The Uni-Mind

Eternals may be the worst film in the MCU. As the twenty-sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals introduced an entire race of beings that were supposedly there since the very beginning. The MCU is practically built on lesser known superheroes given the blockbuster treatment. Guardians of the Galaxy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were a lot better than they had any right to be. Even a hardcore Marvel fan like myself questioned the need for an Eternals movie. I heard the name in passing, but I knew nothing about the characters. The Eternals are the sole creation of famed comic book artist Jack Kirby. In the early 70’s, Kirby left Marvel in order to further explore his love of colorful high concept space mythology. He created the much more well known New Gods for DC comics in 1971.

When that series ended, Kirby was persuaded to return to Marvel in exchange for a comic adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some time later the very similar Eternals were created for Marvel comics in 1976. Since superheroes like Thor were already prominent, it never made sense to have another race of immortal space gods. The New Gods from New Genesis and Apokolips were far better integrated than the Eternals or Deviants. So I was flabbergasted when producer Kevin Feige decided to greenlight a team of superheroes who never had a single appearance outside of comics. I grew increasingly nervous with every casting announcement, costume reveal, and trailer. My worries were proven right when Eternals became the only MCU movie with a rotten 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Proof that even an Academy Award winning director like Chloé Zhao can’t save a movie that nobody asked for…

55. Eternals

The Eternals

Eternals is the movie Marvel makes when they’ve run out of options. Mutants are on the way, but there’s still no confirmed date for a proper X-Men reboot. Before Marvel foolishly turned it into a terrible TV series, an Inhumans movie was meant to come out after Captain Marvel. Inhumans had far more potential as a movie than the Eternals ever did. Yet both ended up being major failures for Marvel Studios. They had to suspect it was a bad idea, since footage from The Eternals wasn’t revealed until the May 2021 Phase Four video Marvel Celebrates the Movies. I still think Captain Marvel is my least favorite MCU movie personally, because I had more to be frustrated with as a longtime Marvel fan. Since I barely knew the Eternals, I had to judge its quality more than comic accuracy. Eternals is both accurate and inaccurate to the original Jack Kirby comics. Like the comics, Eternals are an offshoot of humans created by the Celestials a million years ago to be immortal superpowered beings. Their main purpose is to fight the more monstrous Deviants and resist interference with humanity while shaping human history.

How they managed to make that boring I’ll never know. I knew I was in trouble the moment they opened with a long text explaining what Eternals and Deviants are. I was definitely offended by the implication that Celestials created the universe. Unlike Star Wars, there’s almost too much and too little information given to the audience. The only thing eternal about the movie is the bloated 2 hour & 37 minute runtime. At the time, Eternals was the second longest MCU film after Avengers: Endgame. Phase Four has been about two things so far: experimentation and diversity. Black Widow had a female director and Shang-Chi had an Asian director. Eternals has both with Chinese director Chloé Zhao at the helm. Though Disney+ has taken the most chances, Eternals is the most thematically different movie in the MCU. Since Zhao is known for independent western think pieces with vast landscapes, Eternals feels like Nomadland with superheroes. You better believe Marvel exploited her Best Director win after the movie was delayed several times due to the Pandemic.

Not since Ang Lee directed Hulk was there a bigger disconnect between an Oscar winner and the superhero genre. Even the teaser trailer set to “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis prioritizes human connection over superhero action. Unlike previous MCU projects, Zhao shot on location throughout the world. It’s ambitious, but wide open landscapes are not what you should be focusing on in a superhero movie. Unfortunately, the Eternals themselves are equally bland. Like the New Gods, Kirby designed the Eternals costumes to be colorful and technical. It’s not an easy thing to translate to screen, but what they ended up with is both dull and lifeless. Every costume is some variation of a full body suit with a tunic, at least 2 muted colors, and intricate space symbols. Despite having a wide variety of superpowers, even that has no personality with the exact same golden energy for every Eternal. Eternals has a grand total of 10 brand new heroes that we’re supposed to know and care about.

