Ikaris, one that’s spanned thousands of years, there was another relationship that — although not quite front and center — was incredibly endearing and compelling, too. Lauren Ridloff and Barry Keoghan exuded so much natural, easygoing chemistry that one would be hard-pressed not to get wrapped in the moments shared between Makkari and Druig.

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Overall, Eternals is a beautiful film that’s full of heart, and at its core, it’s a story about love and family. While it treads new ground and serves as a departure from some of the Marvel’s heavy hitters of the past, this latest MCU entry is absolutely not to be missed.

Eternals is now playing in theaters.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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