Eternals In-Depth Review


Eternals featured image, all of the Eternals. Ad for the movie.

Marvel Studio’s Eternals In-Depth Review: A Marvel Dud 7000 years in the making

The MCU Infinity Saga ended with a bang in 2019 with the biggest event movie in the history of cinema, “Avengers: Endgame.” It ended a 10-year-long story and left a massive hole in the universe, with the core Avengers either dead, retired, exploring space, or living the life they never had and the need for a new prime-time unit of superheroes came to the forefront when it was announced that one of the first films for the post-endgame MCU would be “Eternals.”

Prior to the development of this film, the MCU had an Inhumans film slated for the fall of 2019 as the lack of the X-men made the studio desperate to introduce a new team on Earth to fight with the Avengers. The film was ultimately scrapped and transferred to ABC for a TV show in the time slot after the already moderately successful “Agents of Shield.” Launching the pilot on September 29th, 2017, the Inhumans show was the metaphorical mother of all bombs. It sucked so hard. I have never seen worse CGI in, well, anything in my life, including many of the horrific 90s comic book movies like Spawn (1997). It was so clearly half-baked and poorly made that many fans, including myself, were forever grateful that it was struck from the history books and made non-canon within the MCU.

Promotional Material from “Eternals” (Marvel Studios)

Once the “Eternals” film replaced the Inhumans film on the phase four slate, the star-studded cast was revealed, including Hollywood icons Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, “Game of Thrones” alumni Kit Harrington and Richard Madden, and other great standouts like Kumail Nanjiani, Don Lee, Gemma Chan, Barry Keoghan, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, and Lia McHugh. The cast was incredible and the film seemed to be a surefire masterpiece, capped off with the addition of award-winning superstar director Chloé Zhao and a gargantuan budget of $200 million. The story, as told by Kevin Feige at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con Phase Four reveal event, would be a big sprawling space epic about family and overcoming the shackles of a false promise. The way they sweetened the deal really got people invested in the film, and people were ready to flock to the theater on November 6th, 2020. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed everything on the Marvel slate back, and Eternals had a new release date of February 12th, 2021 before another delay forced it back to a final release date of November 5th, 2021.

So now we have reached the review part of this article, and I wanted to start by mentioning the big disparity in the reviews between critics and audiences. As of November 9th, 2021, the audience rated the film at an 80% rating on rotten tomatoes while the critics have dropped the film to a whopping 47% rating, a rating so low that it puts “Eternals” as the lowest rated film in the MCU, 19 whole percentage points below the previous worst movie “Thor: The Dark World”. I really wish I could say that the hate is undeserved, but boy, this film is bad. This film, for its 156-minute runtime, was 90% exposition. The film felt like a four-hour marathon that I could take a nap in and miss almost nothing. I really dislike films that partake in exposition dump, and this falls into that category. The insane amount of information this film tries to explain to the audience gave me a thought that probably should have been considered by the studio: why make this a feature film rather than a 6 to 8 episode Disney Plus show? The Disney Plus show format would’ve given this film so much more time to breathe and explain the massive plot points it tries to showcase. Fitting in over two hours of exposition into a two-and-a-half hour film is a recipe for disaster if done poorly, and it’s done horribly. I’ll elaborate on the details of the exposition dumps in the spoilers section, but they explain the origin of the eternals, celestials, and deviants at least four different times in the exact same manner, and each time is longer than the last.

There’s a massive twist that changes the whole scope of the film in the third act, and it falls far below the mark of emotional resonance. The twist involves a prominent character in the story, and the lack of care I had is part in parcel to the terrible character writing in this film. Out of the entire cast, the only characters that have any real care taken to them are Sersi, Thena, and Gilgamesh. The rest aren’t characters that I can get invested in. They speak so much about how the eternals are a family, but at no point did I feel like they were a family. I felt like I was watching a group of people who tell themselves that they love each other but don’t actually care very much. The Disney Plus format could’ve helped so much in making them feel like a family and giving each character more than a 3-4 minute scene that is almost copy-and-paste for each character.

Unfortunately, “Eternals” falls well short of the expectations many people had. The film really shines only when the few highlight characters are on screen and the rest of the team feels underdeveloped. The large swath of information that the film tries to explain to the audience doesn’t make much sense when considering the other contradicting information explained by the eternals and the prime eternal herself. This film should be a case study or an example of how a Disney Plus show can really benefit some teams and characters considering the scope it tries to reach. However, some of the praise is warranted for the film and a lot of your feelings on it will depend on how much exposition you can take and how much you actually care for the team as a whole.

See it now, wait a while, or never touch? Wait a while (until it comes to Disney Plus)

Warning: This is the start of the spoilers section. Do not continue if you wish to experience Eternals with fresh eyes.

