Marvel Studios has delivered genre-bending superhero films that shared the same universe for the past ten years. They tweaked the formula that has given them constant success and created a huge fanbase. But there comes a time when risks need to be taken to be refreshing and different. And Chloe Zhao’s “Eternals” fits that profile, even if it’s considered one of the most polarizing MCU films to date.
As much as I would like to review the film for the home entertainment release, I’d feel as if I’d just be repeating what I already said about a superhero film that humanizes its godlike characters as a nice change of pace from the traditional superhero flick. The most considerable criticism that I could offer was that the story was a bit convoluted because it needed to introduce ten new characters and establish their dynamics and arcs. There simply wasn’t enough time to get acquainted with these characters and flesh out the story. However, it was clear that Zhao wanted to show that even gods from beyond the stars can feel human emotion.
And what the film lacks in the by-the-numbers action sequences she makes up for in her ability to deliver a strong-character-driven story, world-building, and epic shots that are massive in size and scope. In addition, the quasi-biblical scope of the film is portrayed through the title characters’ reverence to their god Arshiem. At the same time, flashbacks to the past see the humans viewing the Eternals as deities gracing them with various powersets, from turning rocks into water, innovation and technology, and healing to shooting lasers from eyes, finger guns, super speed, and super strength.
Though Eternals is an ensemble, much of the story is told through Sersei’s (Gemma Chan) perspective. Like their mother Ajak (Salma Hayek), empathic god-like heroine as seen what the humans are capable of after protecting them from the evil deviants since they arrived on earth long before the need of any Avenger. But she starts to question the nature of her mission when she discovers that they were put on earth to only protect humans as the life force needed for the emergence of Tiamut, a budding Celestial gestating deep below the earth’s surface. As Sersei takes a stand to prevent the total catalysm, the rest of the family share their own thoughts on the matter with some believing in Arshiem, while others will do what it takes to protect their family.
What’s more, the roster of 10 heroes that makes the Eternals are a reflection of the world we live in today. It’s refreshing to see how diversity and inclusion are not a driving point of the story but instead a portrayal of these superpowered beings trying to live out their lives as ordinary people. As such, the film hits all sorts of landmarks like having the first South Asian superhero, the first deaf superhero, and the first LGBTQ+ superhero. And Zhao adds complexity and depth to these heroes by exploring their vulnerabilities and seeing the dangers of their powers when they are exploited or misused.
As Zhao introduces these characters through these historical vignettes, the film shows us how much their influence impacted human evolution. The relationships they share with the humans, whether in their capacity to see the species through love and hate or the bonds they created by protecting them, redefine the typical hero. By focusing more on the character arcs, we get an unconventional superhero film that dares to explore the humanity and the moral conundrums they face when they realize their true mission.
That shocking discovery shakes up the stakes and reveals the truth about some of these characters. Of course, some of those twists aren’t as shocking considering how much of it plays into some of the characters like Ikaris (Richard Madden), the dutiful soldier who will see the mission through at any cost.
As for the bonus features, fans can look forward to seeing the usual favorites like the deleted scenes and blooper reels. Chloe’s ‘Vision For Eternals’ explores how the director used the diversity that’s woven into the film in a way that’s unifying. Much of the cast praise Zhao’s efforts to unite them in believing her vision and present these heroes to the audience in an emotional and nuanced way. The quiet moments are stirring, and the twists are shocking.
The immortalized featurette looks at the multiple layers of the story – the superhero conflict, the family drama, and the journey of self-discovery – that make up “Eternals.” And the “Walks of Life” featurette explores the team of superheroes that are as diverse as humanity is.
And finally, there’s the director’s commentary, where Zhao, along with visual effects supervisor Steph Cerreti and additonal visual effects supervisor Marten Larrson.
Zhao’s Eternals is not the best Marvel film out there, but it isn’t the worse either. But what makes it stand out from its predecessors its the studios commitment to standby Zhao’s vision. She may have had to play by certain rules and adhere to standards set by Marvel, but for the most part, the film stays true to who she is as a storyteller.
Audio Commentary – View the film with audio commentary by Chloé Zhao, Stephane Ceretti, Mårten Larsson. (2:35:51)
Immortalized – Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launches into the cosmos with the Eternals. In this behind-the-scenes documentary, dive deep into the reasons why Marvel wanted to immortalize these superheroes for the MCU. (10:46)
Walks of Life – Eternals unveils Marvel’s biggest and most diverse lineup of Super Heroes in one film. Hear reactions from the cast on being involved in the film and the instant sense of camaraderie that was felt on the day they all joined each other in their costumes. (5:01)
Gag Reel – Watch some of the hilarious mishaps of the charming cast and crew. (2:29)
Four (4) Deleted Scenes (6:02)
Gravity – Phastos and Jack have a conversation that leads to a breakthrough. (1:16)
Nostalgia – Sprite and Makkari reminisce about humankind while overlooking the ruins of Babylon. (1:06)
Movies – Gligamesh and Kingo connect over movies while crossing the Amazon River with the rest of the team. (0:43)
Small Talk – Sprite confronts Dane in the museum about his interactions with Sersi. (2:37)