Eternals Review: A Wildly Ambitious But Tonally Uneven Cosmic Epic

Throughout the long runtime of Marvel's "Eternals," I weirdly could not stop thinking about a random phrase from a season 2 sketch of "I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson." In that sketch, Santa Claus retires from delivering presents to children for the more lucrative job of starring in action movie cash grabs, which he enthusiastically promotes with the nonsense descriptor: "It's kind of a cosmic gumbo." The phrase intentionally pokes fun at the movie biz practice of combining colorful adjectives in a way that sounds sophisticated, but actually means nothing. And that's the phrase that kept echoing through my head as I watched "Eternals,"... The post Eternals Review: A Wildly Ambitious But Tonally Uneven Cosmic Epic appeared first on /Film.

Eternals Review: A Wildly Ambitious But Tonally Uneven Cosmic Epic

Throughout the long runtime of Marvel's "Eternals," I weirdly could not stop thinking about a random phrase from a season 2 sketch of "I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson." In that sketch, Santa Claus retires from delivering presents to children for the more lucrative job of starring in action movie cash grabs, which he enthusiastically promotes with the nonsense descriptor: "It's kind of a cosmic gumbo."

The phrase intentionally pokes fun at the movie biz practice of combining colorful adjectives in a way that sounds sophisticated, but actually means nothing. And that's the phrase that kept echoing through my head as I watched "Eternals," Marvel's most ambitious and majestic film yet. Now it sounds like I'm trashing "Eternals" — not at all. At best, I think it's the work of a singular director who brings with her a grand, awe-inspiring vision of austere science-fiction the likes of which has never been seen in Marvel before. At worst, I think it's a mixed bag. But "Eternals" does feel like a strange combination of a truly inspired filmmaker and a meticulously focus group-tested pitch, with director Chloé Zhao given all the tools at the studio's disposal to bring her vision to life. It's impressive and mythic and wild and dazzling, yet it also feels strangely diluted. So ... you might say it's a cosmic gumbo.

'In The Beginning...'

"Eternals" follows the titular group of immortal beings who were sent to Earth by a group of all-powerful cosmic entities known as the Celestials, some of the first lifeforms created in the universe. The Eternals are sent to defend the Earth from the Deviants, monstrous aliens that mindlessly devour any lifeform in its path. Led by the wise Ajak (a beatific Salma Hayek), the Eternals include the compassionate but naïve Sersi (Gemma Chan, practically the definition of "doe-eyed"), the group's pseudo-Superman member Ikaris (a deliciously dubious Richard Madden), the aggressive warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie, fragile and fierce in equal measure), and the finger gun-wielding Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani, having a blast).

Filling out the rest of this unlikely family are the youthful Sprite (Lia McHugh), who has the power to create illusions; Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry, injecting a deep sensitivity into his role), inventor extraordinaire; Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), a deaf speedster; Gilgamesh (Don Lee, an indomitable presence in and of itself), the strongest and kindest of the group; and finally, Druig (Barry Keoghan, playing with his inherently threatening energy), the member with the ability to manipulate the minds of others.

The group arrive on Earth in the prehistoric era, 7,000 years before the Avengers existed, with a simple mission: to eliminate all the Deviants. They're told not to interfere in human conflict, but are not discouraged from nudging along human progress, with Phastos introducing many an innovation to the humans, Sprite weaving some myths for the adoring humans, and Sersi aiding in the cultivation of crops. The film skips back and forth in time, as we pick up with Sersi in modern day, living amongst mortals and happy in a relationship with a fellow professor, Dane Whitman (Kit Harington, reveling in a lighter role for once). But her normal life is interrupted by an attack from a Deviant — the last of which the Eternals thought they had eliminated thousands of years ago — and the return of her longtime ex-lover, Ikaris. Terrified at the prospect of the Deviants returning, Sersi rallies Ikaris and Sprite to find the rest of the Eternals, who have scattered around the globe and have long abandoned humanity to their feckless ways.