At least Guardians of the Galaxy had only 5 heroes to introduce. Which is why it would’ve made far more sense to make a Disney+ series. The Eternals consist of: Ikaris, Sersi, Ajack, Thena, Sprite, Kingo, Gilgamesh, Phastos, Makkari, and Druig. There are way more Eternals in the comics, but this is already too much. Their flying triangle spaceship the Domo is named after one of them. Eternals is the perfect example of forced diversity. Several characters are either race swapped, gender reversed, given a different ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, or disability. You can practically envision the checklist Marvel was keeping for the movie. Though the usual Hollywood critics went out of their way to praise the decision, even they couldn’t defend the movie as a whole. It’s hard to care about the character changes when I barely knew the team to begin with. Except the cast is so manufactured that they barely have any chemistry with one another.

Sersi is probably the only Eternal I heard of before the movie was announced. Mostly because she joined the Avengers for a brief time in Avengers #314. After her pointless role as Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel, the English Gemma Chan got a second chance to play Sersi in Eternals. Much like Michelle Yeoh had in Shang-Chi. Though she retains her British accent, Sersi is presumably Asian in the comics. Sersi retains her love of humanity from the comics, but she’s not at all fun-loving or seductive like her ancient Greek namesake Circe. Her sexy green one piece is replaced by a lame full body suit. The only similarity is the green color scheme. Chan is so reserved that she ends up feeling boring. The movie practically admits it when she poorly describes her powers. Like the comics, Sersi has the power to transform matter through touch. It’s one of the few visually interesting powers in the movie. Sersi is the closest thing to a main character. I’m sure Zhao being the director had nothing to do with the decision.

Ikaris feels like he should be the main character for his appearance and set of powers. Though he’s named after the Greek legend of Icarus, the Marvel comics Ikaris is an overt rip-off of Superman. Something the movie points out to an annoying degree. Along with an equally forced reference to Batman. Ikaris has the power to fly and shoot gold laser beams from his eyes just like Superman. Unfortunately, Zhao took her inspiration from Zack Snyder’s Superman. So the Scottish Richard Madden is just as serious and monotone with an indifference towards humanity. Ikaris is still white, but his long blonde hair is just Madden’s natural brown hair with a grey streak. I understand wanting to avoid comparison to Thor, but his costume was the biggest mistake. Though the red, blue, and gold color scheme was the biggest similarity to Superman, taking out the red gives it no distinction. Ikaris is the leader on the battlefield, but Ajak is meant to be the spiritual leader. Which is why her healing powers are practically useless in battle.

Though he once posed as an Incan god, Ajak is both male and caucasian in the comics. The Spanish Salma Hayek is neither. I love Hayek, but she feels so out of her element. The only similarity between the ridiculous comic book costume is a gold helmet. The rest of Ajak’s costume is blue and gold just like Ikaris. Thena is a warrior woman not to be mistaken with Athena. If Ikaris is an MCU Superman, then Thena is an MCU Wonder Woman. Though I never expected her to play a superhero, Angelina Jolie was born to play Thena. Based on her comic book appearance, I’d almost say they used her likeness. Thena was always blonde, but her hair and full body armor went from yellow to off white. Her swords and spears are replaced by energy weapons. An Oscar winner like Jolie had the capacity to make Thena a breakout character, but she’s criminally underutilized. Sprite is probably the only Eternal I was fully invested in.

Unlike most Marvel superheroes, Sprite has always been an adult trapped in a child’s body. Except that the comic Sprite is a male trickster who inspired characters like Puck or Peter Pan. The movie points out a similarity to Tinker Bell by making Sprite a girl with the same red pixie cut, but a mostly grey bluish green costume. Sprite retains the visually interesting power of illusion, but she’s not always mischievous with it. The 14 year old Lia McHugh is surprisingly mature for her age. Sprite’s struggle fitting in with humanity is nuanced, but they still treat it like a joke. Eternals has the bleak tone of a DCEU movie, but MCU movies are still expected to be funny. Which is why the Pakistani Kumail Nanjiani is the next comedian to get ripped for a Marvel role. Yet they never give Kingo a shirtless scene. Nanjiani can be funny, but all of his jokes are hit or miss. Kingo is one of the lesser known Eternals, but he was originally Japanese. His comic accurate purple samurai costume is replaced by a nondescript purple outfit. His powers are also changed to gold energy that he fires from his hands like finger guns.

