By Ananta Evander, International Relations, MSc
Adopting a philosophical big arc narrative approach similar to Cloud Atlas (2012), Ad Astra (2019) and The Truman Show (1998), Eternals is considered a ‘genre-breaking’ film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) beautifully reflecting human ingenuity.
The journey spanning 7,000 years highlights the capability of mankind to create wonder through sheer determination and technological advancements, despite the corrupted nature of humans that also inspires conflict and destruction. The film utilises a non-linear narrative to highlight the key elements defining humanity such as the importance of family, the inseparable cycle of destruction and technological advancements, the desire for free will, the presence of storytelling in captivating human’s imagination for centuries and the sense of belonging within society through societal engagement. The film also brilliantly reflects how human ingenuity transforms the perspectives of each member of the Eternals. Notably, Phastos (played by Brian Tyree Henry) becomes the first openly gay character in Marvel Studios’ production; his character has felt both the loving touch of family and the destructive fist of mankind.
Despite Eternals’ bumbling execution, Chole Zhao’s direction is the saving grace of the film through her visual style, well executed action sequences and her grounded approach in telling the grandiose narrative. Zhao brings her signature trademarks from her previous indie films such as Nomadland (2020), like the usage of natural colour palette and emphasis in real-world filming locations over studio green screen. As a result, Eternals’ long and cosmic storytelling has a distinctive look as it feels grounded and relatable with our world.
On the other hand, Zhao and cinematographer Ben Davis excellently design and execute action set pieces highlighted in two key aspects: first, highlighting the inseparable relationship between natural beauty and destruction through a natural colour palette and second , creating spectacular action scenes through wide-lens and continuous shots to introduce an ensemble team with various abilities. Thus, the audience does not struggle in following the action set pieces. Lastly, her grounded approach in executing dialogue and pivotal scenes manages to create an awe-inspiring moment that we all can nonetheless relate to.
Unfortunately, Eternals suffers from a disproportionate number of plot threads happening simultaneously which leads to uneven pacing and narrative. Marvel Studios attempts to accomplish enormous narrative objectives within a single feature film such as celebrating humanity throughout mankind’s existence, introducing a brand-new ensemble team to set the next phase of MCU. Consequently, Eternals’ narrative struggles to tell a coherent story. In the first act, the film goes back and forth to highlight Eternals’ presence throughout human civilisation. As a result, the audience can easily lose track of the movie’s narrative. Furthermore, the second and third act suffer from late story development, cliffhangers and introduction of new characters in the post-credit scene. Therefore, Eternals fails to wrap long and cosmic storytelling with a satisfying high note of poetic ending.
Featured Image: IMDB, Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios
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