Marvel’s dismal ‘Eternals’ is so focused on wokeness, it forgets about entertainment
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo
‘Eternals,’ written and directed by Oscar-winning Best Director Chloe Zhao, and starring a cavalcade of stars including Angelina Jolie, is supposed to be the blueprint for the newest phase of the multi-billion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Kevin Feige, the MCU mastermind who intricately weaved 25 movies into a coherent over-arching narrative that dominated pop culture for almost 15 years, said of the movie, “The impact Eternals will have on the MCU will be nothing less than redefining the cinematic universe entirely.”
That declaration should scare the crap out of Marvel fanatics and Disney executives alike because ‘Eternals’ is as catastrophically atrocious a cinematic venture as Marvel has churned out in its 26-film run.
The film, which has an ungodly two-hour and 37-minute run time, tells the story of the Eternals, a bunch of immortal super-beings sent to Earth to protect humanity from the Deviants, a group of vicious, wiry monsters. I’d get deeper into the plot, which frequently jumps back and forth in time, but it’s so convoluted as to be incoherent.
Think of the Eternals as a sort of Avengers Plus, as they’re more akin to ancient gods than they are to modern superheroes. The Eternals are comprised of Sersi, Ikaris, Thena, Kingo, Sprite, Makkari, Druig, Gilgamesh and Ajak.
Unlike with The Avengers films, which featured well-known characters, many of whom had already had multiple solo films to explore their background and inner life, part of the problem with ‘Eternals’ is that the superheroes on display are not well-known to casual fans. So, the movie must try and develop the characters and the audience’s connections to them on the fly, while attempting to entertain. It fails miserably at all of these endeavors.
The blame for these failings falls on writer/director Zhao, who is utterly hapless and hopeless at the helm. Respected as a maker of small, intimate, introspective films like ‘Nomadland,’ Zhao is completely out of her depth on the sprawling ‘Eternals’ as she flounders in every aspect of the storytelling. The pacing is abysmal, the character development nearly non-existent and the dialogue forced, trite and expositional.
In addition, the visuals of the film are flat and the action sequences dull, unimaginative and repetitive. Every fight sequence features someone being ‘unexpectedly’ saved from sure death by the swift action of an unseen superhero off-screen swooping in at the last minute, and consistently throughout ‘Eternals assemble’-type shots – where all the characters come together in a line in a movie poster pose – rear their manufactured head.Also on rt.com The new Marvel series ‘What If…?’ is a woke wet dream where white male superheroes are replaced by women and minorities
Another major problem with ‘Eternals’ is that, in our age of wokeness and corporate virtue-signaling, it seems more concerned with waving the diversity, representation and inclusion flag than with making an entertaining movie.
The wokeness on display in ‘Eternals’is so inane as to be ridiculous. For example, in the comics, Ajak, leader of the Eternals, is a man, but in the movie he’s a middle-aged Mexican woman (an uncharismatic Salma Hayek). Latina box checked.
Makkari, the Eternals’ Flash-like superhero, is no longer a white guy like in the comics, but instead is now a mixed-race woman who is deaf for some inexplicable reason, and of course, is played by a mixed-race, deaf actress, Lauren Ridloff. Disability box checked.
In the comics, Phastos is a muscular bad-ass black man, but in the movie, he’s transformed into a frumpy gay guy played by Brian Tyree Henry. It goes without saying that a gay kiss is featured in the film, no doubt used to hit over the head the people too dense to pick up on Phastos’ homosexuality by the fact that he has a husband. LGBTQ box checked.
Considering that Marvel movies are usually populated by beautiful people in skin-tight outfits, Henry is an odd choice to play the first openly gay character in a Marvel movie. Unlike his co-star Kumail Nanjiani, who obviously spent an inordinate amount of time in the gym transforming his body to look more Marvel-ish to play the comic relief character Kingo, Henry looks as if he’s allergic to exercise in general and barbells in particular. I like Henry as an actor, but he is woefully miscast in this role.Also on rt.com Marvel + #MeToo + political propaganda = Black Widow, a middling, formulaic Disney money grab
Speaking of the casting, the usually luminous Angelina Jolie just looks odd and bored as Thena, and the beautiful Gemma Chan is exposed as being rather anemic as the film’s lead Sersi.
The only bright spot is Richard Madden, who is surprisingly dynamic as Ikaris, so much so that I actually thought he might make a passable James Bond should the opportunity ever present itself.
As of this writing, ‘Eternals’ has a well-earned Rotten Tomatoes critical score of 49%, the lowest in MCU history. Considering all the blatant woke pandering in the film, and critics’ consistent genuflection at the altar of all things “diverse,” this dismal score is even more damning.
Making money is currently baked into the Marvel cake, and ‘Eternals’ will no doubt have decent box office returns, but the film is the poster child for the company entering the creative bankruptcy phase of its self-destruction.
If, as Marvel guru Feige claims, ‘Eternals’is the blueprint for the next phase of the MCU, then “get woke, go broke” will be made manifest as Disney and Marvel are killing their cinematic cash cow by worshipping the golden calf of wokeness and sacrificing quality and entertainment at its altar.
Eventually, audiences will tire of this type of hackneyed and hollow identity-politics based pandering and shoddy filmmaking, and Disney/Marvel will have no one to blame but themselves.
If you like this story, share it with a friend!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.