What I didn’t like about ‘Eternals’ (2021)

I rewatched Eternals today and had some time to collect some of my thoughts on it. Spoilers ahead (including one each for The Tomorrow War and Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings).

  1. Too much deus ex machina – took 55 minutes minutes to find out what the Eternals are not capable of. And this trope continues through the film up: when Phastos makes the Uni-mind; when Ikaris brings the Domo down by putting a couple dents in it (that thing had neither discernible engines nor an aerodynamic design, so what exactly got damaged that it stopped levitating?); when Phastos bound Ikaris; and when Sersi froze the celestial. Specific to the last two instances: the bummer was that the audience is given no sense of how much power these individuals can be expected to wield (just as in Shang-Chi: great fight sequences, but no sense at the outset of what the rings are/aren’t capable of).

(Follow-up: How exactly did the deviants get trapped in ice? The same thing happens in The Tomorrow War, in which similar creatures get trapped in ice, but only because they were trapped inside containers trapped inside a crashed spaceship trapped in ice. In Eternals, wouldn’t the deviants have had to lie still for a very long time to get trapped in ice? Unless of course the Eternals caused an ice age.)

  1. Every new narrative arc begins with them saving lives – gets very holier-than-thou very quickly.
  2. “Conflicts lead to war, and war actually leads to advancements in life-saving technology and medicine.” This is Phastos’s rationalisation of Ajak’s anti-interventionist policy, but the policy’s been around for millennia while I thought this war-innovation nexus was at best two centuries old.
  3. Too tropey.
  4. The cast makes the film resemble a panel discussion with too many members: everyone gets one point in but that’s it – but also the event organiser wants them to be great points, so it’s mostly just some big picture points and nothing else.
  5. Not sure whose side to take! Sure, the deviants are villainous by appearance, but hundreds of movies have taught us to look past that.
  6. Why is Hindi spoken with an American accent (“nuch meri hero”)?! Also, good to see Hollywood’s Bollywood hasn’t changed much. Also, the whole valet thing didn’t sit well.
  7. Ridiculous scene 1: when Gilgamesh finds out Ajak’s dead – morose music, serious dialogue – the pie slides off the pan onto his boot with the sort of sound befitting slapstick comedy.
  8. Ridiculous scene 2: when the Amazon ambush is underway, Kingo fights off a few deviants and Karun (the valet) shouts, “Very nice, saaaar!”

(Follow-up: The film’s makers clearly tried to work in some comedy in between, or sometimes within, the action sequences, but it never works. The Eternals are just too serious the rest of the time for it, so they just come off a bit psychotic.)

  1. Kingo, the Indian character, is often a doofus.
  2. How’re they keeping track of where each Eternal ended up after five centuries of not being in touch? This isn’t trivial: in movies with human characters, barriers like this have often been insurmountable.
  3. Maybe just me but this was a dull, even insipid end-of-the-world story. I much prefer Last Contact by Stephen Baxter: like Eternals, it concerns itself with a very small group of people confronting the end of the world, but who do so in an unlikely-ly comforting way.
  4. Shallow characters – particularly Sprite, with her betrayal at the end, which no one saw coming, and not in the way people don’t see but then ask themselves why they didn’t suspect it, but in the way no one saw coming because they had zero reason to consider it.
  5. At this point, including the end-credit scenes, it’s hard not to tire of the MCU – quite like we all tired of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga even though the Tolkien Estate didn’t want us to, with its strategically spaced-out posthumous book releases. Like Discworld had turtles all the way down, the MCU apparently has turtles all the way to the top, and in increasingly less unpredictable ways.
  6. TV news anchor at the end: “The sudden appearance of an enormous stone figurine in the Indian ocean…”. There’s clearly daylight over the Indian ocean at this point. But when Ikaris left Earth, en route to jumping into the Sun, he paused for a view of the Americas – which were also in daylight. How?

I also wrote a bit about the celestial, Tiamut, here.

Featured image: The opening scene of Eternals. Source: Hotstar.