Eternals (2021)

Chloé Zhao

Running Time: 157 Minutes

Certification: 12a

Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, David Kaye

Even before her history-making Oscar win, the idea of Chloé Zhao making her mark on lesser-known Marvel characters was rather tempting. As the text crawl opens with "In The Beginning", thus promises an epic journey full of ambition and intriguing ideas. Spanning thousands of years, the Eternals are a race of immortal beings secretly living on Earth to protect humanity from the Deviants. Their instructions were to not interfere with humanity's progress, and long after they've gone separate ways, the Eternals must reunite to stop the Deviants once more.

Currently placed as the second-longest MCU film at 157-minutes, it's astonishing how the runtime feels lacking. There's not enough space to develop the large cast or focus more on the scope, making the idea of a limited series or reduced characters seem beneficial. There's an issue when Harish Patel's comedic sidekick gets more screentime than vital characters, leaving interesting figures played by Salma Hayek, Don Lee, and Angelina Jolie to feel underused. That's not even including Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), the human outsider who's quickly relegated to sequel-bait.

It's worth mentioning the majority of the cast aren't at fault, particularly when Brian Tyree Henry and Lauren Ridloff shine brightest as wonderful scene-stealers. It's just a shame when they're secondary to Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden), whose millennia-spanning romance should be the film's anchor yet feels unengaging.

It's unfortunate intrusive gags seemingly take precedence, as there's much to admire with the core conflict of these immortal characters grappling with ordered passivity in the face of human suffering. Not helping matters is how the gorgeous style Zhao crafted on prior films such as The Rider feels as muted as the cinematography, with distracting effects-work on the Deviants catching the eye more often.

It's worth mentioning, there's enough of interest worth returning for a sequel. Perhaps it's the talented cast at the centre, the tantalising place the ending reaches, or wondering what themes a follow-up would give attention to. One merely hopes for a more focused affair next time.

Eternals is available in cinemas now