‘Eternals’ review: Marvel expands its universe with a big, messy adaptation of the Jack Kirby comic

Assessing “Eternals” needs a couple of disclaimers, because it feels distinctly various from many Marvel fare. The story represents such a substantial possible growth of its “cinematic universe” that it may just be relatively evaluated in the rear-view mirror, as soon as there’s time to see what fruit these seeds have actually borne.

Because of that and others, the movie is definitely intriguing, and it comes with the pedigree of director/co-writer Chloé Zhao, following (with Covid-related hold-ups figured into the lapse) the Oscar-winning “Nomadland.”

Yet whatever Zhao’s indie-film perceptiveness, “Eternals” need to both fulfill the action needs associated with the category, which it capably does, while setting out a lot of background as it presents these characters and what they symbolize. That latter job shows more uncomfortable and ungainly, specifically throughout the prolonged very first half that describes the property and reassembles the group, the most inclusive Marvel has actually provided.

“Eternals” just takes too long getting to the great things, and its more cerebral and adult components — consisting of a grand love — might harbor less appeal amongst kids, a not-inconsequential demonstration, than latest Marvel titles.

Based upon a lower work from Marvel artist supreme Jack Kirby (who went back to the fold after producing his signature impressive “New Gods” at DC), “Eternals” concentrates on beings dispatched to Earth countless years ago to damage ghastly animals called Deviants that threaten its occupants.
With amazing powers varying from flight and very speed to modifying matter and managing minds, they were naturally puzzled with gods by ancient civilizations. For this reason, names like Ikaris (Richard Madden), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Thena (Angelina Jolie), and Makkari (“The Walking Dead’s” Lauren Ridloff) discovered their method into different folklores, albeit with the spelling mangled.
Kumail Nanjiani in Marvel's 'Eternals' (Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios).

It was always a rather cheeky conceit, and the film begins in the distant past before leaping to the present, with plenty of flashbacks to places like Mesopotamia and Babylon thrown in.

After relative calm for thousands of years the Deviants have reemerged, prompting the Eternals — scattered across the globe — to spring back into action, although that first requires rounding them up, and having some fun with how they’ve occupied their ageless and endless time.

At its core stand lovers Ikaris and Sersi, with Chan, the “Crazy Rich Asians” co-star, really serving as the heart of the film. Sersi has moved on to a human boyfriend played by Kit Harington, adding to a “Game of Thrones” alumni squad that includes Madden and composer Ramin Djawadi.

As constructed, the film spits out tons of exposition during its first third, sags during the middle, and rallies impressively during the final leg, which is filled with surprises and genuine emotion. Plus, stick around for the customary credit sequences.

All that comes a little late, though, to completely validate the movie. “Eternals” ultimately contemplates humanity, and the way these extraterrestrials see its beauty and possibilities as well as its ugliness, much like Vision’s dialogue with Ultron in the first “Avengers” sequel, or the Silver Surfer in the comics. Instructed not to interfere in human affairs, their time on Earth has left its mark on them, just as they have discovered their method into humankind’s mythology.

It’s possible to enjoy individual moments — from Chan and Madden’s interactions to Kumail Nanjiani’s character and his amusing pastimes — and still come away thinking “Eternals” overreaches as it tries to spin this lightly regarded comic into gold.
(L-R): Sprite (Lia McHugh) and Sersi (Gemma Chan).

Granted, the beauty of Marvel’s interlocking universe is that by playing the long game the pieces build upon each other, so that appraisal might change as the next phase comes fully into shape. “Eternals” certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but for now, Marvel — emboldened by its success — has actually grabbed the stars without rather arriving.

Will it ultimately? Hope springs everlasting.

“Marvel’s Eternals” premieres Nov. 5 in United States theaters. It’s ranked PG-13.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.