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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

CineHawk Review: “Eternals”

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GRAPHIC: SADIE HENZES ’23 AND CASEY WOOD ’24/THE HAWK

The 26th installment in the long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise, “Eternals,” is the story of an immortal alien team of heroes coming back together to face ancient enemies. It is helmed by the Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao from a script she co-wrote with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo and Kaz Firpo. “Eternals” stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok “Don Lee,” Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. It is currently out exclusively in theaters.

This epic opens with a prologue set in 5000 B.C. The almighty Celestial being, Arishem, commissions 10 superpowered alien beings, known as Eternals, to protect the planet from invasive monsters known as Deviants. In the present day, 7,000 years later, the Eternals are now living separate lives, peacefully blending in among the humans after the reversal of Thanos’ decimation of half the population of the universe, as depicted in “Avengers: Endgame.”

The newfound peace is destroyed, however, when a Deviant known as Kro surfaces long after the rest of his species was believed to have been wiped out. This forces the Eternals to reunite once more to not only face this new threat but to question the very nature of their existence. 

Say what you will about this film, but to this critic, “Eternals” is nowhere near the disaster that it has been made out to be. Zhao may have seemed to be an unorthodox choice for an MCU blockbuster, but her more intimate, character-driven storytelling works wonders with this role. 

The greatest strength in her approach is the film’s enthralling and masterfully crafted visuals, making use of actual locations instead of the industry standard green screen. This brings a level of immersion and authenticity not previously seen in the MCU.

Where other filmmakers would have struggled with a cast of 10 characters, Zhao infuses all of them with unique and identifiable personalities. The epic’s ensemble cast all deliver superb performances, with a special mention to Madden as the emotionally complex and conflicted Ikaris. The only real flaw is that in spite of boasting a two-and-a-half-hour run-time, the film prioritizes explaining its dense plot over meaningful character development.

Speaking of which, the length of the film may intimidate some viewers and, admittedly, does seem to drag at certain points. However, this can be justified by the ambitious scale of the “Eternals” lore, with the story taking place over a roughly 7,000 year period. This has the benefit of effectively conveying to the audience just how long the main characters have lived and how instrumental they have been to human history. 

On the other hand, there is an undeniable frustration in having to watch the present-day narrative stop dead in its tracks for a bloated flashback that may or may not actually factor into the story.

Ultimately, for all its flaws, “Eternals” represents another triumph in storytelling for the MCU. It may not succeed in all of its ambitions, but strong characters, interesting themes, and spectacular cinematography will be sure to satisfy fans of the MCU.

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