A Shaky Start

From the beginning, "Eternals" was a big gamble for Marvel. The Jack Kirby-created comics upon which the movie is based are some of the trippiest things to come out of Marvel Comics — so eye-popping and visually dense that you'd think drugs were involved in its creation (for the record, Jack Kirby is very anti-drug). They're also quite niche, even for Marvel Studios. But Marvel was able to turn the formerly obscure Guardians of the Galaxy into its biggest superstars, so why not another group of cosmic superbeings? 

To do that, they needed a strong creative hand, and they found that in Chloé Zhao. Zhao is possibly the biggest get for Marvel yet — a historic Oscar winner and a beloved auteur for her exquisite double bill neo-Westerns "The Rider" and "Nomadland." But her naturalistic style seemed at odds with the gonzo acid trip of Kirby's "Eternals." So how does it all shake out? With a movie that does eventually manage to find the perfect median between the mythic weirdness of Kirby's comics and Zhao's meditative naturalism. The only problem is that it takes a long time to get there.

The first half is, to put it mildly, rough. As Sersi, Ikaris, and Sprite travel the globe to find their fellow Eternals, the film weaves in flashbacks to the early days of their arrival, building to the group eventually fracturing. There's a dissonance in those flashbacks, which are filmed largely on-location in various fields and rock formations and are shot in that dusky magic hour which lovingly drapes so much of Zhao's films. The scenery is beautiful and the landscapes breathtaking, but it's inhabited awkwardly by the Eternals, who placidly stroll around the vistas in their stiff supersuits and spend half of the flashbacks lining up to pose in "superhero team" formation (I counted at least three times). There's probably some intent to the distance with which this insanely talented ensemble play the characters in this early half — they're told not to interfere with humans, but they come to care for them anyways — but it only undercuts the humanistic streak that Zhao brings to the film.

Marvel's Bleakest Film

It's only when the film's meditative tone (or attempt at doing so) gives way to the grand, brazenly weird mythos that "Eternals" starts to kick into gear. But even so, the most interesting seeds of "Eternals" are only hinted at, and only come to the surface toward the end of the film — and by then, it feels like the film has only just gotten started. Zhao employs a Villeneuve-inspired (i.e. sleek obelisk-style spaceships) aesthetic to convey the austere, incomprehensible vastness of space, and then brings out the indomitable Celestials — hulking, mammoth figures who loom over all creation and hint at a kind of cosmic horror.

The most intriguing part of "Eternals" is its subtext. "Eternals" is by far Marvel's bleakest film, essentially consigning humanity to inevitable destruction. It's not hard to see the climate change allegory in that worldview, but it's the kind of gutting revelation that basically gets breezed past by the film in favor of more people in spandex punching "World of Warcraft" monsters.

With "Eternals," Marvel turns a risky gamble into another piece of the puzzle. Its cosmic ambitions, its prevailing humanism amid a nihilistic outlook, and its gestures at maturity — the (real!) sex scene, the depth and warmth that they give to Henry's LGBTQ relationship — are not enough to make "Eternals" more than just another film to fit neatly in the Marvel Studios mold. But even so, Zhao brings an elegance to the film and the cast bring a vulnerability and care to their characters that leave a lingering impression, even as the last super-punch fades.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Read this next: Every MCU Post-Credits Sequence Ranked From Worst To Best

The post Eternals Review: A Wildly Ambitious But Tonally Uneven Cosmic Epic appeared first on /Film.