Gilgamesh is another obscure Eternal known as the Forgotten One in the comics. He’s a warrior like Hercules, but named after the ancient Mesopotamian Gilgamesh. Though he often wore a mask, Gilgamesh is also presumably Asian. So the South Korean Don Lee plays the part. Lee has a likable personality, but he’s also underutilized. Despite looking a lot like Benedict Wong, Lee is more physically imposing with boxing experience. Gilgamesh has super strength represented by gold energy around his arms. His costume ditches the mask and makes his outfit a lot more orange than green. Though it feels like every character was changed for the sake of diversity, Phastos was introduced in the 80’s and always black in the comics. So they had to make him gay as well. Making Eternals the first Marvel movie to depict an openly gay superhero. Disney once again made a big deal of the fact and had to announce it long before the movie was released. Leading to a ban in several countries.

Brian Tyree Henry isn’t gay, but he is out of shape for the part. Even though Phastos is a less physical fighter who uses his power to manipulate and invent advanced technology. He has a purple costume like the comics, but his hammer is dropped for obvious reasons. Makkari should’ve been called Phastos, since the Mercury inspired former is the one with superspeed. The biggest alteration was making a white hearing man a black deaf woman. Makkari’s partially red costume may be the only similarity to the comics. Lauren Ridloff is a deaf actress who deserved better, but makes the most of her role. She only communicates through ESL (Eternals sign language). Her speedster power is depicted differently than Quicksilver or the Flash with fast motion instead of slow motion. The last Eternal is also the least advertised. Druig is a more villainous Eternal who betrayed the team in the comics. Druig has the easily corruptible power to control people’s minds. The Irish Barry Keoghan has a sinister presence, but enough charm to make you question his motivation. His mostly black robe with red accents are just like all the other lackluster costumes.

I felt absolutely nothing when all 10 Eternals stood together in a group shot. Nor did I feel anything when they fought together for the first time. The Avengers earned their ensemble moments, but the Eternals feel like such a last minute addition. Yet we’re expected to believe they’ve existed for centuries and not once did they interfere in any major conflict in the MCU. Let alone Thanos snapping half of life from existence. Their weak explanation is that the Celestials instructed them not to interfere in human conflict unless Deviants were involved. Eternals kept their lifespan a secret by laying low and only referring to each other as friends from college. Any reference to the greater MCU is either forced or doesn’t make sense. Like the Eternals discussing who should lead the Avengers without Tony Stark or Steve Rogers around. Kingo claiming to know Thor barely lines up with his history on Earth. Celestials are the only characters from Eternals comics to have appeared prior to the movie. First appearing as an easter egg cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy and as Ego the Living Planet in Vol. 2.

Despite their massive size, untold power, and unknown origin, Arishem the Judge became a prominent character in Eternals. The screen barely contains his enormous red body and voice actor David Kaye gives him a booming voice. Arishem gives the Eternals a mission to protect the Earth from the Deviants he created. Only then can they return to their home planet Olympia, but only Ajak knows the truth. She’s the sole Eternal with direct communication to Arishem. The reason Eternals is so long is the way the plot is structured. Eternals continually jumps back and forth between the past and present. We go from 5000 BC Mesopotamia to 575 BC Babylon to 1521 AD Tenochtitlan in the span of about 30 minutes. Nothing about the past feels exciting, because their actions barely make a difference. Except that Phastos is apparently responsible for evolving technology throughout history. Everything goes wrong in 1521 AD after Druig stops a conflict by controlling an entire army with his mind. Thena also contracts Mahd Wy’ry and attacks the team. Of course one of the team members had to have a mental illness, but the ridiculous psychological disease does exist in the comics.

The Eternals break up for 500 years after Gilgamesh agrees to look after his lady love Thena. Although the team is evenly distributed with 5 males and 5 females, only 6 Eternals are paired up. Makkari and Druig are a last minute side couple with surprisingly strong chemistry. Way more chemistry than the film’s central romance. Ikaris fell in love with Sersi after an awkward introduction on the Domo. Though Sersi was romantically linked to the male Makkari in the comics, she ends up returning his feelings. They’re married in Babylon, but not before consummating their union for the first time in an MCU movie. The otherwise family friendly Disney owned Marvel films have downplayed sexual activity over the years, but this was the first time it was shown on screen. There’s no reason for the poorly lit missionary sex scene except to be edgy. Sersi is the first Eternal we catch up with in present day after a Marvel Studios logo set to ancient drums. She’s now living in London as a museum curator and teacher of evolution. As if I needed more reason to dislike the movie.

