At Least It’s Pretty: Eternals Fell Short For Me

As a member of my high school’s classics club, I was thrilled to see a film that featured ancient cultures and mythologies. I was squirming in my seat when I saw the Ishtar Gate because we recreated it back when I was in grade 12, and I had fond memories of the experience. And as a lover of fantastical and intricate costumes, of course I was enamored by the costume design. So believe me when I saw that I really wanted to enjoy Eternals more than I actually did.

Warning, there are a couple of spoliers.

Now, the first issue I have is not with the movie itself, but more with how movies are watched. After doing the majority of my movie watching at home due to the pandemic, I have been spoiled by certain things that aren’t necessarily a part of the movie-going experience. And based on the number of people who got up part way through the film to go to the bathroom, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who isn’t quite used to being back at the theatre yet.

But my issue was not with missing the ability to pause when I needed a bathroom break. In our household, we watch movies and TV shows with subtitles. Both Mark and I are hard of hearing. He suffers from difficulties hearing due to an old injury, as well as tinnitus. I, on the other hand, have an auditory processing disorder. Subtitles are a must for both of us. In a movie theatre where the volume is louder and there is an expectation that viewers will be quiet, I don’t often struggle to hear the way I would at home. Eternals was an exception. I could understand the bulk of the movie just fine, but there was enough that didn’t quite land with me to make me jealous of the person two rows in front of me who had a subtitle device sticking out of their chair. Honestly, I had no idea Bill Skarsgard’s character was named Kro until I saw the credits roll. Although Mark said he wasn’t sure the name was mentioned at all in the film. But I have no way of knowing what parts I missed and what wasn’t actually there in the first place. I really wish movies with subtitles would become the standard practice in theatres.

To add insult to injury, there was a deaf character in the film, Makkari (Lauren Ridolff). She signed in what I assume was ASL, and so did some of the characters when they spoke to her. I have recently started learning ASL due to the fact that both my husband and I experience hearing difficulties, and it’s been great for my stimming or days when anxiety is high, so I adored watching a character sign on screen. I did my best to decipher her signs, but ultimately I did need to rely on the subtitles that had been provided whenever her character spoke. Which was not often enough.

This brings me to the main issue I had with the film: character development. Maybe it’s because there were so many characters who were central to the main plot. And unlike the Avengers, none of them got a solo film with their full backstory to explain who they are and what motivates them. In an effort to provide character development for some of the Eternals, others got pushed to the backburner. Makkari was one of them. All we got to learn about her, other than her powers, is that she loves Druig (Barry Keoghan) and she loves to collect stuff. That’s it. Why does she love to collect human artifacts? Why did she feel the need to wait on the ship for so many centuries instead of living out in the world with the others? And I’ve never read any Eternals comics. I only know what was in the film, which was not a whole lot.

And Thena (Angelina Jolie) was another fascinating character that I fell in love with. Thankfully, she did not suffer the same fate as Makkari in terms of character development, but I still felt like I was missing out on so much. Not in a bad way though. What character development she had within the confines of this film was adequate given how many Eternals were featured, but this goes back to what I was saying about the solo films. I would love to watch a spin off film of her life with Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok) after he decides to take care of her, rather than allowing her to lose her memories. She is both strong and broken, and that duality is what makes her interesting. I look forward to seeing more of her in future MCU films.

In terms of the plot of this movie, it was okay. I’ve heard it argued before that one of the reasons why MCU films are so popular is that they’re formulaic in that they follow the classic story arc. So perhaps that’s why I found the plot of Eternals so predictable. I was suspicious of Ikaris (Richard Madden) from the second he showed up to the battle in London. And the more we learned about his character, the more those suspicious grew. Unlike Sersi (Gemma Chan), it was made clear that his loyalty and devotion was towards Arishem (David Kaye) and not the people of Earth. And the way the Eternals divided before the final battle was not a surprise either given the individual motivations of each character.

Although this isn’t the best MCU film I’ve ever seen, I don’t think it’s the worst. And I am actually excited to see what happens next in this story line – although that’s partly because of the way the movie ended on a cliffhanger. But I definitely want to see more of some of the characters. Overall, I’m glad I watched it, but that will most likely be the only time I watch it.

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