Chariots of the Gods: Eternals (2021) - Reviewed


ChloĆ© Zhao has had an incredible run of films culminating in 2020 with her critically lauded piece Nomadland which garnered many awards and a Best Director win at the Oscars. Her work tends to be low-key, filled with quiet humane moments and delicate cinematography, more concerned with nuanced emotions than spectacle. It is interesting she chose to helm a blockbuster superhero film as her next venture as it doesn't play to any of her strengths as a filmmaker, but it may have been she was looking for a challenge. That all being said, unfortunately her newest film Eternals (2021) is an unfocused mess of a story that features a wonderfully diverse cast that has no chemistry.

The story follows a group of "Eternals", a race of superhuman beings who are tasked by the god-like Celestials to protect the human race from monsters called Deviants. The Eternals live for millions of years lightly guiding humanity during their evolution but only directly intervening when Deviants are involved. After the Avengers thwarted Thanos' plan and restored the missing half of the earth's population, it causes the "emergence" to start happening which could spell the end of all life on the planet.

If one is fan of the original comics by Jack Kirby or any of the subsequent runs over the years, prepare for disappointment, as this is an adaptation in name only. To be fair, the story of Eternals is high concept and in a lot of aspects, a tad silly, but the script for the film does it no favors. The runtime is just over two-and-a-half hours and it feels long, with convoluted exposition being spouted constantly and disjointed pacing. 

The editing is all over the place, jumping around from the present to the past and it doesn't flow well. The characters feel generic and stilted, and with no real defining traits they all blend together and are unremarkable. The only thing that kind of works is the eons long romance between Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi (Gemma Chan) and that is side-lined for poorly choregraphed action scenes and flat quips. In the third act there are flashes of brilliance but these fleeting moments cannot save the rest of the film. Some of the imagery is astounding, particularly the depiction of the immense scale of the Celestials. 

Eternals also cannot seem to find a strong antagonist for the narrative employing a strange misdirection that doesn't make sense and also introducing a character that has unclear motivations. In the comics the Deviants are more humanoid and sympathetic, doomed to live as savages due to a genetic condition that isn't their fault, but the film version portrays them as giant brainless monsters, which takes away the more complex relationship they have with the humans and Eternals. It just doesn't work on any level--as an adaptation of the source material or a new take on it for the MCU.

Hopefully, in future films, the MCU can utilize the full potential of the Eternals as they expand more into the cosmic side of Marvel.

--Michelle Kisner