Sprite is also living with Sersi since she needs to keep up the appearance of a child. Since Sersi broke up with Ikaris centuries ago, she’s now dating history professor Dane Whitman. The relationship is accurate to the comics, but it adds a layer of complicated backstory that the movie is not prepared to deal with. In the comics, Dane Whitman is the fabled Black Knight. A medieval superhero who joined the Avengers in Avengers #54. I was intrigued by the possibilities despite the movie he was in. Kit Harrington is typecast as another sword wielding character after finishing a decade playing Jon Snow. I still haven’t seen Game of Thrones, but even I know the irony of Robb Stark and Jon Snow in a love triangle with Sersi (Cersei). Dane is dropped for most of the movie after Ikaris returns to save Sersi and Sprite from a returning Deviant. Though Zhao was inspired by anime, the Deviants are the most generic looking CGI monsters imaginable. Deviants are way more fleshed out in the comics, but only one has an identity since we already have 10 Eternals to keep track of.

Kro is the head Deviant who grows increasingly powerful after absorbing the abilities of fallen Eternals. The demonic looking villain from the comics looks nothing like the greenish humanoid monster they ended up with. Not even Pennywise himself Bill Skarsgård is able to give Kro a personality. When Sersi, Ikaris, and Sprite seek help from Ajak in South Dakota, they discover her killed by the Deviants. Salma Hayek wearing a cowboy hat is the most western inspired part of a movie where she has barely any screen time. Sersi is given major importance when Ajak passes her leadership onto her. Giving Sersi the ability to communicate with Arshem. Only at the 1 hour mark do we learn the entire insulting truth. SPOILER ALERT! The Eternals are basically fancy robots created by Arshem in the World Forge where he has hundreds of back up copies. Their true mission is to increase the population of planets in order to start an Emergence that gives birth to a new Celestial deep within the planet. Earth has apparently always been the host planet for the golden Tiamut the Communicator who will emerge in exactly 7 days. It’s a ton of information to drop on the audience, but it only succeeds in making me care less about the characters.

The world ending event is only possible thanks to the Blip bringing the Earth’s population back to the necessary amount. The rest of the Eternals are found in Mumbai, Australia, the Amazon rainforest, Chicago, and Iraq. At this point the movie feels more like a parade of cultures than a superhero movie. Kingo was a movie star in the comics, but making him Pakistani turned Kingo into a famous Bollywood star. Starting with a dance number that Kumail Nanjiani didn’t prepare for. The only human that joins the reunion is Kingo’s valet Karun who’s been with him for several decades. Harish Patel is a scene stealer who tries his best in a thankless role. Karun films the Eternals as they travel by plane to see their next team members. Sprite resents Kingo for abandoning her, but he’s able to figure out her unrequited love for Ikaris. Kingo has a bizarre obsession with Ikaris that includes playing him in a movie and following his lead no matter what.

Gilgamesh and Thena have been living in isolation for years. Gilgamesh takes on a nurturing role while Thena continues to grow even madder. Sprite is able to snap her out of it and they all sit down for dinner. Scenes like this prove they have barely any chemistry as a cast. When they all learn the truth about their mission, they formulate a plan to stop the Emergence with Druig’s help. Druig mentally kidnapped an entire town much like Wanda did in WandaVision. Though he’s still hated by most of the Eternals, Druig is persuaded to free his people and help the team. After an hour and 12 minutes of mostly talking, we finally get another bland action scene. With Ikaris busy in the sky, Kingo takes out Deviants with Sprite’s help. Sersi’s power increases when she turns a Deviant into a tree. Gilgamesh is killed by Kro and he finally evolves into his humanoid form with a voice. His only motivation is equal disappointment with his Celestial creators.

Though he was just starting to get interesting, Gilgamesh dies before he gets a chance to fully form the team. Phastos is needed to build a device that amplifies an Eternals’ power. Though he gave up on humanity after inventing the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Phastos’ husband and son aren’t seen until the hour and 25 minute mark. So my nervous anticipation came very late in the movie. Phastos is persuaded to return in order to protect his family. The openly gay Haaz Sleiman plays Ben who encourages Phastos by speaking Lebanese for no apparent reason. The long talked about gay kiss scene is forced and easily edited out like all the other moments in recent Disney movies. Makkari doesn’t have any life changing experiences as she was just stuck on their ship the entire time reading and/or collecting relics. With all the living Eternals finally together, Phastos develops the comic accurate Uni-Mind that draws its power from every connected Eternal.

