Marvel’s Eternals: Diversity Can’t Replace Quality
If you couldn’t tell from this review’s title, I was not a fan of Marvel’s new movie “Eternals.” It is, in my opinion, the single worst movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie has, however, received a lot of praise for the diversity of its cast, with some critics weighing this single factor against “Eternals’” plot, characters and worldbuilding. Some media personalities even decided that the only reason that “Eternals” is disliked by many fans and critics is because of its Black, Asian, gay and female cast. This is a view that I find ideologically driven, and incompatible, certainly, with this particular movie.
Without getting into too many spoilers, “Eternals” features 10 superheroes, each with their own powers including generating weapons, transmuting substances, flying and shooting lasers, creating tech from thin air and more. This team of heroes has been on Earth for 7,000 years, but split up after defeating its enemies — the Deviants — centuries ago, and now must join forces again to fight for the fate of the world. You may be thinking: “Did you say 10 characters? How is one movie supposed to introduce, develop and properly use 10 entirely unknown characters?” The answers are that I did, and it can’t.
By the end of the movie, we know a little about some of the heroes, namely our main characters Sersi, Ikaris, Kingo and Sprite. However, all 10 are underdeveloped and badly written; all but one act as if they are young adults rather than ancient immortal beings, for example. The fact that we know nothing about these characters allows them to act however is deemed necessary at that particular moment for the plot to progress, with the audience being forced to accept that whatever they are doing must fit their character, even if we’ve been given no such indication previously.
Furthermore, the movie seems to have no idea what tone it’s trying to have. One second our heroes are mourning their friend of 7,000 years, the next they’re making jokes that are abrupt, out of place and painfully unfunny. The plot is similarly incomprehensible, including a relatively major side-plot that literally goes nowhere, problems conveniently resolving themselves and characters whose powers get stronger or weaker solely based on what’s needed for the plot to function. But the biggest issue, in my opinion, is the worldbuilding. The reason this movie is worse than other bad MCU movies like “Thor 2” is that it retroactively breaks so many rules and aspects of the MCU’s worldbuilding, from the building of the physical world and its function to all of human history and progress.
That is merely a spoiler-free taste of some of the problems with “Eternals.” But many people, as I mentioned, look to the diversity of the film to redeem all of these issues. And “Eternals” is diverse: an Asian writer/director (Chloe Zhao, who is obviously out of her depth working on a big-budget, CGI-filled movie), a Latina woman, a deaf woman, a Black gay man, an Indian man, an Asain man and an Asian woman make up the cast. However, audiences and critics have long since proven, despite the cries that the only reason one would dislike this movie is because of its diversity, that they are more than willing to accept diverse movies on one condition: that the movies are good. Well-made movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther,” both in the same superhero genre as “Eternals,” were well-liked because most people don’t care about the races, genders, disabilities or sexual orientations of the characters they’re watching on screen. Most people just want to see well-written, interesting stories that make sense and don’t retroactively destroy movies or worlds that they love (looking at you, “Star Wars” sequels). People will enjoy your movie, independent of its diversity, as long as it just isn’t bad. Unfortunately, that bar is one “Eternals” couldn’t clear.
Photo Caption: The Cast of “Eternals”
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Wikimedia Commons