This Marvel Cinematic Universe’s origin story begins by giving us the historical context of the immortal heroes and introduces each of them to us.
The narrative tells us that 7,000 years ago, in circa 5,000 BCE, when the Deviants, who are sort of monsters resembling Groot-like dinosaurs, traumatised humans on Earth, the celestial Arishem sent 10 Eternals, an order of divinities, from the planet Olympia to protect the humans.
Over the millennia, the 10 — 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), and Thena (Angelina Jolie) — had protected humans from the dangers posed by the creatures, but they are not allowed to interfere in the development of the human population.
Narrated in a non-linear manner and a convoluted plot packed with betrayals and disappointments, the film tells us how the illustrious beings have been living secretly on Earth.
Film: Eternals (Running in Theatres)
Duration: 157 minutes
Director: Chloe Zhao
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan and Ma Dong-seok.
IANS Rating: ***
Each one of them with their specific abilities and familiar-sounding God-names has lived incognito among humans, mostly separated from each other, waiting for Arishem to send them back to their home planet. But with the reappearance of the Deviants and other strange occurrences, the Eternals are forced to reassemble, and soon old relationships, tensions, and grievances flare up, making the narrative interesting but at the same time tedious.
With an overload of characters fighting for the audience’s attention and with no “good” or “bad” character, in particular, the excitement of watching the film wanes. Also, the fight sequences with the Deviants are simply generic.
There are some elevating moments and an attractive new diversity worn lightly. The casting and characteristics on display here are revolutionary and unlike seen in any other earlier Marvel films.
From the leadership of Salma Hayek’s Ajak and Gemma Chan’s Sersi to the gay Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) with his husband Ben (Haaz Sleiman) and son Jack (Esai Daniel Cross), to Lauren Ridloff’s hearing-impaired Makkari, to Lia McHugh’s androgynous forever-young Sprite, to Don Lee as the super-strong Gilgamesh, the inclusive nature of ‘Eternals’ is both exciting and effortless.
Pandering to the Indian audience, there is Kumail Nanjiani as the Bollywood actor Kingo, who offers some light moments. But it is Harish Patel, who plays Kingo’s valet Karun, who steals the show with his one-liners.
The weakest link in the film is Angelina Jolie, who despite having her moments of screen glory as Thena, the ferocious warrior who suffers from mental illness, fails to emote.
On the production front, the film is brilliantly mounted with spectacular set-pieces, interesting costumes and efficiently choreographed action sequences.
Overall, the pace of the film is slow and even inert at times, but these shortcomings are balanced out by the humanity and intimacy that Chloe Zhao and her ensemble cast bring to the saga.