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Long-winded, dry 'Eternals' ends the Marvel Cinematic Universe year with a thud

Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Marvel Studi's "Eternals." Photo credit: Sophie Mutevelian, Marvel Studios.
Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 12:49:27-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Give "Eternals" credit for one thing: Accuracy in its title. The somber, droning Marvel superhero drama seems to last an eternity. You have to check your phone afterward to confirm that only 2hours, 36 minutes have passed.

The goal was to dig deep into the bowels of Marvel character roster in an effort to generate a franchise to hang with the likes of "The Avengers" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." The result is closer to the results of "Fantastic Four" movies.

The main issue is how dull the Eternals are. The near-immortal squad lacks pep and personality, and has an irritating tendency to line up alongside each other to pose in a line-dancing formation. Superdorks, these guys and gals are.

Coming off the success of "Nomadland," director Chloe Zhao cashes in but apparently leaves her passion for emotional intensity and character-building at the door. The cast includes a bit of star power, with the presence of Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Kit Harrington, but most of the load is carried by lesser-known actors who struggle to carry the load.

Gemma Chan acquits herself most successfully as Sersi, the group's de facto leader. The timeline-hopping film catalogues how she and the other Eternals have been hanging out in various civilizations throughout time, blending into the crowds and coming out of hiding in plain sight to take on monstrous Deviants, who romp around, destroy buildings and try to eat people until the Eternals snuff them out.

Little is at stake, and there is a tenuous — at best — connection with the rest of the Marvel heroes and villains. If these heroes are so important, and if the threat they face is so severe, why isn't Captain Marvel swinging by to at least check things out? Can't Dr. Strange be bothered to conjure a spell or two to lend a hand?

The most likely explanation is that the Eternals' exploits are so dry and bland that no one wants to get involved.

Even though "Eternals" is largely dull and strained, at least it's a handsome failure. Top-notch CGI and gorgeous background visuals plop you convincingly into historic settings with the effectiveness of an "Assassin's Creed" game. When battles erupt, they are satisfying and thrilling affairs. The film loses its way when the action subsides and the camera dwells on the characters ennui.

Packing a couple post-credit scenes that point squarely to a sequel, it's clear that the Eternals are here to stay. Hopefully the world-building grinding established in the first film paves the way for a more exciting future. When you're dealing with eternity, at least there's always something to look forward to.

Viewed Thursday night at Harkins Tucson Spectrum Cine One.

RATING: 2 stars out of 4.
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