Since Humanity’s first steps on Earth, a team of benevolent meta-humans has been protecting us from unspeakable evil. They are the Eternals, our only bulwark against the terrifying Deviants, monstrous destructive entities. Ten in number, they have intervened at every stage of our development on the planet and their heroic acts have ended up forging our myths, legends and religions.
After eradicating the last Deviant soon after the discovery of America, their task is over and they go their separate ways, each going to live their immortal life in different parts of the globe. However, centuries later, a new Deviant resurfaces and the team is forced to reunite again to face a threat that seemed extinct but returns more terrible than ever …
- © Marvel Studio / Disney.
The Marvel recipe, with one more tip
Let’s say it straight away: The Eternals is not a PERFECT movie but its qualities are enough to hoist it to the top of the Marvel basket. The reason for this is undoubtedly the talent of its director, Chloe Zhao. Of Chinese origin, this year she won the Oscar for best film and best director for her Nomadland. She is also known for her critical positions against the Chinese regime which have earned her persona non grata in the land of the Great Empire (but we will come back to this).
- Kingo, played by Kumai Nanjiani, your servant’s favorite character and the one with the best lines …
- © Marvel Studios / Disney.
Faithful to the rest of Zhao’s filmography, his production is very centered on the development of the characters, with a lot of dialogue and “long times”. We are facing one of the MCU films that proportionately has the fewest action scenes. It also adopts a narrative alternating present and time travel to explore the past of the characters, a rhythm that contrasts with the usual linearity of Marvel. This process allows forays into times and universes that are unusual in Hollywood (and frankly very successful, the reconstitution of Babylon is just superb).
The special effects are sometimes a little sluggish, especially at the level of the antagonist who motivates the whole story and who is very dispensable in the plot. He might never show up and the stakes wouldn’t really change, so he becomes the movie’s biggest weak spot. The powers of the characters, quite varied and unheard of in the MCU, offer interesting action scenes but very ostensibly reminiscent of scenes from the Justice League of DC.
The characters are well developed, endearing, and the author skilfully plays with the large number of main characters (ten in number) so as not to focus on a single hero but on the whole team. In the end, no one is really put aside and the bet to make ten characters interesting simultaneously, while telling a story of cosmic proportions is successful: hats off to the artist!
A real revival in the MCU?
- Druig, played by Barry Keoghan, the most intriguing member of the team in both power and development.
- © Marvel Studios / Disney.
Like the personality of its director, The Eternals has established itself as one of the most daring films in the recent MCU. First of all by its cast of great diversity. Far from dwelling excessively on this effort of representation, the whole appears as obvious as the synergy between the members is successful, both in terms of the complementarity of their powers and their characters.
The film does not display its diversity as a marketing banner (even if of course, the usual edgy Twitter did not resist the temptation of the trial of intent) and instead chooses to unfold its plot as it would do. any other film, without awkward discussion on the subject or sluggish moralization. The whole is incorporated very naturally into the story by renewing for once the archetype of the Hollywood superhero and by offering all the spectators strong models of identification.
Chloe Zhao also chooses to break a great taboo of Marvel by showing for the first time on the screen an explicitly homosexual relationship involving one of the main characters, again with a precision and a rare relevance. The man kisses another man before going to the front: so what ? The effort goes much further than the micro-scene at the end of the last one Star Wars (cut during editing in some countries) and fits into the story as naturally as any more traditional relationship in cinema. With these efforts at inclusiveness, Chloe Zhao manages to refresh the very rigid representational model of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without giving the impression of front activism, and with obvious sincerity.
These decisions do not go without heavy concessions: due to the status of the director in China and the themes addressed, the film has no chance of being shown there. And positions in favor of the LGBT cause ban the film from a whole host of other large potential markets in countries where these issues are banned. Thus, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, among others, have banned the film on their territory. Further proof that in Hollywood, being inclusive is not always a profitable decision.
Of course, that didn’t stop part of the conservative American right (and beyond …) from going wild on Twitter as if their world were falling apart, but the bulk of the reactions are quite benign. simply because the film is successful, “despite” its progressive qualities, the most malicious would say.
- © Marvel Studios / Disney.
Not particularly expected, The Eternals was shaping up to be a forgettable new MCU movie, drowned between end-of-year blockbusters and high-potential Disney + buzz series. Thanks to daring biases and a very personal realization, he nevertheless manages to create a surprise and will undoubtedly convince disillusioned fans of the MCU as well as the new ones who still have stars in their eyes. Hopefully the feat can be reproduced in the next installments. Appointment to find out in December for the next one Spider-Man.
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“The Eternals” – directed by Chloé Zhao – with Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Harish Patel – produced by Marvel Studios / Disney – 11/04/2021.