A second twist comes an hour and a half into the movie when Ikaris is revealed to be behind Ajak’s death. Turns out she told Ikaris the truth about their mission and he chooses to side with the Celestials. Ajak goes out like a wimp using a rifle against a horde of Deviants. I saw the twist coming from a mile away, but it’s still annoying to see yet another evil Superman. At this point I realized Eternals was an almost word for word copy of Watchmen. A team of self-serious superheroes throughout history facing an end of the world event and one of them killed a member of their team for the greater good. Watchmen is far better executed since I really don’t care about these space gods fighting amongst themselves. The Eternals take sides when Sprite randomly becomes villainous for her love of Ikaris. Phastos, Druig, Thena, Maakari, and Sersi are firmly against the Emergence, but Kingo makes the unexpected and ridiculous decision to passively retreat. So Kingo is left out of the entire climax for both believing in Ikaris and refusing to fight his friends.

The climax takes place on the Domo and a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean where Tiamut will emerge. Thena and Phastos are the only ones who take their fight with Ikaris personally. Makkari only fights harder when Druig is incapacitated. Druig is expected to put Tiamut to sleep, but he’s no Mantis. So Sersi is chosen to turn the entire planet sized Celestial into marble. Sprite literally stabs Sersi in the back despite their long friendship. Druig knocks her out, but Kro is another obstacle they have to face. Honestly, I couldn’t care less when a no longer ill Thena sliced the Deviant apart. Nor did I feel anything when Sersi finally manages to turn Tiamut into marble. After 2 hours I just wanted the movie to be over, but they keep dragging it out with a redeemed Ikaris remembering the love he once shared with Sersi. Since you can’t have a character named Ikaris without him flying too close to the sun, he does exactly that. Despite her villainous actions, Sersi also uses her Uni-Mind powers to turn Sprite into a human. Since Lia McHugh won’t be a kid forever.

Leaving Sersi, Phastos, Thena, Makkari, Druig, and the useless Kingo as the last Eternals left on Earth. At the last minute, Phastos, Thena, Makkari, and Druig calm down at Ajak’s ranch with the former’s husband and son. Thena, Makkari, and Druig take the Domo to find other Eternals. Meanwhile, Kingo looks after the human Sprite back home where Sersi finally reunites with Dane. As he starts to explain his family lineage, Arishem pulls Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo from Earth, promising to judge whether the planet was worthy of survival. The movie ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger. The credits are all the interesting parts of history we didn’t get to see. The mid-credits scene is better in theory than execution. Thena, Makkari, and Druig are visited by Pip the Troll on the Domo. The alcoholic alien troll is accurate to the comics, but he looks absolutely awful in uncanny CGI. I barely noticed Patton Oswalt voiced Pip after his role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended. As if that wasn’t out of nowhere enough, Pip introduces Starfox to the Eternals. I can honestly say I never expected the very human looking brother of Thanos to make an appearance.

Long story short, Eros is a very weird superhero given a surprisingly accurate red and white costume with gold accents. Can’t say I was expecting One Direction superstar Harry Styles to play the part, but we’ll see where that goes. After an eternity of credits, the after-credits scene shows Dane struggling to accept the Ebony Blade that Black Knight wields in the comics. An unseen voice questions his worthiness and only after the movie did I learn it was supposed to be Mahershala Ali as Blade (more on him later). Eternals should be a Marvel fans dream, but I was left utterly disappointed. Despite negative reviews, my family still saw Eternals in the theaters. Our audience was just as bored and confused as we were. Eternals was meant to come out immediately after Black Widow, but Shang-Chi was fast-tracked instead. The decision only succeeded in delaying the inevitable. A final text claims “Eternals will return,” but for the first time I sincerely hope they don’t. As an adaptation of an already unpopular comic book series, Eternals was an experiment that didn’t payoff.

56. Eternals

Arishem the Judge

4 thoughts on “The Uni-Mind

  1. The only good thing about the film is Angelina Jolie, and she’s definitely it. As I’ve never been a fan of comic book creators screwing around with any kind of mythology, this one I think takes the cake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t hate it, but it was certainly a disappointment. I am curious as to what happens next with all of these characters based on the negative audience response. Maybe they didn’t plan for all of them to “move forward” anyway…we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

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