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In the beginning, there were the Celestials. The first of their lineage, Arishem the Judge, sent a group of champions - the Eternals - to Earth to fight a cosmic threat that no one else could defeat: the Deviants. The immortal warriors of the cosmos were absolutely forbidden to intervene in mortal affairs, leaving the human race to face their own battles and learn from their mistakes. But their job would also be to inspire humanity and help it progress, at least until the aberrant creatures from outer space were defeated forever.
Marvel Studios' The Eternals carries a great deal of responsibility, just like the burden of salvation that rests on the shoulders of its protagonists: the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directed by an Academy Award-winning director (Chloe Zhao), as well as before great cinematic adaptation of the cosmic heroes created by Jack Kirby. We finally saw a preview of it at the Rome Film Fest 2021, and waiting to deepen all the themes after it arrives in the cinema here is our review, strictly without spoilers!
Eternals: the origin of the heroes
Eternals is a long and layered tale, assembled over two and a half hours of discoveries and revelations. A film that opens a decidedly important and unprecedented window for the Marvel universe, telling us about characters less known to the general public and connecting on several occasions to the fascinating cosmic vein of the House of Ideas, so far only explored in starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The story sees the Eternals reunite to face the return of the Deviants, once believed defeated, and deal once and for all with the role entrusted to them by the Celestials eons ago. But above all, for each of the protagonists, it will be a path that leads them to rediscover their own nature, and especially their own relationship with humanity and life. That of Eternals is in some ways a dynastic tale, which has its roots in myth to tell us an epic with a decidedly different flavor compared to a classic fine comic.
Chloe Zhao, who is also the co-writer of the opera, tells us a family story, but above all love, declined and developed through subplots and macro themes between theology, current events and philosophy. She does it through the bond between Sersi and Ikaris, between her love for her neighbor and his unshakable phlegm; but also with the suffering eyes of Thena, an extraordinary Angelina Jolie who stages the inner and mental dramas of an indomitable warrior, and with the generosity of Gilgamesh (Don Lee); and again the determination of Drug (Barry Keoghan) and the torments of Sprite (Lia McHugh), with the figure of Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and that of Phaistos (Brian Tyree Henry), up to the secrets of Ajak (Salma Hayek).
A mammoth and demanding cast, to which are added the charismatic Kingo of Kumail Nanjani and the Dane Whitman of Kit Harington, perhaps the only character who does not fully express his potential and who sees in Eternals a transition path towards the role of Black Knight, the Black Knight of Marvel Comics. In short, Eternals is a great choral work, a complex and stratified fine comic that Zhao directs with great awareness, without neglecting any of her protagonists.
Between writing attentive to the great messages of current affairs and the evolution of the characters, Eternals by Chloe Zhao is undoubtedly one of the most mature and complex films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this does not mean that the film spares a lighter and more fun approach, in line with the commercial and target needs contained in the aegis of Disney.
The comic brackets are present, but never too invasive, and well balanced with an important and intense dramaturgical charge. We said that it is a long and layered tale, which carefully constructs a narrative fresco that in the second act becomes even surprising, subverting roles and expectations with a largely convincing script. Not everything is perfect, on the contrary: the last act brings to the stage a resolution that in part seemed too hasty to us, and that runs too far in exhausting the storylines of all the protagonists. A small stumbling block which, in our opinion, does not drastically compromise the overall quality of the work, which remains excellent, but which unfortunately prevents it from achieving absolute excellence.
The epic according to Chloe Zhao
Among the many lights and small shadows of Eternals, however, an artist's frame stands out powerful ica. Chloe Zhao interprets the Marvelian epic in her own way, creating a scenically sumptuous film without renouncing it to infuse it with a profound directorial character.
While we would have liked that the authorial signature of the creator of Nomadland Would be perceived more markedly, overlapping the approach pop and the creative direction shaped by Kevin Feige, it must be said that Eternals packs an unprecedented photograph for fine comics and a more explosive visual apparatus than usual.
A staging that shouts at the top of its lungs a deep reverence for the cosmic gigantism of the House of Ideas, which screams unconditional love at Kirby's tables and which pours a raw, impactful and grandiloquent action on the spectator. Eternals has its own epic: in any case different, in the opinion of the writer, from Zack Snyder's sacred and religious conception of supermom, but undoubtedly unique in shaping its own superhero theogony. A film that will tickle those who know the cosmic front of Marvel well and will intrigue those looking for a more mature fine comic, albeit always linked to the inclusive and generalist approach typical of Disney and Marvel Studios.
The Eternals is a long, complex and layered tale, a choral work that leaves no one aside. A love story that speaks of family, destiny and philosophy, without giving up further highly topical readings. A mature film, in terms of themes and staging, but that does not even give up the amusing approach typical of Marvel Studios' cinecomics. Not a perfect film, as evidenced by a certain narrative superficiality in the final act, in the face of perfect and surprising construction. Chloe Zhao provides her own conception of the epic, combining superhero theogony with Jack Kirby's splendid and fascinating cosmic gigantism. The Marvel Cinematic Universe opens another important window, looking at the recovery of a certain classic aftertaste and the introduction of new heroes: Phase 4 of the MCU promises to be spectacular and full of surprises.