Eternals by Chloé Zhao is a beautiful story, full of rich characters, but unfortunately, its shortcoming is that it’s not really the worst-rated MCU film to date, but certainly the most frustrating. The MCU has been one of the greatest successes in Hollywood to date and until 2021, the studio had enjoyed a “certified fresh” record on Rotten Tomatoes. However, this changed with Zhao’s Eternals which has the lowest score by critics to date. But if you actually look at it, this was inevitable. There had to be a point eventually, where Marvel would produce something that might not just live up to the expectations of the fans or at least, was so divisive that it left most fans divided. Eternals do enjoy an audience score of 81% – which is a massive 33% difference between its critic and audience score.
All of it combined means that Eternals’ opening weekend is really different from what Marvel is used to. With unimpressed critics and fans divisive, Eternals has done really well in its opening weekend but it’s yet to be seen if the film would continue its run in the days to come.
Here are some reasons why Eternals turned out to be hugely disappointing:
Characters are compelling but seem underdeveloped
Chloé Zhao is usually excellent with the character development in her films, creating a sense of authenticity in the characters she brings to life on the screen. This is also visible in Eternals, where she manages to make all Eternals look three-dimensional, even while dealing with so many superheroes at a time. The casting was also brilliant, with Angelina Jolie playing Thena, Lauren Ridloff playing Makkari, and Barry Keoghan playing Druig.
However, this very problem seems to be the curse for Eternals. The potential of the cast clubbed with quality performances becomes a problem for the film as it involved too many people. The main protagonists are Ikaris and Sersi but sadly, this relationship is the least interesting. When the film gets over, fans are left wanting to know more about the romance between Makkari and Druig, Phastos’ home and Sprite’s journey to mortality.
The Focus of Character Sits Uncomfortably With Cosmic Stakes
This is the biggest problem of Eternals. By now, it has somewhat become a cliché that all Marvel films will end with the heroes facing an end-of-the-world scenario. In Eternals’ case, it’s easier to understand as there has to be a bigger threat coming Earth’s way to get the team together.
However, this seemed to have misfired as the film’s best moments are characterized by intimacy, subtlety, and moments of human intervention which may hint at some deeper stories to narrate.
Even the over-the-top final battle against Celestial Tiamut makes the film seem awkward and uncomfortable, as though two different pieces of puzzles have been stacked together.
Eternals’ Cinematography Is The Best – But Still Flawed
Most Marvel films are CGI dependent and while there’s a lot in Eternals, there’s a lot of on-location work in the natural world. “We knew that this film had to be immersive, and we knew that there had to be a level of realism to everything, from action to the Eternals in historic periods,” Zhao explained in one interview. “So we, as the audience, have to actually believe that these immortal aliens have walked the planet for several thousand years. I want the audience to discover these characters and their relationship with this planet.“
This led the team to create lavish sets, something that had never been used in the MCU before. Even the press was astounded by the sets for the Eternals’ spaceship known as the Domo.
However, this blend of some incredible Cinematography and Celestial VFX beings seem oddly symbolic of the identity problem faced by Eternals, making the idea of a Celestial coming out of the planet without shattering the Earth all the way more jarring.
Eternals Fails To Live Up To Its Potential
Overall, Eternals seem to be very disappointing in a way that it’s somehow less than the sum of its parts. There are parts of the film that elevates it to one of the best in the MCU with its beautiful cinematography, characterization and representation. However, these seem to be at odds with the overarching plot, end of the world scenario, and the CGI presence of Celestials.
The film seems to have a fundamental identity crisis, making it oddly unfinished, as though a conflict within it hasn’t been resolved. This explains the poor reception to the film, with most critics sensing the discontinuity.