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'Eternals' places its characters front and centre of the most ambitious MCU entry

Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios' 'Eternals'. Picture: Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios 2021

Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios' 'Eternals'. Picture: Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios 2021

Published Nov 4, 2021


It only took 20+ movies and four phases, but “Eternals” put its diverse cast front and centre of one of the most ambitious MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films to date.

Rating: 3.5/5

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“Eternals” follows a group of heroes from beyond the stars who had protected the Earth since the dawn of man. When monstrous creatures called the Deviants, long thought lost to history, mysteriously return, the Eternals are forced to reunite to defend humanity once again.

When it comes to the MCU, 2021 has been a year filled with expansion, including our first Asian lead in “Shang-Chi”, the three streaming shows so far - “Hawkeye” is coming later this year – and the animated adventure “What If”.

With the focus of the universe shifting to the magical elements, and now with “Eternals” there's more context for the cosmic parts.

When it was revealed that Academy award-winning director Chloé Zhao was at the helm of the film, many fans, myself included, wondered how she would tackle an MCU film since her directing style doesn’t necessarily fit in with the MCU template we’ve come to know.

In this film, Zhao finds a middle ground with her style and an MCU film.

Focusing squarely on our lead characters, Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ajak (Salma Hayek), who are women of colour.

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“Eternals” spends a lot of time establishing the interpersonal relationships of all the main characters, and Zhao does take her time with the pacing of the film, and it is a nice change from what we've become accustomed to.

This film doesn’t follow the usual MCU structure, and I, for one, am happy to have something that feels fresh in a movie franchise that’s been going on for more than 10 years.

The dialogue finds a nice balance between humour and more emotionally-driven scenes.

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The acting is phenomenal, with Angelina Jolie flexing her performing skills while Kumail Nanjiani steals the show whenever he’s on-screen.

A lot of the movie’s emotional weight rest on Gemma’s shoulders, and she does a great job at keeping us as the audience invested in what is going on.

The movie has been getting a lot of backlash for its diverse cast and lack of relatability from audience members who haven’t even seen it and other reviewers.

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And I, for one, as a queer POC (person of colour), am very happy to have a film where, for the first time, I can see myself represented in a franchise that’s taken over the world.

Disney and Marvel have been dragging their feet when it comes to queer representation, with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) being hinted at as being bisexual but never said outright.

We finally took another tiny step forward with the God of Mischief inLoki” when he very subtly revealed he was bisexual. However, when it came to the movies, they have been ducking and diving the criticism of them having queer characters in theory but not in practice.

Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Marvel Studios' "Eternals". Picture: Marvel Studios 2021

And finally, with Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), we have a gay hero who has a husband that we see on-screen sharing a kiss. Do you understand how long some of us have been waiting for this?

Along with getting an openly queer character, we also have our first deaf superhero with Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), and they were able to seamlessly integrate sign language into the movie without it feeling out of place.

The film does have some storytelling issues since we are bombarded with a lot of information.

And it does sometimes struggle to find the right rhythm when it comes to shifting from more emotionally driven scenes to lighter ones.

You really can’t watch this movie if you haven’t been following the MCU since the only exposition we get is about the Eternals themselves, but anything else explained previously in the MCU isn’t going to be spoon-fed to you here. Some people have said it feels as if we’re being thrown into what feels like a sequel instead of the first movie.

I didn’t feel the same way, and since I’ve watched all things MCU-related, I didn’t struggle to keep up. The only thing I would say is that it would have been nice to have more scenes with the Eternals through the 5 000 years they’ve been on earth.

The special effects are as top tier as you would expect coming from Kevin Feige and co. Zhao has put her distinctive stamp on this film, and it’s shot beautifully.

“Eternals” is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but in a universe filled with movies that sometimes feel like it’s been copied and pasted several times over, it’s time that a movie in MCU shakes the table on multiple fronts.

Showing that they can still make daring choices and give us something we haven’t seen before.

You can read and share the latest issue of IOL Entertainment digital magazine here.