Judge “Eternals” for yourself

The latest Marvel blockbuster enters theaters with heavy criticism, but is it justified?

PHOTO COURTESY/ YouTube Marvel Entertainment

PHOTO COURTESY/ YouTube Marvel Entertainment

Simply put, general audiences have not heard of the Eternals. While Marvel Studios has overcome this challenge already in the past, I argue this task is even more difficult in 2021, with 25 interconnecting films established within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As viewers settle in to see “Eternals” for the first time this month, they will do so with feelings of doubt if they have seen the film’s Rotten Tomatoes site. Critics have painted this film as a massive failure, leading fans like myself to almost dread seeing it. In reality, there is much to like in director Chloé Zhao’s Marvel debut and many reviews, in my opinion, are unfounded and unfair.

The source material is dense, to say the very least. After all, this group of heroes seems to operate on a plane far beyond that of the Avengers and other pre-established heroes. However, Zhao works wonders to unpack their motives, abilities and personalities in a timely manner without disrupting the film’s pace. Zhao should be applauded for this work even more when considering that 10 heroes make up the team, many more than any previous Marvel film has tried to establish in a single film.

In some instances, the cast leaves viewers wanting more. Angelina Jolie, though highlighted in the film’s marketing, plays a much smaller role than her counterparts and does not stand out. Barry Keoghan and Lia McHugh, more to the fault of the writers, play dry, annoying characters that do nothing to win over audiences.

On the flip side, Gemma Chan plays a great lead that viewers will wish they could see more of. The same goes for Brian Tyree Henry, who depicts Marvel’s first openly gay superhero, Phastos. In a similarly groundbreaking role, Lauren Ridloff (who is deaf) plays Makkari, the first deaf superhero in the MCU. The inclusion of such representation is natural and effective, hopefully setting the standard for superhero films and other blockbusters moving forward. Not to mention, both Henry and Ridloff’s performances are fantastic.

Zhao’s track record has left many wondering how “Eternals” could be facing such heavy criticism. Her last work, “Nomadland,” was highly praised at the 2021 Oscars, with Zhao taking home Best Director honors and the film being awarded Best Picture. Many elements of that film are incorporated into “Eternals,” though critics seem unwilling to give this film much credit for such accomplishments.

That is not to say that this film is flawless. On the contrary, “Eternals” suffers from instances of weak writing throughout, including some jokes that do not land and are poorly timed. Additionally, a consistent complaint thus far has been that audiences are simply not invested in these heroes. I see this as a result of the team’s balanced nature, whereas past Marvel projects depict heroes who can dominate their own films. This film has a unique approach, but not necessarily a bad one.

My end diagnosis is that “Eternals” and its poor standing stems from lofty expectations. In a cinematic universe dominated by crossovers and world building, many refuse to take each film for what it is. With the era of Captain America and Iron Man behind us, comic book fans and general audiences alike must understand that falling in love with these new characters does not happen overnight. I view this film as a refreshing take on what was becoming stale for Marvel Studios, even if critics want to cling to their own image of what a superhero film “should” be.