Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ Introduces Many Interesting New Characters

‘I’ ON CULTURE

The new Marvel film Eternals is out, and critics in general have not been all that kind. But the public seems to enjoy it far more than the professionals, and I vote with the regular folks. The movie is too long, it introduces many new characters, bounces around in time and space, and has a few plot holes. On the other hand, it is entertaining and focuses on more serious issues than is normal for these kinds of films.

The story works on the notion that a group of more or less gods, the Celestials, created life on planets all through the galaxy. Seven thousand years ago, a group of immortal folks from the planet Olympia, the Eternals, were sent to earth to shepherd the growth of humanity. Their prime rule was to not get involved, and to wipe out another group, the Deviants, who killed lots of people and impeded progress. The Deviants look pretty awful, a cross between wolves, alligators, raptors and a few other nasties. But everything is not as it seems.

Sersi (Gemma Chan) is one of the Eternals, teaching in a London school and having a nice affair with a Brit named Dane (Kit Harington) when first an unexpected earthquake hits, and then Sersi and another Eternal, Sprite (Lia McHugh), a thousands-year-old being in the body of a 12-year-old, wind up being chased through London by a Deviant, along with Dane, and are rescued by Ikarus (Richard Madden), an Eternal warrior with laser eyes. He and Sersi had been lovers. They gather the Eternals only to find their leader Ajak (Salma Hayak) has been killed by Deviants. But they gather Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), who throws lightning bolts from his hands and is now a Bollywood actor; Thena (Angelina Jolie), a warrior with major PTSD issues and her companion Gilgamesh (Don Lee); and eventually Mikkari (Lauren Ridoff), who is incredibly fast but also deaf; Druig (Barry Keoghan), who uses mind control); and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), a tech genius who created most of the tech of mankind for millennia but quit after creating the atomic bomb.

We find out that a new Celestial is being born, and that its birth will destroy the earth and the human race here, but it will allow other races to develop all throughout the galaxy. The fact that everyone on earth would die is a secret that only Ajak knew, and that creates a moral dilemma for the crew, and they split apart to battle it out. Hint: Mankind survives, for now.

The cast was uniformly good. Chan, the central character, is a really good actress. Playing a character forced to make horrific choices, she made her character feel real and right. McHugh, approximately the same age as she physically portrays, manages to make the young girl seem ancient. Henry walks away with most of his scenes. While there is a bit of a fuss made by critics because he is portrayed as being gay and married, no big deal is made of it. Ridoff is actually deaf and a good actress. Harish Patel as Kingo’s valet was a great scene stealer. And the actors were a diverse group, which allowed a bit of fun in the Bollywood sequence, along with an Amazon jungle’s primitive tribe. I did get a bit of a flashback when Madden and Harington squared off for a bit and was reminded of Game of Thrones.

Although long, there is a lot of plot and quite a few twists and turns. Some good guys turned out to be bad and the bad guys, well, they had their reasons. There were actually moral choices that had to be made.

Chloé Zhao, the director and one of the writers, has a great feel for character and place and managed to make just about all the many new characters individuals. This was not an easy task. Even those who were essentially brought into the main story late got a chance to shine. It was announced at the end of the film that the Eternals would be back. I will welcome them.

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