The Eternals is the first MCU movie to acheive a negative score on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’m wondering why. While I don’t love it myself, I don’t think it deserves such disdain – and there are worse MCU movies.
Mostly, it’s just unremittingly generic; but it’s still not as dull as, say, Thor: The Dark World or The Incredible Hulk. It does do a couple of things that bug me, but they’re not things that I’d expect the critics to hate.
First, when I go to a movie that adapts a property I’m into, I want to see that property brought to life. So, when the film makers decide to redesign everything, it takes away from what I’m there to see, and that’s disappointing. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s annoying.
This changes depending on my investment in the original. Example: I hated Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy as an adaptation of the character, but I liked this new character, and loved the movie.
The Eternals in comics are characters I’m aware of, and I know their origins, but I’m not really attached to them, so I don’t mind as much. But it’s still annoying.
The original Eternals were expys of the Greco-Roman gods, Chariots Of The Gods -style. In the movie, they’ve added some of the more recent Eternals, which are more global; however, they’ve rolled the dice on what they actually look like. Thena looks like she does in the comics – she’s a great match! – but not so much the rest. Makkari is now a black woman instead of Mercury, a male Greek god; she’s also deaf, which makes absolutely no sense when we learn their origins in the movie. Neither does Sprite being a permanent ‘child’, for that matter. (And of course, her entire motivation is she wants sex. Because of course Hollywood did that.)
You expect that kind of swapping these days – but the weird one is Kingu. I had to look him up, but apparently in the comics he’s Japanese. In the movie, he’s from India. I get the need to increase diversity – there aren’t a lot of roles for different races, but randomly changing a character without increasing diversity? Huh? Oh, and of course the only white guy is a villain. (Oh, and Zeras / Zeus is notably absent.)
Some have said in this movie they’re expys of the Justice League. There’s certainly a Wonder Woman (Thena), a Flash (Makkari), and a Superman (Ikaris). Ikaris actually gets mistaken for Superman in the movie. After that, the analogy kind of falls apart; I can’t really think who the rest are supposed to be when it comes to the JLA (but, I can barely remember any of them).
When watching it, I noticed one scene that I thought ‘this looks like the director is copying Man Of Steel; surely there are better sources to steal from?’ I found out later she’s a fan of that movie, and it was deliberate.
For all that, the characters are boring and forgettable. You know how I just said the only white guy is a villain? False. There’s heroic white guy, and he has one of the strongest arcs in the movie, and I still keep forgetting he’s even in there.
They try to make up for it by doing that annoying thing where the main character (Sersi is the main character of this movie, easily) rejects the one thing she’s famous for. (Minor spoiler) Sersi of the Eternals, you see, is based on Circe of Greek mythology. In the movie, where she’s introduced as a teacher of evolution (clever!), she straight-up says she can’t turn a human being into another animal. And what’s the one thing Circe is famous for? That’s right, changing human beings into other animals. She kind of does the ‘arc’ where she learns to do it, kind of doesn’t.
That wasn’t fun when Robin Williams’ Popeye wouldn’t eat spinach, it wasn’t cool when Fred Dukes hated the name ‘Blob’, it doesn’t work here. Hollywood, let it go.
I said above that The Eternals is unremittingly generic. This is never more evident than with the Deviants. In the comics, they’re a group of mostly-humanoid creatures, each with a different colour, style, look, and power-set.
In the movie, they look like any alien that could be in any recent franchise. They manage to be distinct – one’s a dragon, one’s a griffin – and still look exactly the same as each other.
The Eternals has what I think is the first sex scene in an MCU movie. It adds absolutely nothing to the movie, and it breaks down a barrier that I don’t see any need to break. (I say I think it is, because I also thought Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings had the first dragon, and then I remembered Thor: Ragnorok.)
I usually put in a section about Christian representation in my reviews (still looking for that overrepresentation I supposedly get). In this one, I’m going to broaden it. The Eternals, both Kirby’s and the movie version, follows the Chariots Of The Gods theory that myths and gods are really just aliens. The problem is, over the closing credits, they show all sorts of statues from world religions, and cover them with Eternals symbology, implying that they’re all just Eternals. (With the Judeo-Christian imagery, they only hit the angels.) It’s like they’re trying to offend all religions at the same time.
All these things annoy me, but I don’t know why they’d drag the movie down to ‘rotten’ levels for the usual critics; even with all that, there are less entertaining MCU movies. In terms of entertainment value, I’d put it in the lower-middle ranges. The things that annoy me, personally, annoy me enough that this will probably be the first MCU movie I won’t own on home media, but I really can’t see why others dislike more than all the other Marvel movies.
Watch it if you’re keeping up with the MCU, but miss it if you’re not a rabid fan of the comics or the movies.
For no reason, here’s a Celestial playing basketball. (I found this image while looking up the Deviants.)
The movie is from the villains’ POV. Most of them become heroes by the end, but after years of seeing villainous ‘heroes’ in comics, I don’t like to see the trend begin in the movies. They’re basically robots here to hatch a Celestial egg inside the earth; the Celestial needs sapient mind energy, so they need to ensure population growth. They achieve this by protecting the humans against the Deviants, who’ve decided to prey upon the sapients of Celestial egg planets. (This leads to a stupid attempt at a moral dilemma that doesn’t really work but is central to the movie: “Should the Eternals save the planet so it’ll create a Celestial – killing everything on the planet – so it can cause the birth of another planet later? BTW, that planet will go through the same thing.’?)
In the lead-up to The Eternals, fans were wondering why the Eternals stepped back and didn’t help during all the crises the Avengers faced – specifically Thanos’ snap. It makes even less sense once you’ve seen the movie, and the above story. In a mid-credits scene, we learn that Thanos is an Eternal (like in the comics) – so not only did he set their cause back centuries, but he was one of them; they should’ve been protecting the humans either way.
Oh, also: we were supposed to get The Black Knight.
Dane Whitman is a character, but never becomes The Black Knight. The movie ends with Blade’s voice making him question taking up the Ebon Blade (or so the director has said; there’s no reason to think it’s Blade. Why would he be the one to say this?). So Dane falls just short of an origin.