Spoiler Time! We’ve reached the point of the review where we can now discuss every aspect of the film, and I think it’s important to start with a basic discussion of the plot. The Eternals consist of Sersi (Green), Ikaris (Blue), Thena (White), Gilgamesh (Brown), Kingo (Purple), Druig (Maroon), Makkari (Red), Sprite (Teal), Phastos (Violet), and the prime eternal Ajak (Gold). Notice how I assigned each character a color, and that’s just an indicator as to who wears what color uniform because as you notice, some eternals wear very similar color uniforms. It’s a small detail to most, but to me it exemplifies how some of these characters are just copies of others and bring little to no new or unique emotional resonance to the table. I mention emotional resonance because the whole point of this movie is to make you feel for these characters as a family but they just don’t. I mentioned at the end of the non-spoiler review that your feelings on this movie depends on how much you resonate with the eternals as both a family and individual characters, and for me it feels more like wasted potential. I truly believe that if this movie was split into a multi-part Disney Plus show then it would be an incredible achievement, but it’s a movie now, and the characters are mostly rough.

The Eternals Arrive For Battle from “Eternals” (Marvel Studios)

We’ll start with the good characters. We’ve got a small list here comprising the following: Sersi, Gilgamesh, Thena, Phastos, and Dane Wittman. Sersi is more or less the main character of this film as most of the story follows her as the deviants, the mortal enemies of the eternals, re-emerge and the prime eternal Ajak is found dead at her home in South Dakota. She’s currently in a relationship (and it seems pretty clear that she’s fallen in love) with Dane Wittman, played by the man who never knew his mother Kit Harrington. Their relationship does feel very genuine, and they have great on-screen chemistry. Dane is hilarious and caring for others, but he’s barely in the movie, though the second post-credit scene does give some hints at his greater role in the universe. Sersi goes on what is a fairly archetypal hero’s journey by becoming the new prime eternal in place of Ajak and attempting to reunite the eternals to enlighten them on the truth behind their mission and ultimately stopping the emergence event, which we’ll get to. Her character is pretty basic but she acts as a pillar of integrity for the team that can unite them under the banner of Earth.

The next pair of characters and arguably the most captivating is the dynamic duo of Thena and Gilgamesh. Their relationship is one that is up to interpretation whether or not it was romantic or plutonic, but they shine bright in either regard. Gilgamesh is the physically strongest eternal and Thena is the greatest warrior of the team and the inspiration for mankind’s goddess of war. During one of the flashback scenes in Tenochtitlan, Thena is overwhelmed by an eternal disease called mad deviancy which causes violent outbursts against others. Ajak explains that the only option in this situation is to wipe her memories, emptying her mind and soul from her being. Thena tries to fight against it before Gilgamesh stops everyone and volunteers to watch over her even if he risks death. It shows his noble side and how much he’s willing to do for those he cares about, which made his eventual death to the prime deviant even more tragic. He dies protecting Thena and in a heartbreaking scene beautifully done by Angelina Jolie and Don Lee, they share a final moment where he wishes for Thena to remember who she is and live for herself. As he fades away, Thena breaks down and belches out “I will remember” as tears stream down her face. It’s a powerful scene that exemplifies the relationship between the two and gives the film a new true underlying reason to stop the emergence event and a reason for Thena to pursue the prime deviant. Following up on those two, we have the final character that I wish to share in a positive light, and that is Brian Tyree Henry’s brilliant inventor Phastos. Phastos is, as just mentioned, an inventor whose duty was to help advance the technology of humanity to a suitable point. He has the most heartbreaking turn of events in his life as in his attempts to advance humanity during the second world war, his ideas were used in the manhattan project and eventually lead to the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He visited the site of the Hiroshima bombing and broke down in Ajak’s arms. Seeing firsthand the destruction his technology has wrought, he rejects humanity and goes into hiding, eventually marrying his husband, portrayed by Haaz Sleiman, and having their son. Phastos is eventually met by the rest of the eternals and initially rejects their offer to stop the emergence before his husband convinces him to fight for them and the good of humanity. His story is the standout for the individual eternals and being one half of the first gay couple in the MCU stamps his place in the history books.

I took a lot of time to highlight the previously mentioned characters because they truly were superb. The rest, however, were laughably bad. Kingo was the cookie cutter comedic relief that never had any of his jokes really land, and even worse was when he left the movie before the third act even started and he wasn’t seen until a cameo at the end. Druig and Makkari had a fun relationship and compelling individual arcs but they were pushed to the sidelines and given barely anything to do. Sprite once again has a compelling story with her desire to be an adult and her infatuation with Ikaris, but just like Druig and Makkari she has nothing of note to do besides temporarily betray the team in the third act. Ajak, the prime eternal, is the motherly figure of sorts for the team and has the power to heal all wounds and diseases. Even with all the special Mother Teresa powers, she can’t heal the massive wounds in this film. In fact, she’s only a walking talking plot device, doing two things in the entire film: spilling exposition onto the audience and dying to be a motivator for the team and the linchpin for the big twist.

