Thursday, December 2, 2021

In the Reels: ‘Eternals’ just another Marvel movie

Cameron Kaercher

In September, Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” revived the box office. With an opening weekend of $94 million, and reaching $223 million by the end of its domestic run, it felt like Hollywood was digging itself out of the COVID slump.

After 2020 saw zero Marvel superhero movies, the company is swinging for the fences as the third of four films to be released in 2021 debuted this month.

“Eternals” is a new ensemble superhero film, the titular group is made up of immortal aliens, who have been living in secret on Earth for thousands of years. After the events of 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” they must regroup to take on the Deviants, a pack of evil monsters.

This is Marvel movie No. 26 in a series that has been running since 2008, and it seems that there are no plans of stopping anytime soon. With “Avengers: Endgame” now two years old, Marvel is trying to move on from the epic Thanos arc that was resolved.

The action here is weightless, not special and drawn out. Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, has Superman-like abilities with laser eyes and the ability to fly. Gilgamesh, played by Ma Dong-seok, is a strong man who can punch really hard. All the action setpieces feel static, the actors just stand still while the visual effects team creates something more interesting around them. 

The overall cast is impressively diverse. Brian Tyree Henry plays Phastos, an openly gay character, and shares a kiss with his partner. Lauren Ridloff is a deaf actor who plays Makkari, a character who signs her dialogue. There is also ethnic representation from South Asia and Latin America through Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek, respectively. It is great to see representation on the grand scale that Marvel is doing. However, it is a shame that it is in service of such bland paste.

Shot by Ben Davis, “Eternals” sports more of the almost desaturated lighting audiences have come to expect. With endless desert vistas, landscapes blend together, and it is impossible to tell one location from the next. 

All of these negative aspects make it no surprise that “Eternals” is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to receive an unfavorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At the time of writing, “Eternals” has a 48% critics rating and an 84% audience rating. Disney has been cranking out these superhero films for 13 years, and it is clearly wearing on critics.

This new negative turn for Marvel reviews has churned up mass confusion, and a new narrative has emerged that people are “review bombing” this film because of the diverse cast. All of these people who were supposedly worked up over diversity and representation forgot to “review bomb” “Black Panther” and “Shang Chi.” Both films have Rotten Tomatoes scores in the 90s.

Speaking of embarrassing narratives, multiple reputable news sources like The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Wall Street Journal have been writing about a sex scene in “Eternals.” That is where pop culture is at these days, a scene of intimacy in a comic book movie is news. 

“Eternals” may mark the start of a new chapter for the MCU with promises of more space adventures and new voices in front of the camera. However, all “Eternals” really ushers in is a new wave of comic book movie fatigue.

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