When you hire a non-action director for an action flick, things are bound to go south!
After 13 years of entertaining the audience with wonderful movies and superheroes, Marvel Cinematic Universe finally succumbs to overconfidence. Just like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen that came out in 2009, MCU tests the viewers’ patience by dumping unknown superheroes to an audience who wanted to be entertained than educated in a cinema. Director Chloé Zhao might be an Academy Award winner, but when making a Marvel flick you need a director who understands the audience, not one who has an Oscar at home!
Before they came up with Blade and The X-Men franchise in the late 1990s, Marvel Comics had a terrible run at the box office, and Eternals seems to be a film from that era, not the present one. It revolves around a group of superheroes who were instructed not to do anything when Loki was destroying New York, when Iron Man and Captain America were fighting amongst themselves, and when Thanos was playing God. They didn’t interfere then because ‘they weren’t allowed to’, and if that isn’t a lame excuse, I don’t know what is!
After delivering countless hits since the first Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Comics has rarely come up with a forgettable film until now, and the audience will not forgive them for wasting their time. It would have been better had Eternals been set in the 1990s to avoid the different phases of the MCU, but it comes after Avengers: Endgame (and refers to it too) and falls flat because it lacks direction, and is too slow. At more than 2 hours and 30 minutes, it stands to become the most boring superhero flick, where instead of introducing superheroes, the makers assumed that the audience would just know them all!
The plot of Eternals is as confusing as its execution; the film moves back and forth to make the audience understand that without these superheroes, it would have been a different world. However, without knowing either Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), or Thena (Angelina Jolie), the only thing the audience understood was that their money was going down the drain, and there was no way to bring it back.
Let’s take a look at the plot that was approved by the executives at Marvel. In 5000 BC, Marvel-demigod master Arishem sends super-powered beings named Eternals to Earth to exterminate Deviants aka Changing People. Since they don’t age like humans, they save the human race for centuries, and after killing the last Deviant, they take a break. However, when the Deviants return five hundred years later, Eternals also regroup to save the world and fulfill their destiny. The biggest obstacle however was not the regrouping but the murder of one of their own and had that been handled intelligently, the film would have done extremely well.
But when you go for forced diversity (an African American gay, an Indian, and a naturally-deaf superhero seemed unnecessary), it adds too many twists to confuse the audience while trying to tick every box in the checklist. The result is something on the lines of Eternals. There was confusion everywhere because just when the audience was realizing the importance of these super-beings, they were instructed that the main objective of Eternals was something that wasn’t even a part of the catalogue. Add to that some jibes at the DC Comic Superheroes, and it leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mind, one that reveals the ‘arrogant’ nature of the writers, and their backers.
Having Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek in the cast would only have helped the actresses had the script been proper than poor. The two were wasted in characters that seemed powerful but were confusing, to say the least. The same goes for the rest of the cast who acted as if they were bigger than the Avengers but in fact were nothing more than a bunch of wannabe superheroes whose only achievement was being around for more time than any other human around.
There was a Pakistani connection to Eternals as well, but that ‘connection’ played an Indian so that both the countries can be catered to. The film might have made Kumail Nanjiani a rich man, but not even the most ardent Marvel fan would have imagined him playing a Bollywood actor while on a break from superhero duties. His roaming around with a valet (Bollywood actor Harish Patel) who records everything doesn’t suit the MCU style, and neither does his character’s running away from the action.
Action remains the weakest link in the movie as it takes place way past halftime, and garnered no reaction from the audience as they couldn’t connect with the characters. Be it Thena’s tendency to start fighting everything and everyone at the drop of the hat, or the expressionless Ikaris doing a Superman impression in MCU, the audience didn’t take back anything home. For the first time, Marvel’s web series like Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and WandaVision seem better produced than this flick that had more plot twists than the last five MCU films combined.
At a time when Marvel Comics needed to make their presence felt, they failed to deliver for the first time in many years. Although an Eternals 2 could help the franchise recover it would be better if the Marvel Executives diverted their attention to either the more successful Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. The MCU needs to move in the right direction, rather than waste their and the audience’s time on setting up a ‘universe’ where the heroes are philosophical instead of action-oriented.