Source : Slash Film More   

What's Your Reaction?

like
0
dislike
0
love
0
funny
0
angry
0
sad
0
wow
0

Next Article

Jason Sudeikis Channels Ted Lasso, Gets Devilish, And Boogies Again On A Solid And Silly Saturday Night Live

It's hard to believe that Jason Sudeikis hasn't hosted "Saturday Night Live" since he departed the show as a cast member back in 2013. But perhaps it's better that he didn't make his triumphant return until "Ted Lasso" came along and took his career to new heights, making him an Emmy winner and an even more charming leading man. Sudeikis' return to Studio 8H not only came with the revival of some bits that famously featured the comedian during his tenure on the show (not to mention some surprising special guests), but it also brought a touching celebration... The post Jason Sudeikis Channels Ted Lasso, Gets Devilish, and Boogies Again on a Solid and Silly Saturday Night Live appeared first on /Film.

Jason Sudeikis Channels Ted Lasso, Gets Devilish, And Boogies Again On A Solid And Silly Saturday Night Live

It's hard to believe that Jason Sudeikis hasn't hosted "Saturday Night Live" since he departed the show as a cast member back in 2013. But perhaps it's better that he didn't make his triumphant return until "Ted Lasso" came along and took his career to new heights, making him an Emmy winner and an even more charming leading man. Sudeikis' return to Studio 8H not only came with the revival of some bits that famously featured the comedian during his tenure on the show (not to mention some surprising special guests), but it also brought a touching celebration of the institution of "SNL" itself. 

So let's break down each sketch from the Jason Sudeikis hosted "Saturday Night Live".

The Best

Annie - One of my favorite recurring premises on "Saturday Night Live" that comes around every now and then is recreating a famous musical sequence from a movie while throwing some kind of new wrinkle into the proceedings that upends everything. In this case, it's Jason Sudeikis as a character who feels lifted from Dan Aykroyd in the early years of "SNL." While little orphan Annie is being introduced to all those working in her new mansion home, the entire staff is learning about Ricky, who has some kind of mysterious job that he does for Daddy Warbucks. The wardrobe Sudeikis is wearing does a good chunk of the work, so bravo to the costume department there, but the comedian's wandering disposition where he's conspicuously trying to be inconspicuous adds a fantastic layer to the expected shady dialogue. Just a great sketch.

What's Up with That? (with Oscar Isaac, Emily Ratajkowski, and Nicholas Braun) - This is probably the one recurring sketch that was at the top of every "SNL" fan's wishlist when they found out Jason Sudeikis was returning to host the show (that's certainly what me and my cohorts hoped for in our new "SNL" recap podcast). Though Sudeikis only had a mostly non-speaking role in this recurring sketch that required him to do the same dance moves over and over again, it's one of his most famous bits. That's because Sudeikis can boogie, and the way he leaps into every musical interruption never loses steam. Kudos to the clever Halloween twist where Diondre Cole (Kenan Thompson) mistakes Nicholas Braun for being Bill Hader as Lindsey Buckingham in a costume inspired by HBO's "Succession." It was a solid way to make up for Bill Hader's absence, but I can't help but wonder how they came to settle on Nicholas Braun (and his towering heght) for this part. 

Science Room - After Adam Driver and Sam Rockwell partook in "Science Room" when they hosted "SNL," it's Jason Sudeikis who steps into the shoes of the show's host this time. The increasing frustration of the science teacher never gets old. I cracked up at Sudeikis telling Mikey Day to go to hell and then doubling back to not only make sure he heard it but whispering it in his ear yet again. Sudeikis delivery in this sketch is so good that some of his reactions feel improvised rather than being scripted. This edition of "Science Room" also got hilarious new addition as the host called in the parents of these two dimwitted children to shame them for their piss poor parenting skills.

Parent-Teacher Conference - If you've ever had a crush on Jason Sudeikis, then you may have had to pause this sketch to compose yourself. If you didn't have a crush on Jason Sudeikis, then this might have changed your mind. Sudeikis is undeniably sexy in this sketch, to the point that it feels like we're watching a saucy affair unfold rather than a comedy sketch. Kyle Mooney delivers the goods as the husband who is awkwardly powerless to stop this heavy flirtation (and then some) during this parent-teacher conference. I'd like to pay special attention to the small bit of good sketch writing that brings back the allusion to Mooney's father figure being bad at fractions. That's how you simply and efficiently end a sketch.

