A Review of “Eternals”: Inclusivity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

A project characterized by ambition for its diverse cast, first deaf superhero and first openly gay superhero, Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao sets to expand the MCU to a universal level. 


By Julissa Castro-Ruiz / Matthew Staff

In her Marvel directorial debut, Academy award winner Chloé Zhao sets to expand the MCU to a universal level with Marvel’s latest movie, Eternals

Director: Chloé Zhao 

Writer:  Chloé Zhao, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo 

Stars: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-Seok 

Rating: PG-13  

Running Time: 2h 36m 

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Action 

The movie follows the journey of ten superpowered Eternals, hailing from the planet of Olympia. They are sent to earth by the Celestial Arishem to exterminate the Deviants, monster-like creatures. The movie reflects Zhao’s artistic abilities showing her signature exposition of humanity’s daily struggles and emotions, creating complex personalities and challenges for the ten Eternals, with an interrelated history that expands over a millennium.  

Eternals made history this past Oct. 24 by becoming the first Marvel studio film to close at a film festival, making its Italian premier at the International Rome Film Festival  

As we sat in the Auditorium Della Conciliazione in Rome, the room filled with hundreds of marvel fans awaited with excitement this star-studded film. However, after 2 hours and 37 minutes, we left the room with mixed feelings about it. While some were mesmerized by Zhao’s directorial and storytelling technique and the importance of the movie as it sets various themes for marvels phase four, others believed the movie was over-saturated with world-building and lacked character development.   

The film received a Rotten score of 47%, making it the lowest-rated film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 13-year history. Having ten characters’ life developed fully throughout the film is a challenge critics point out Zhao failed to execute. Juggling story building while connecting it to the past and future of the MCU is something Eternals attempts but leaves the audience with an overwhelming plotline.  

Eternals introduces a universal level threat and sets the involvement of ancient mythology and history into the MCU Phase Four. Its protagonists are well-trained teams who balance each other on the battlefield, with scenes carefully crafted to showcase their powers. After they successfully exterminated all Deviants, they went their separate ways on earth. Each of them builds a life of their own, with the team leader Ajak (Salma Hayek), keeping tabs on all of them without interfering in their lives. This all changes when Sersi (Emma Chan) is attacked by a Deviant, and the team is forced to reunite.   As Sersi, Icarus (Richard Madden) and Sprite (Brian Tyree Henry) travel the world to look for the remaining members, we see how each one of them adapted to their new lives.  

It is this journey that many regard as slow-paced and lacking emotional attachment. From the explanation of their history, to their involvement on earth, to the lives they’ve built in the present, the audience fails to keep up with everything that is going on in the movie—creating a gap between the audience and the movie, which makes us less likely to sympathize with the characters’ daily struggles. This disconnect affects the audience focus, deviating it from looking at the bigger picture, which is the Eternals’ impact on the MCU universe.  

Despite the critics‘ review on the pace and development of the film, Eternals successfully built the cosmic aspect of this of the long-awaited Phase Four of the MCU.  

From her depiction of the Celestial to the vast landscapes to the presentation of each of the powers, Chloé Zhao gave us one of the best, if not the best, visuals in the Marvel Universe. Once again, she demonstrated her talent for visual storytelling. A project characterized by ambition as it had one of the most diverse casts in a Marvel studio film and it introduced the first openly gay superhero to the universe, which made the filmed banned in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.  

Lauren Ridloff, who plays Makkari, became the first deaf superhero, a step ahead for the Deaf community as they are underrepresented in the industry and sparked a discussion on the normalization of subtitles.  

It is fair to say Eternals made an unprecedented impact on the MCU, delivering a refreshing new look at the execution of superhero movies and setting the tone for what appears to be a promising Phase Four.