by Ray Keating
Review and Commentary
November 13, 2021
My expectations ran high for both Eternals and Dune when heading into the movie theater. Those expectations actually were exceeded with Dune. Unfortunately, Eternals turned out to be a gross disappointment, and as a result, the movie added fuel to a troubling trend emerging with recent Marvel projects.
Of course, both films have faced box office challenges with the ongoing struggle to emerge from the pandemic, as well as Dune being offered immediately via online streaming on HBO Max and Eternals expected to move rather quickly to Disney+ (perhaps just before Christmas). Dune opened domestically on October 22, and as of November 11 on BoxOfficeMojo.com, it had still taken in $332.6 million globally. After opening on November 5, Eternals registered $170.9 million worldwide. It is worth noting that the Eternals’ opening weekend domestic take came in behind the other pandemic-era MCU releases, that is, Black Widow at $80 million (along with an announced $60 million on Disney+), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at $75 million, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage at an inexplicable $90 million.
As for critics and audiences, on RottenTomatoes.com, Eternals has earned a woeful 47 percent critics score, with audiences coming in at 80 percent. Meanwhile, Dune has scored well with both critics (83 percent) and audiences (90 percent).
In general, I think that the critics got both right.
Dune ranks as sci-fi/fantasy done right. It’s a visually rich, immersive story, with interesting characters. The film offers hints of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Lawrence of Arabia. The cast is spot on, and the director, Denis Villeneuve, gets fine performances out of each actor, including some who have not showed such abilities before, like Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista.
Throughout the film, my mind never wandered to thinking about when this would be over, but rather wanting the movie to go on, and pondering where the characters were headed and the implications of their actions. And given the ending, I found myself thinking that Legendary and Warner Brothers better greenlight a sequel with Villeneuve at the helm, and thankfully, they have.
In contrast, Eternals was a bloated, uninteresting story, with characters that largely were flat, along with most of the performances.
And unlike Dune, Eternals was plagued by story points that made little sense, including glaringly contradictory moments for assorted characters (such as Richard Madden’s Ikaris, not to mention that his ending was way too on the nose).
Amazingly, there are some out there arguing that Eternals isn’t getting the love it deserves because fans are unwilling to deal with big issues being brought up in a superhero movie. My immediate reaction to such assertions is to laugh – and to be perfectly clear, to laugh mockingly. Big issues? The writers and director, Chloe Zhao, seemed to be striving to present some deep moral quandaries over which the characters and audience were meant to wrestle. Alas, though, these so-called big issues amounted to shallow or meaningless situations seemingly dreamed up by a group of college students believing that they had great insights on matters that in reality they possessed little or no knowledge of in the end. The so-called moral quandaries served up in the Eternals spoke more to the obtuseness of the filmmakers, at best, or to their amorality.
It also needs to be pointed out that the more the MCU goes in on CGI effects, the worse the results seem to get. Though not as bad as the end scenes in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or what was offered in Captain Marvel, several of the scenes in Eternals came across more like crude animation, as opposed to interesting and/or immersive CGI.
Interestingly, the character and performance that turned out to be the most interesting in Eternalswas Angelina Jolie as Thena. Here was a troubled character whose challenges and reactions made sense, and there was some life to Jolie’s performance. Don Lee also was pretty good as Gilgamesh, and Kumail Nanjiani had amusing moments as Kingo, though most didn’t fit with where the story was at the time.
Regarding how the Eternals fits into the MCU, part of my high expectations going in could be attributed to an assumption or hope that this film would break the recent trend in MCU entries being poor-to-middling. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had moments on Disney+, but came up miserably short in the end, while Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were middling MCU movies (with Black Widow coming in ahead of Shang-Chi). The LokiDisney+ series has been the lone major MCU standout really since Avengers: Endgame.
Eternals was supposed to get the MCU back to interesting, exciting and compelling storytelling and characters, devoid of plot holes and character inconsistencies. But that disappointingly was not the case.
My thoughts at the end of Eternals were pretty much the exact opposite of what I experienced with Dune. I was thankful that Eternals was over, and rather than wondering what would come next for the characters, I was left wondering where the heck the MCU was heading – and not in a good way.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
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