The Average

Declaration Pitch - If there's one thing I love about period-set sketch comedy, it's the incorporation of contemporary language and concepts. Having the Founding Fathers debate whether or not there should be a "sick ass treasure map" on the back of the Declaration of Independence hit that sweet spot for me, especially when they started digging into the tropes of a good heist movie. The nonsensical idea that the Founding Fathers know about the "tech guy" who is always in a van at a time when movies, let alone vans, haven't even been invented yet is top notch silliness, and I'm here for it. Since this aired a little before 10-to-1, I'm not sure this qualifies as the oddball sketch of the night, especially since the final sketch of the night ("Casino Proposal") was a little more strange. But the arrival of "Matrix"-clad people from the future to ensure the secret treasure map was a weird touch. Even so, this one felt like it should have come together in a more satisfying way.

Ghost of Biden Past (Cold Open) - I'll be honest, with James Austin Johnson stepping into the shoes of Joe Biden, I wasn't expecting Jason Sudeikis to reprise his turn as the former vice president at all. But the idea of bringing him in as the more laid back Vice President Joe Biden was a stroke of brilliance. Unfortunately, the idea didn't really go beyond the mere premise. The line about hand-shaking and shoulder-rubbing not being allowed anymore was a nice touch, and I love that they completely avoided mining Donald Trump for even an off-handed reference. Plus, bringing Alex Moffat back as Joe Biden after his brief turn as the president for an awkward moment was a nice touch. But again, the political humor just doesn't really have anywhere to go at this point.

Mellen - This sketch was just on the cusp of being put into the worst category, only because it felt like it went on way too long, despite being just a three and a half minute sketch. Sudeikis doesn't really offer anything up as "Mellen" other than doing an impression of Kate McKinnon's impression of Ellen DeGeneres. It's the physical comedy gags in the audience that brought some laughs, not to mention Alex Moffat as Connor McGregor and James Austin Johnson doing an impeccable impersonation of Louis C.K., making for the second inappropriate reference to the comedian this season. 

The Worst

Casino Proposal - Man, I wanted to like this sketch so much more. Despite Kenan Thompson being pitch perfect as this weirdo constantly changing the price of his indecent proposal, this didn't feel like a polished sketch so much as a scene from an improv show. A parody of "Indecent Proposal" has been done countless times before in film and TV, especially in dream sequences where people are down on their luck, so I was hoping this would go somewhere unexpected. Though the basic premise not actually going anywhere else was technically unexpected, it wasn't necessarily the best decision. The sketch basically has nowhere to go, and even though it wasn't downright terrible (thanks to Thompson), it just felt like it was filling time. 

Men's Underwear Commercial - While I appreciated the perfect creation of commercials that are geared towards the masculine man dealing with problems that men don't directly want to admit or confront, the commercial parody itself didn't exactly land for me. Though it had moments that were amusing, such as a runny egg and chocolate sauce being used to visualize incontinence and Chris Redd weakly saying, "I'm a man," the rest of it felt drawn out. Though depicting the process of hiding soiled underwear in a public restroom probably resonated with those who have been caught in an unfortunately realistic situation (after all, the premise had to come from somewhere), but this is no "Oops! I Crapped My Pants."

Weekend Update

Well, this was the shortest edition of Weekend Update that we've had in awhile. Colin Jost and Michael Che only exchanged news stories for a single segment before bringing in a guest at the desk. Jost's material was a bit lazy this time, especially that bit about mixing and matching vaccine boosters. But Che had some of the hardest hitting one-liners yet again. That remark about how ""Chicago police can't wait to take the shot" was sheer genius, and the laser accuracy of violent Walmart shoppers being behind the January 6th insurrection was a truly sick burn.

