With Avengers: Endgame, Phase Three of the Marvel Universe came to an end, and arguably just about everything they’d been building up to before that point was wrapped up. But the Marvel Universe is vast, and there are many stories to be told, both completely new to the MCU and following up on a few loose ends from what we’ve seen before. Jack Kirby, one of the legendary creators at Marvel Comics as they started out, left behind a wealth of work, and now we get to see some obscure characters brought to the screen, as Marvel takes a look at The Eternals.
The Eternals are powerful, essentially immortal beings with origins in some of Marvel’s cosmically powerful characters. As with most MCU projects, there are changes made bringing the characters from comic book page to big screen, and also as normal for most of the MCU, the changes work. The movie covers more territory than any other of the films, ranging from pre-history to modern day. We also see ties between aspects of these legendary characters and many of mankind’s myths.
Essentially, in this incarnation, the Eternals were sent to Earth by unthinkably vast and powerful beings called the Celestials. They are here for one purpose only: to hunt down the Deviants, a different race of aliens who prey on humans. After many battles over the span of history, the Deviants are apparently defeated for good. While the various Eternals had certain expectations of what would come at the end of the mission, they are surprised to find they’ll be staying on Earth. They split up and find things to do with their immortal lives as the centuries roll by.
In the modern era, we see Sersi, who has powerful transformation abilities, in London. She’s a professor teaching history, which is cheating if you ask me since she lived through it. Her boyfriend is Dane Whitman, a name familiar to Marvel readers. While Dane has his own history in the comics, that only gets hinted at through this movie. Sersi and Sprite, a powerful illusion caster, get a nasty surprise when something they were sure they were done with suddenly emerges, and it’s time to get the band back together. Leaving Dane behind after explaining bits about their past, Sersi and Sprite find their fellow Eternals where they’ve chosen to spend their time, and there’s a fair amount of family drama among them.
Their enemy is more powerful than they expected, and tragedy strikes early in their search. There are even some references to DC superheroes, who apparently exist as fictional characters in the MCU. Eventually, there are assorted divisions in their ranks which get more and more serious as illnesses are revealed and secrets come to light. By the final fight, Earth’s fate hangs in the balance, and not all of these notionally immortal characters make it through. There are, of course, two end scenes, which hint at interesting ties comic fans have known about for a while between the Eternals and a major character we’ve seen before, and also show some hints about the future of one character, as well as introducing, after a fashion, a new character to the MCU.
This was a big departure from a lot of Marvel’s earlier projects. The Eternals are relatively obscure characters, there are a lot of them, and, especially with some of the changes made, they are a very diverse group. Personally, I thought they succeeded on just about every level. This was a fun movie with a lot of surprises. The changes made sense, especially within the MCU. They explain why these characters have been around so long but not played a part in such major events as the Battle of New York or even the Infinity War.
What I liked: There was action, humor, some nice nods to various parts of the comic mythos, and changes that worked, as opposed to random ones that detract from the original stories. Despite introducing a lot of characters, everyone got some screen time, we got a feel for who they are, and what they could do with their various powers. The two end scenes especially left me looking forward to the continuation of the various stories. One character who has a power set I’ve always been fond of really gets to cut loose impressively in the final battle.
What I didn’t: I didn’t like any of the character deaths. Not that I think you should never kill a character, and even knowing going in that with a cast this big, some of them surely wouldn’t make it. But I didn’t like how they died, and it was one of the few places where the decision to make the changes from the comics really kind of seemed to stick out. I’m also not sure at least one of them actually would have died with what we saw happen. I’m also not sold on the need for some of the changes, and at least one of them made no sense to me given their backgrounds.
I enjoyed this a lot, and look forward to more adventures for the characters. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.