Marvel’s third film of 2021, The Eternals, has just been released on Disney+. I went into it with low expectations, and it managed to fail spectacularly to meet them. This is certainly the worst Marvel film in the MCU, and I’d say it’s also worse than Fant4stic, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and Blade 3.
The film is long and slow. After a quick introductory act where the concept of the Eternals is introduced, a massive second act spends what feels like hours jumping back and forth between present day and the distant past, introducing the interminable list of characters. None of them are interesting. Their leader (Selma Hyack), who has the power to regenerate, is found dead at the end of the first act. The remaining Eternals are bland, and their abilities are things we’ve seen before.
Gilgamesh and Thena (Angelina Jolie) are fighters. Thena is mildly interesting because she has memories of a previous life the others don’t have. Circe, the main protagonist, can transform inanimate things. Her sidekick Sprite can create illusions. Her love interest, Icarus, is Superman: he can fly and shoot lasers from his eyes. Other characters are a technology expert, a Flash clone, a mind controller like Professor X, and a Pyro clone.
The villains are the deviants, who are mostly mindless beasts. Their leader has the ability to absorb the powers of the Eternals he kills, like Siler in Heroes, but is a completely dull character, unlike Siler. This whole subplot is then thrown away as a mere accident, and the real villain is revealed. The final act ensues, and the world is saved in a big set-piece battle between the villain and the Eternals, which is muddled by the reappearance of the leader of the Deviants.
Nothing of interest happens in this film. The minor references to events and other characters in the MCU seem incidental, as if they were mandated to make the film an MCU movie. The tone is neither fun, like Guardians or Thor Ragnarok, nor exciting, like the best of the Avengers films or Doctor Strange. Instead, we get dull characters, turgid pacing, and a messy ending that left me hoping that the Eternals never return.