The Devil on His Latest Accomplishments - Here's another one of Jason Sudeikis' best bits from his time on the show. The Devil is back to take credit for a lot of the stupid nonsense that we've come to hate in the years since he's appeared at the Weekend Update desk. There are some obvious ones, like climate change and Rush Limbaugh being annoying even in hell. But The Devil taking responsibility for those huge, expanding pop-up ads online is one of those references that really hits home for everyone. Plus, it's nice to see that even The Devil has his limits, distancing himself from the insane crowd that makes up Q-Anon. However, the funniest part of the night, and I'm not sure it was scripted, was Sudeikis essentially scoffing at Jost for asking "What's that?" when his cell phone rings. The look on Sudeikis' face was just masterful, and it felt so natural.

The Host

What can be said about Jason Sudeikis that we don't already know? He's hilarious, charming, and is one of the most successful stars to come out of "Saturday Night Live." Not everyone on "SNL" who graduates to a larger career is able to becoming a lead actor or actress, but Sudeikis has gradually risen to being one of the most versatile comedy stars that we've seen come out of the late night sketch series. Sudeikis has proven to have great dramatic chops, and he's put in the work over the years to prove it, starring in a myriad of studio comedies and far more impressive indie fare. 

However, what I wasn't expecting was for Jason Sudeikis to bring some of the heartfelt charm and emotion that has made "Ted Lasso" one of the best television shows of the past decade. The comedian paid tribute to "SNL" itself by having everyone in Studio 8H stop to truly appreciate the comedy legends who have shared that stage. A lot of the best comedies we love today wouldn't have been possible with "SNL" nurturing legends like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, and so many more. It was a moment that brought tears to my eyes, and it made me appreciate "SNL" even more than I already do.

The MVP

Jason Sudeikis - It takes something special for me to give the host the MVP, since they're supposed to be the star of the episode, but Sudeikis' return felt like it outshined any of the cast members simply because it felt like he never left. Sudeikis easily fits in with each and every sketch. His characters aren't too far removed from his own everyman demeanor (which is part of his charm as a leading man), but that's what makes his staying power that much more impressive. Plus, that tribute to "SNL" during his monologue felt so genuine and appreciative that even if he was terrible in this episode, that would have been enough to make him the best of the night. Following close behind was Kenan Thompson, largely thanks to "What's Up with That?" but also because his part in the "Casino Proposal" sketch saved it from being just plain bad.

The Final Word

Pound-for-pound, I'm not sure that this episode was better overall than last week's edition with Rami Malek. But having Jason Sudeikis back felt more comfortable. When you have a host that you know can deliver, it takes the pressure off the show a little bit. Perhaps that's why the pre-recorded underwear sketch didn't feel like it worked on this particular evening. It just felt so far removed from the rest of the episode that took full advantage of both Sudeikis and the live comedy setting. You'll notice there wasn't even a Please Don't Destroy sketch this week, not even as a "Cut for Time" sketch. That shows just how much fun Sudeikis had doing live comedy with the "SNL" crew again, and it's always nice to have an almost full roster of sketches without relying on any pre-recorded bits, even if Kate McKinnon wasn't there to enjoy it with him.

That's the end of the first block of episodes for the 47th season of "Saturday Night Live." We've got a little break from the show until "Succession" co-star Kieran Culkin (the younger brother of Macaulay Culkin) hosts the show for the first time on November 6. Having Culkin host the show feels like a surprise move, but as someone who has enjoyed Culkin's low key work in indies over the years, not to mention "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," I can't wait to see what he brings to the show.

For more on "Saturday Night Live," feel free to check out "The Ten To One Podcast," where I recap the show with a pair of friends and fellow die-hard "SNL" fans. You can listen at iTunes and Spotify, as well as other podcasting platforms.

Read this next: Shows Like Breaking Bad That You Can Binge Watch Today

The post Jason Sudeikis Channels Ted Lasso, Gets Devilish, and Boogies Again on a Solid and Silly Saturday Night Live appeared first on /Film.

Source : Slash Film More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.