A Look At The ‘Eternals’ Divide
by Frank Martin
With Marvel Studios’ Eternals finally dropping on Disney+, a whole new audience is able to experience a film that has divided so many. Usually, response to a new Marvel Cinematic Universe entry swings in one way or the other. People are either lukewarm to it or really like it. Rarely do they hate it. But if social media is any indication, it seems one side found it especially boring while another side thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, a fair amount of people in the middle who just thought it was okay, but how could a movie divide its audience so much? I think it’s worth dissecting the film’s objective in order to find out why.
First off, there’s no denying that Eternals is by far the MCU film that veers the most away of the usual formula. Its tone is surprisingly grounded and serious, especially given that it’s so fantastical and full of sci-fi. It also tamps down the tongue-in-cheek humor that is so prevalent in other MCU movies.
Probably the most profound thing about Eternals is that it’s not afraid to ask big questions through its characters and its storytelling. There were a lot of complaints about the film’s pacing, that it was just too slow and drawn out. But there’s a lot to unpack in the film’s premise. It deals with the dawn of human civilization and its greater place in the existence of the universe. These are big topics that need time to be fleshed out, especially when it unfolds around a family drama. If you’re just not into those questions and the answers the film provides, then it is easy to see why it might be a slog. But for those who are utterly engrossed with its philosophical nature, the subject matter never gets boring.
This also bleeds into the film’s characterization. A lot of complaints centered on the fact that none of the characters seem fleshed out, but if you break down the film by scenes, this is not necessarily the case. There is plenty of evidence to show off real relationships and interactions between the characters. Each Eternal has a different dynamic within the group, and the film does a decent job expressing these in little moments. But again, the viewer has to be engaged and paying attention to notice them. If a viewer is turned off by its themes and big questions, then it’s easy to miss these small interactions and come away from the film feeling like the characters were bland.
In my estimation, the film’s true enemy was marketing. This is not a typical MCU film. In fact, Marvel Studios could have even considered it outside of MCU canon and the film would have held up just fine. But the marketing got lazy. The message for the film was, “this is a new Marvel movie. Come and see it!” And so moviegoers expected to get one experience and got something completely different. Perhaps if the film’s marketing had prepared the audience better for what the film had in store, then maybe reception to it might have been much different.
Eternals is now streaming on Disney+