Fantasy and Science Fiction Appreciation Society | March 4, 2022
*Spoilers ahead for Eternals*
Marvel has released another action-packed, complex and thrilling film, and with it, we have been given another piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) puzzle. Eternals introduces new characters and more of the MCU’s ever-deepening history for fans to consume and analyse. Over the globe, Eternals has received mixed reviews, with a substantial portion of the fandom expressing their displeasure with the film. Here at Fantasy and Science Fiction Appreciation Society (FASFAS), the reviews have been similarly diverse. Some of the committee thinks they could have done a better job, while others think it was entertaining overall. One of us, who shall remain nameless, hasn’t even seen the film (GASP). So, let’s break down Eternals through its plot and its overall place in the MCU.
The film examines the present state of the MCU, five years after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Humanity has been through a lot in just a few decades, learning and adapting to the new horizons prompted by sophisticated technology and the reveal of aliens and magic. People on Earth have grown more cautious and united. However, what they didn’t notice the entire time was that they were being watched, guided and protected by ten powered individuals walking amongst them: the Eternals. They have come to humanity’s aid to offer protection from creatures that wish to destroy the population: the Deviants. For thousands of years, humans have rejoiced and prospered with the Eternals’ aid and generosity. But, their protection might have been part of a larger scheme, one that is coming full circle—unnoticed by the same individuals who have been present for the evolution of humanity.
The FASFAS committee spent some time (and data) breaking the film down to its last second, and we have some thoughts. Like a first date, let’s start with the positives about Eternals; we’ll save the red flags for later.
Where Eternals truly stands out is in the diversity of its cast and characters. The film finally brought what Marvel fans—and frankly, everyone—have been waiting for: representation. Rather than the typical American/British/Australia fare in other team-based marvel heroes like The Avengers, Eternals offers a welcome departure. The cast is made up of actors from diverse backgrounds, which were consequently injected into the characters; even though they’re neither human nor from Earth; they all reflect different human perspectives. There’s the speedster, Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff, part of the Deaf community herself, who solely communicates through sign language. We are also finally introduced to an openly LGBTQIA+ character, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), who has a husband and a son. Surprisingly enough, Marvel did not back down when some countries decided to not play the film because it contained a scene of the two men kissing. The franchise stood its ground and vouched for a community that they had been neglecting for years.
Improved diversity aside, Eternals is also, without a doubt, visually STUNNING. Everything from the costumes and set designs, to CGI, are all mesmerising. For example, the plant and fungi on display in Phastos’ workshop inside their spaceship—a work of art in itself—is such a considered detail. Another outstanding scene depicts Sersi (Gemma Chan) turning an entire bus into rose petals after Sprite (Lia McHugh) creates an entire army out of illusions of themself. Not only are the detailed designs and CGI simply breathtaking, but it also shows how the characters perceive life, their surroundings, and their differing approaches to conflict without having to say a single word.
You might be thinking these are great points and the film should have been a huge success, with fans chanting “Eternals Forever” on the streets, but it’s time to address its negative qualities. Yes, it was amazing to watch the action sequences, and yes, the film provided some long-overdue diversity and representation in the MCU. However, Eternals still suffers from trying to do too much in too little time.
The film, with credits (which we all know are quite extensive), runs for two hours and thirty-seven minutes. In this time, the screenwriters have to compile introductions to ten new Marvel heroes, describe their struggles and development over thousands of years, relay the history of the group—again, over thousands of years—and create a plot that unwinds naturally. It’s a lot, especially since all the characters have been separated from one another, with various unresolved tensions. One of the FASFAS members suggested Marvel should have made Eternals into a series of ten episodes, with each instalment focused on one character to allow for proper development. Instead, the film acts like a recap of all the events leading up to the present, a ‘Previously on…’ device used to get to the film’s final showdown. This made it difficult for the audience to keep up.
Another problem is the constant fragmentation of the past and present. It put several speed bumps in the usual smooth, simplistic timelines seen in other Marvel films. While it was satisfying to see historical references—such as Babylon—they destroyed any potential build-up for fight scenes or conflicts between the characters. Most of these scenes were obviously essential for the story to make sense, but the filmmakers could have arranged them in a way that allowed for a more fluid plot. For some of us at FASFAS who went to the bathroom at the wrong time and came back to a completely different setting and environment, too much of the audience’s time was spent trying to catch up with all the time jumps to really enjoy it.
Overall, the film is an enjoyable experience if you watch without trying to over analyse the details as it flashes before your eyes. Any time spent lingering on certain scenes will leave you with nothing but confusion until the final credit scene (yes, there is more than one). If you are one of the lucky viewers with Disney+, we suggest you watch several times so you can properly ruminate over the smaller details. Whatever you do, don’t let the negative points overshadow the film’s better moments, beautiful settings, and a diverse, talented cast. If you wish to share it with us, FASFAS is excited to hear your take on Eternals.