“Eternals” fails to capture comic book’s magic


Photo courtesy of IMDb.

Thomas Hartill, Former Editor in Chief

Sound the alarm! The end times are here! In a shocking turn of events, a Marvel movie has received bad reviews! And of course, the public can’t help but freak out.

For the past week and a half, any headlines from entertainment-based publications are overwhelmingly related to Eternals’ status as the first “rotten” Marvel movie. With a meager 48% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, film journalists can’t help but refer to Eternals as the worst Marvel movie, especially since the next lowest score is Thor: The Dark World with a respectable 66%. And yes, it might be one of the weaker films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it certainly can’t be called the worst (especially considering the first two Thor films and The Incredible Hulk). So, while Eternals is currently fighting a hellstorm of media coverage, it’s important to look at exactly why the film isn’t up to snuff compared to the rest of the Marvel filmography.

Based on the run of Jack Kirby comics from the 1970s, the Eternals are a group of alien superheroes who come to Earth to defend humans from the deviants, an opposing alien race. The film, directed by Chloe Zhao, tells the story of the Eternals’ time on Earth and their relationship with their master, the celestial Arishem, with the celestials essentially being the gods of the Marvel universe. Yes, it sounds super weird, because it is super weird! Well, at least in the comic books it is. In the film, the Eternals really only feel like personality-void Power Rangers, complete with their own colorful costumes. 

Inherent in any Jack Kirby comic is a distinct otherworldly atmosphere. With vibrant colors, strange character design, and fantastical worlds, the Eternals of the comics brought something fresh to Marvel. On the other hand, their film counterparts represent an extension of the worst Marvel movie tropes. With their personalities reflecting the muted shades their costumes are made up of, the Eternals of the film are almost completely lacking any sense of identity. Even worse than this is the handling of the main character specifically, Sersi played by Gemma Chan.

For being the main Eternal that the audience will supposedly empathize with, Sersi is possibly the least interesting character in the film. While Chan provides a serviceable performance (or at least as much of one as she can), the writing simply isn’t there for her character. With essentially no compelling motivations or character traits, Sersi’s emotional depth is just about the same as a comic book’s physical depth. Even worse than this are the antagonists, the Deviants, who many audience members will likely forget about halfway through the movie. Quite honestly, their inclusion in the first place is baffling.

But most of all, what Eternals truly lacks is anything to set it apart from any other Marvel film. For being based on some of the most groundbreaking, visually inventive comics of all time, Eternals just feels like a poorly written Power Rangers reboot smeared with modern, “edgy” cynicism. It isn’t cool to make every character serious and down to Earth. It’s just boring. Especially in a film like Eternals. So many opportunities for strange, otherworldly storytelling were completely squandered in favor of a film which walks backwards as quickly as it could’ve been moving forward. The only truly enjoyable moments in this film are the brief glimpses of surreal filmmaking. And of course anything featuring Karun played by Harish Patel.

So, while Eternals could have been a trailblazing moment for superhero films, it is instead another example of the exact kind of film audiences will grow increasingly tired of. While the Eternals may be immortal in their story, their film will almost certainly fail to stand the test of time.