(director/writer: Chloé Zhao; screenwriters: Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo/based on Jack Kirby’s 1976 comic; cinematographer: Ben Davis; editor: Craig Wood/Dylan Tichenor; music:Ramin Djawadi; cast:Gemma Chan (Sersi), Richard Madden (Ikaris), Angelina Jolie (Thena), Salma Hayek (Ajak), Kit Harington(Dane Whitman), Lia McHugh (Sprite), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Haaz Sleiman (Ben), Barry Keoghan (Druig), voiced by David Kaye (Arishem), Don Lee (Gilgamesh), Harish Patel (Karun), Esai Daniel Cross (Jack), Lauren Ridloff (Makkari); Runtime: 157; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers; Kevin Feige, Nate Moore: Walt Disney; 2021)

It comes with all the childish nonsense over superheroes you get from juvenile comic books.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An empty but coy sci-fi adventure tale from Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Though it’s directed with soul by indie filmmaker Chloé Zhao(“Nomadland”/”The Rider”), who won a best picture Oscar for directing “Nomadland,” it never is pleasing for various reasons that include having too many subplots and being incoherent.

Zhao co-writes this disappointing but still somewhat intriguing big budget blockbuster with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo and Kaz Firpo. It’s based on Jack Kirby’s 1976 comic about humanoid defenders of Earth births (“When Gods Walk the Earth!”). It comes with all the childish nonsense over superheroes you get from juvenile comic books. Though it has good visuals, good acting and good intentions, it lost me early on by introducing too many characters to care about. It’s no help its story clumsily goes back and forth in different time periods and is often baffling, stuffed with too much bogus mythology that it can’t deal with without being too talky in its explanations.

Comic book writer Kirby blurred the lines between superheroes and gods, and added in some contemporary garbage New Age stuff lifted from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods “about ancient aliens.” But the few comic books published about the Eternals in its 45 years of existence never caught on, just like this movie won’t because sitting through 157 minutes of such a poorly paced plodding film for most is insufferable. Yet its good marketing strategy will nevertheless guarantee it an undeserved big box office. 

The title is explained by painting the Eternals as a race of created immortal beings with super powers who came to Earth 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia as its guardians, who can’t be killed and who secretly shaped the Earth’s history and civilizations (they are creatures lifted from from Greek mythology, but with a spelling that’s not spelled like the Greeks did). 

The epic tells of 10 Eternals who came to earth to protect it from the predatory Deviants (sinewy beasts with prehensile tentacles) at the request of their Celestial creator Arishem (voiced by David Kaye). We learn the dragon-like monsters were conquered 500 years ago.

The action picks up in modern-day London with a surprising Deviant attack on the city that effects the nurturing matter-shifting Eternal Sersi (Gemma Chan). Sersi then travels with her former boyfriend from two thousand years ago, the high-flying Ikaris (Richard Madden), who can fly and can shoot beams from his eyes, and the androgynous Sprite (Lia McHugh), who is trapped in the body of an 11-year-old girl, to South Dakota to find their matriarchal healer leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek). Sersi then reunites with the separated team: the warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie), the strongman Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the firebomber Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), the mind-bender Druig (Barry Keoghan), the techie phenom Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and the super-fast but deaf Makkari (Lauren Ridloff).

Also going to South Dakota is Sersi’s history professor, her new Brit boyfriend Dane (Kit Harington), the brother of Ikaris, and for comic relief, Kingo’s documentary shooting valet Karun (Harish Patel).

When the Eternals all discover at the same time the truth about their mission to Earth, they become divided about how they will act over the current attack, which the filmmaker tells us has been spurred on because of global warming.

The Eternals are left wondering why they are here (which I believe is the film’s theme).

REVIEWED ON 11/18/2021  GRADE: C+