The Prime Celestial Arisham from “Eternals”

So the final part of this spoiler section involves my two biggest gripes with the movie, mostly because they’re intrinsically linked and they suck equally. We’ll start with the big elephant in the room: the true mission of the Eternals and their origins. The Eternals are, in (literally) every iteration, guardians of the universe made by The One Above All (God in the marvel universe) on the eternal planet of Olympia to protect the universe from the deviants created by The One Below All or, in some cases, created as a failed experiment when trying to create the mutant gene. Now for the MCU, the deviants were created by the prime celestial Arisham to clear out apex predators on planets to allow intelligent life to grow. However, they began to evolve and kill intelligent life and rather than using his immense power to wipe deviants off the face of the universe, he decides to make the eternals. The Eternals, however, are not god-like beings from Olympia. They are highly-advanced androids created in the worldforge (which shouldn’t be possible but this film wasn’t exactly concerned with making much sense) for the sole purpose of eliminating the deviants and making way for the emergence.

I keep mentioning the emergence, so let’s explain it. It is essentially the apocalypse for any given planet (In this case Earth) that holds the seed of a celestial. Each seed grows over time into a full-blown celestial, and the growth is caused by the evolution of intelligent life. The more intelligent life, the quicker and more powerful the celestial becomes. In the case of Earth, the celestial Tiamut, The Dreaming Celestial, lay in the Earth’s core for much longer due to the snap in Infinity War that wiped out half the population, and thanks to what we learned about Thanos in this movie, he was an eternal with the deviant gene. So that begs the question: why would you sit out and do nothing when your mission is in jeopardy thanks to the most powerful deviant that has emerged? In any case, the emergence began once the Avengers brought the population back and the eternals, learning the truth of the situation, flew out to stop the emergence.

Now we reach the big twist of the film: Richard Madden’s Ikaris, referenced in the movie as Superman, betrayed the eternals from the beginning as he led Ajak to the deviants and killed her for the prime deviant. Now he wastes no time trying to kill his teammates to ensure Tiamut is born and Earth is destroyed. The character of Ikaris is the biggest waste of potential in this movie. He is the closest thing to Superman in the MCU and he feels a lot like Superman. The problem is that it isn’t natural. It feels like they made this character to sympathize with as a pillar of hope so that his betrayal is more shocking. In reality, I was happy he was revealed as the main physical villain of the film because I knew he would die and I wouldn’t have to deal with him again, which proves true as he flies directly into the sun in a poetic and ironic death after Tiamut is frozen and killed. He could’ve been as great as Superman, but he ends up as a pile of ashes.

“Eternals” has two solid post-credit scenes that bring some hype to future Marvel projects. The first takes place on the eternals ship as Thena, Druig, and Makkari were on a universal hunt for fellow eternals when they’re met by fellow eternal Eros/Starfox, Brother of Thanos and played by Harry Styles, and his “squire” Pip the Troll, voiced by Patton Oswalt. It’s a fun scene that sets up a sequel, but I really hope Harry takes some acting lessons between now and then because he desperately needs them. The second involves Dane in his office at the museum with a bolted box on his desk that he contemplates opening. He mentions how it belongs to his family as he opens the box and the wrapped Ebony Blade lays before him. It makes it very clear that the next time we see him, he’ll become the Black Knight, his hero alias, and he’ll have a surprise guest as a man off-screen interrupts him as the movie ends. After much research and confirmation from Chloé Zhao, we now know it’s the first appearance of the MCU’s Blade, played by the ever-excellent Mahershala Ali. The hype is very real for the best vampire hunter on Earth, and it seems like both Blade and Dane will appear together in their next project, whether it be the slated Blade film or a yet-to-be-announced Black Knight show, or even a Midnight Sons show since Moon Knight, Echo, Daredevil, and the Punisher are all rumored or confirmed to be coming to the MCU.

The Comic Version of The Eternals from “Neil Gaiman’s Eternals”

This was my longest review to date, and for good reason. This movie is sort of tragic. It had the most potential of any MCU film slated short of “Spider Man: No Way Home”, and it flopped harder than any MCU film has before, at least critically. Yes, this movie is poorly written, poorly acted in some places, oversaturated with excessive exposition, and lacking any real explanation to so many questions, but this could’ve been so much more. The post-credit scenes and the characters mentioned in the positive show that there was something brilliant in this movie. Ultimately its biggest downfall isn’t the content of the film, but the time the story was given. Had this been a Disney Plus series, it would’ve thrived like “Loki” did over the summer, but it didn’t and it’s a real bummer.

Final Verdict: 41/100 (F)


Sersi and her journey
The Gilgamesh/Thena dynamic
Dane’s Humor
The Phastos Arc
The Visuals
The Post-Credit scenes


Kingo and his abrupt departure
Sprite’s wasted potential
Ikaris’s wasted potential
The “Ikaris is suddenly the bad guy” twist
Ajak’s lack of character/use as a plot device
Arisham’s lack of screen time
The lack of explanation for their absence from “Infinity War” and
The funky romance of Druig and Makkari
Druig’s wasted character
Makkari’s generic arc
Too much exposition
Wasted Deviants
Convoluted Origin for Eternals