Marvel’s latest, “Eternals,” directed by Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland,” 2020) is a bafflingly terrible entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). “Endgame” (2019) felt like the culmination of a grand, overarching story, something big and beautiful, the end of a wonderful experiment of setting up and playing off different movies. On the other hand, “Eternals” feels like the dregs of something that doesn’t know when to quit.
Chloe Zhao amazed with “Nomadland” last year, sweeping the Academy Awards in all the right categories with a movie that was really pleasant to watch. She has followed it up with this war crime of a movie. This is Marvel at its lowest, at its most mystifyingly pretentious and portentous in quantity. There is so much movie going on in this movie. A revelation will be shown to the audience through visuals, only for a character minutes later to explain what the audience just saw…just longer, more drawn out and boring.
At a glacial 157 minutes, “Eternals” feels like it lasts for an eternity — and even at its climax the movie has no clue what to do with itself, having a “gotcha!” ending that feels like more movie is about to come, but Zhao and her co-writers decided to drop the title card right there instead. There is a beginning to the movie, and there is a middle, but there is no end. If the wind is studied closely at night, one can still hear the credits of “Eternals” playing somewhere in the distance.
The Marvel machine harmed itself in giving actual closure in “Endgame.” Now the superheroes are lost in different worlds across TV shows and movies that have no clue what to do with these characters that always have so much to do in their source material. The ending of “Iron Man” (2008) started the whole MCU with a wink-and-a-nod of Samuel L. Jackson showing up as Nick Fury to enlist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) — this one smart moment led to a gigantic franchise that is now grasping at straws to find meaning.
“Eternals” is the last straw, short and stubby, with unlikeable characters, diversity for the sake of diversity with no reason anyone should ever care about any of these “eternal” beings. They have the expressions and emotions of a cardboard cut-out of Steve Rodgers. The jokes land with the grace of a wedding dove flying into the stained glass window during the ceremony.
The pretentious, quasi-sacrilegious explanation for the creation of everything in an opening title card that is one-part “Star Wars,” another part Monty Python sets off the warning bells almost as soon as the words “In the beginning” kick off the movie.
Should audiences see “Eternals” in theaters? A better time would be spent committing tax fraud, but that’s illegal, so go watch “Eternals” instead. Which should be illegal.
Or, better yet, just go watch “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” instead. That’s a better Marvel movie.
1 out of 5 stars.