This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Houston Coley’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Some assorted spoiler thoughts about this movie:
- So much of the beautiful stuff here plays out in montage - which is fine, but it leaves you feeling a lack of substance as it continues. Remember when we saw the "Valkyries vs. Hela's army" scene in the Thor: Ragnarok trailers and thought "that'll be such a cool sequence in the movie" but then it just turned out to be a quick flashback montage? Yeah. That's the bulk of the best stuff in Eternals.
- Take a shot every time the characters didactically argue about humanity and then one of them says "I can't join you" and angrily storms out of the room, only to have one of the others leave to go persuade them. The decision to make this a "let's get the band back together" movie makes me feel like I'd rather be watching the Phineas and Ferb Love Handel episode or The Muppets 2011. Or the second act of Endgame, because that uses the same outline too.
- This movie is full of musings about the good and bad of humanity, the value of humanity, the virtues of humans, the evils of humans, and there's a grand total of one (1) semi-fleshed-out human character in the movie and he's only in the first and last 10 minutes. Every other human interaction is mainly with silent potato-sack-wearing extras in ancient Mesopotamia or Kingo's valet. If Eternals was set on a different planet with a different race of beings than humanity at the center, I would feel like we'd barely gotten to know any of them.
- Everything in this movie happens offscreen. Everything is told rather than shown. I kept waiting for the part when the flashbacks would finally catch up to the moment when Ikaris left Sersi that they keep expositing about, and then it's just never depicted. Despite the fact that this spans millenia and the characters are always talking about their past lives and adventures, it never has any lived-in qualities. The Eternals as characters still feel like they sprang up yesterday and their world is paper thin. Even the little kid, Sprite, still just feels like a little kid - and not a 7000-year-old being in a little kid's body.
- Speaking of Sprite, um...so they just decided against using aliases here, right? Does Kit Harington think Sprite is just an ordinary human girl with a last name like Sprite Jones? He's dating a woman that goes by first name "Sersi" and she didn't expect him to figure out she's a witch?
- The Deviants exist just to give the characters something to fight in phoned-in action sequences for the first half of the movie. At first, it seems like they're building toward some kind of thematic payoff that integrates the Deviants as characters into the final act, and then they just bugger off and have nothing to do with the broader story. Kro evolves into a sentient being, makes a compelling argument about how Arushem has used them all and the Eternals are hypocrites, and then Angelina Jolie slices him in half so that they don't have to engage with this idea at all. I haven't seen manufactured conflict so lazy in a while.
- The film draws this *bizarre* moral equivalency between the characters who want to defend humanity from complete annihilation and the characters who want to let the entire population of earth perish because “if we don’t, we’re preventing billions of other lives from being created." It's like this strangely pro-life take where “all the lives that already exist” and “all the lives that could exist” are somehow held in equal measure. I couldn't believe this was even framed as a moral dilemma worth discussing. And then the characters who decide to side with Arushem and let all of humanity get annihilated are treated like "aye, that's a fair enough perspective, have a nice day!"
- Did Kumail Nanjiani just have scheduling conflicts? Why did the one character who actually enjoys fighting suddenly decide he wants to be a religious pacifist? I thought for sure they were setting up the character to have a predictable change of heart and return halfway through the battle to help his friends, but...nope! He's just not in the third act and then he shows up again at the end to crack more jokes, and it leaves you going, "why was this character even part of this story? Why did we spent so much time with him only to receive no payoff to his arc? How am I supposed to like him now that I know he didn't want to save humanity from ultimate destruction?" It makes his status as "the quip machine" seem even more phoned-in and manufactured.
- Speaking of quips, the comedy here is just...horrifically automated. "Who's your gardener?????" kill me. It's not just that the quips mess with the tone - it's that they always have nothing to do with anything going on, like some executive just pointed the camera at Kumail and said “say something funny, anything" and then moved on. "ohhhh noooo!! this wine is made of spit!!!!!"
- The current "ending" of the movie was definitely planned originally to be the post-credits scene, right? I've seen obvious sequel teases in Marvel movies before, but this was next-level. Completely destroys the resolution and clutters it with random conversation about knightly lineage and then BIG BIONICLE MAN SHOW UP AND MAKE CLIFFHANGER.
- Patton Oswalt plays one of the drunk CGI elves from 2004's The Polar Express. Then Harry Styles shows up and says he's the brother of Thanos. I thought I was high.
- Barry Keoghan is a star and innocent. Give him his own history-spanning TV series with Makkari. He's one of the only people here who actually recognizes he's playing a character.