REVIEW: Marvel’s ‘Eternals’

“When you love something, you protect it.”  –Thena, Eternals


Coming out in November this year, is Eternals–the 25th MCU film from Marvel Studios and the seventh installment of their Phase 4, following the finish of the Infinity Saga.

The Eternals are a race of super-powered beings assigned to Earth on a mission from some enigmatic overlords called The Celestials.  At the Dawn of Humanity, they arrived to protect humans from vicious alien predators called “Deviants.”


Each of the ten Eternals has their own specific superpower that allows them to fulfill their role in the team–Ajak (Salma Heyak) is the matriarch of the team who communicates with the Celestials and has the power to heal wounds; Ikaris (Richard Madden) flies, has super-strength, and shoots lasers out of his eyes; Sersi (Gemma Chan) can transmute matter; Thena (Angelina Jolie) creates weapons out of cosmic energy and is their most powerful warrior; Sprite (Lia McHugh) creates illusions and can make people invisible; Druig (Barry Keoghan) controls minds; Phastos is a technopath and master inventor; Gilgamesh (Don Lee) is the strongest Eternal and can create a cosmic energy exoskeleton around himself for protection and powerful attacks; Makkari has super-speed; and Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) has cosmic energy finger guns.

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2021 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

They work as a well-oiled machine while facing down the Deviants, but turn out to be less harmonious in their stances regarding humans.  Some feel their obligations to protect humanity include guarding them against all dangers, such as their own violent human natures, while others feel they should adhere to the Celestials’ directive to confine themselves to fighting Deviants.  This ultimately leads to the team splitting up after the last Deviant is defeated and assimilating in as best as they can individually until they are called to go home.

Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

7,000 years pass and the call never comes.   Suddenly, sometime after the events of Avengers: Endgame, there is a resurgence of Deviants who are more powerful than ever.  Once again, the gang must unite and put their differences aside to find out what brought the Deviants back and discover what must be done in order to save the people of Earth.


One of the main impressions the film gives is of the international nature of this next phase of MCU history. The Infinity Saga, although it took place all over the world and had an antagonist who threatened (half of) everyone everywhere, in many ways was centered in the US, where most of the Avengers lived and worked, with their team headed up by Captain America. By populating Eternals‘ cast with such a diverse population of men and women representing all different aspects of the world, Marvel gives notice that this next catastrophe will be met and resolved by the entire planet working together.  Director Chloé Zhao does a good job of giving each member of this giant cast a few minutes of their own to shine and show off aspects of their characters’ unique backgrounds, whether that means communicating with sign language or dancing in a Bollywood show.

Despite that, the large cast does add another layer of complexity to a movie already dense with exposition.  (It begins with an opening crawl and unlike in Star Wars, I had to read it around three times before it moved off the screen to try to organize all the Celestial information in my mind.)  Juggling all the different actors means in most scenes a few of them have to be conveniently off doing something else to let us focus on the main characters, even when it seems odd that they would separate like that.  Other logistical issues revolve around the resolution–there are a lot of questions raised by the end of the film and many of them seem destined to be answered in future stories.

Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

But the film is beautifully done.  Largely shot on location in the UK and Canary Islands as opposed to green screen, the backgrounds to the Eternals’ many fights are appropriately varied and lush.  The battles between the characters and the Variants are convincingly brutal with the art design of the characters cosmic power manifestations intricate and alien, yet also retro, as you’d expect when the people manifesting them are over 7,000 years old.  While all the actors are as good-looking as actors generally are, Angelina Jolie stands out as always as the powerful yet painfully vulnerable Thena whose fighting scenes are more fluid and gorgeous than most dances.

Thena (Angelina Jolie) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. ©Disney/Marvel

The other highlight is Nanjiani’s Kingo, who I found hilarious.  Mildly narcissistic, the superhero-turned-Bollywood star who is always accompanied by a valet to document his fight scenes brings a nice levity and spirit to a story sometimes heavy with emotional turmoil and sacrifice.  No one who has ever tried to create content for the internet will not painfully identify with Kingo in one argument, where he defensively replies “I DON’T DO IT FOR THE VIEWS!”

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo by Sophie Mutevelian . ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Without spoiling anything, the heart of Eternals revolves, in part, around the many aspects of love–love for other individuals, for ideals, for a population, for a planet–and the different ways people manifest that love.  Thena tells us at one point “when you love something, you protect it” but what does that mean?  How can you give people the freedom of choice, while still keeping them from making boneheaded, violent, self-destructive decisions?  A difficult question for anyone, Eternal or not.

(L-R): Karun (Harish Patel), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Eternals is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden Kumail Nanjian, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.

*Always stay to the end of the credits. You know the drill by now.

Directed by Chloé Zhao and produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore, with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Kevin de la Noy serving as executive producers. The story is by Ryan Firpo & Kaz Firpo, and the screenplay is by Chloé Zhao and Chloé Zhao & Patrick Burleigh and Ryan Firpo & Kaz Firpo.

**Not everyone can become a great superhero, but a great superhero can come from anywhere.

In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for Eternals:

Eternals opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, November 5th.

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Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

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