Eternals, the latest film in the Marvel universe, has received mixed reviews, with critics calling it too ambitious but progressive.
The film’s ensemble cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.
It is Chloé Zhao’s first major studio film, which won the Oscar for Best Director earlier this year for Nomadland.
The Guardian gave Eternals two stars, calling it “Magic Hour Meets PowerPoint”.
Journal critic Steve Rose said Zhao “manages to get some beautiful shots and personal drama in her superhero debut, but there’s too much mythology to explain.”
“Bigger isn’t always better”
The problem, he added, is that “there is too much to do: it’s all headed for yet another ‘race against time to stop the really bad thing happening'”.
He continued: “It’s not exactly boring – there’s always something new to see – but it’s not particularly exciting and lacks the self-confident wit of the best Marvel movies.”
Eternals is about the titular group of 10 demigods who join forces to protect Earth from the “Deviants”.
In his review, Kevin Maher of the Times he also opted for two stars, stating that the film is a story of “superheroes looking to the navel in search of a decent script”.
He wrote: “There is a strange self-sabotaging energy at the heart of this blockbuster.”
“Two steps forward”
Maher noted, however, how the film strove to show a more diverse mix of superheroes on screen.
Eternals offers two major new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Brian Tyree Henry plays Phastos, his first openly gay superhero; while Lauren Ridloff plays Makkari, her first deaf superhero, also gender-swapped from comics.
“Eternals is two steps forward for performance but three steps back for dramatic ingenuity,” added Maher.
Robbie Collins of the Telegraph it also gave it two stars, noting that Marvel had attempted to “push the boundaries” but with “tasteless” results.
“This new runaway offering is a white elephant,” he wrote.
She felt that Zhao’s “compassionate eye and poetic feel for the landscape”, which helped her also win Best Picture for Nomadland at this year’s Academy Awards, was “almost imperceptible.”
“Perhaps the hope was that the 26th Marvel movie could shake the franchise out of its comfort zone,” he concluded. “But the franchise is nothing more than a comfort zone, which makes its latest entry an instant white elephant.”
BBC culture it was a bit more generous, offering three stars. Writer Nicholas Barber still called it “watchable but ultimately unmemorable” and perhaps “the most disappointing MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] movie still “.
“Hiring a writer-director who specializes in muted, documentary-like dramas for an action show about interstellar demigods may not have been the wisest choice,” he said.
Empire it also handed out three stars, with reviewer John Nugent noting that the inclusion of “a genuine sex scene and an on-screen gay kiss” really was a first for the MCU.
“But anyone who envisions the first ‘arthouse Marvel’ should mitigate their expectations,” he warned.
“Director Chloé Zhao’s entry into the world of superheroes is assured, ambitious and told on a dizzyingly cosmic scale, but even this cannot escape the clichés of superhero storytelling.”
Eternals is in cinemas from November 5th.
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