Directed by Chloé Zhao.
Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.
Eternals arrives on digital with a smattering of bonus features. (The physical discs will be hitting online and physical retail stores on February 15.) The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe helps kick-start the MCU’s next phase, but it’s bogged down by an overly long running time, a convoluted plot, and characters who aren’t particularly interesting.
Everyone has their limits, and when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, some people can’t get enough while others have had their fill. Count me in the latter camp, especially after slogging my way through Eternals. While Shang-Chi was a fun entry that’s helping set the stage for the next phase in the MCU, I found Eternals to be full of characters I didn’t care about much. There are a lot of them, and none are particularly compelling. In addition, the running time, at two-and-a-half hours, feels bloated, like eating too much cake at a birthday party.
Sure, this is a film that deviates a bit from the usual MCU formula, introducing us to a batch of superheroes who have been on Earth for several thousand years to protect humanity from monsters known as Deviants. They thought the Deviants were long gone, which led the group to break up and go their separate ways for several centuries, until the monsters reappeared and the Eternals decided to get the band – um, the superhero group – back together again.
This is a film heavy on exposition, with repeated jumps back in time so we can learn the backstories of the characters and understand why some of them aren’t thrilled with each other in the modern era. Each has their own powers, and when one of them is killed, the rest band together to save humanity. That’s been done how many times in the MCU now? It would be a lot of fun to see an MCU movie that’s not all about bashing bad guys for two-plus hours.
It’s also a movie that has to do some retconning, since the Eternals have been on Earth all this time yet never previously showed their faces in the MCU. The reason why they couldn’t help the Avengers or other MCU superheroes feels a bit flimsy, especially since they’re among the most powerful heroes on Earth. So even the threat of Thanos snapping his fingers wasn’t enough to bring them out of hiding?
In the end, Eternals takes two-and-a-half hours to tell a story it probably could have told in under two hours. Not every movie needs to test the limits of your bladder in the theater, especially those of the superhero variety. Maybe it’s time for the MCU to go the Star Wars route and cut back on the movies while dialing up the episodic series on Disney+; that kind of approach makes more sense for characters pulled from comic books anyway.
As with Shang Chi, Disney provided a digital code for this movie and is skipping physical media for reviewers, so I’ll cover the bonus content based on what’s available to stream with the digital version. I assume it’s the same stuff that will be found on the discs that will be available on February 15. If you can’t wait until then, you can stream the movie on Disney+ now and/or buy the digital version and get the extras.
The bonus features include:
- Audio commentary: Director and co-writer Chloé Zhao is joined by visual effects supervisors Stephane Cerettu and Marten Larsson to talk about the movie. It’s a track that imparts a good amount of insights into the making of the film, but it also lapses into two of the cardinal sins of group commentaries: joking among the participants and talking about what’s on the screen. Zhao, however, steps into the moderator role a few times and does a good job of directing the discussion – it would have been nice if she had done more of that from the beginning.
- Immortalized (10.45 minutes): This is a basic featurette with Zhao, her fellow writers, and members of the cast and crew. Producer and MCU wrangler Kevin Feige shows up to talk about why they drew from Jack Kirby’s The Eternals comic books to kick off this new phase in Marvel’s theatrical films.
- Walks of Life (5 minutes): Another quick featurette that focuses on behind-the-scenes footage and a look at the diversity of the heroes in this new super group.
- Deleted scenes (5.5 minutes): There are four excised scenes that were understandably cut from the film, especially since it was already running a bit long.
- A gag reel rounds out the extras.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★