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Kino Korner: Eternals

Blame my idiot friends. I wasn’t going to see this until they coerced me, saying they wanted to read my review of such a thing. I was otherwise going to coast on the same 5 jokes I had about the film, namely that Gene Hackman was coming out of retirement to play “Bingus” and Sprite was going to shrug her shoulders while in the foreground of Hitler’s rise to power. But actually seeing what you’re implicitly criticizing is probably best, so off I go to the theatre to witness Marvel’s 39th film, directed by Oscar winner Chloe Zhao. It’s a testament to Marvel’s dominion over the film world that they can take an up and coming acclaimed filmmaker and break her over their knee. “LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO!” Marvel is screaming as Zhao lays beaten and bloodied at its proverbial feet. Rather than afford her the luxury of introducing a no-brainer like the X-Men or even the Fantastic Four, she’s tasked with the Eternals, a concept that has arguably worked never and elicits “huh?”s and “who cares?”s in equal measure from even the most die hard comics fans. It says a lot when even I cannot muster enthusiasm for the characters. I’ve read them in comics before and as characters they make excellent sleep aids. “What if the Inhumans were less accessible?” is not a slam dunk.

Created by Jack Kirby when he wanted to continue his Fourth World comics but couldn’t, the Eternals are a group of immortal robots put in place by a giant red dildo thing called a Celestial (those hoping for more Asian representation will be disappointed, we’re not using the Deadwood definition). There are ten of them are none of them have a personality to spare. We’re introduced to all this sprawling mythology with a 5 paragraph text crawl. Star Wars gets away with it. Eternals is no Star Wars. The Eternals are entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding humanity from attacks by Deviants, who are mostly wolves made of grass and vines who can either easily defeat a single Eternal or be easily defeated by a single Eternal. It doesn’t matter; they’re there as CGI hitboxes for the characters to hurt in uninspired action sequences. Since they’re immortal, Eternals have lived many lives. We don’t get to see any of these, except in three flashbacks across 7000 years. One of them tells lightshow stories for the humans; another builds the engine for humanity and downgrades it to a plow when others tell him that’s too advanced for us.

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Number of Japanese people in Eternals: zero.

The film wants to have it both ways when it comes to the extent of the Eternals’ impact on human civilization. Sersi will transmute a dagger into a metal dagger and give it to 7000 B.C. humans. Yet we’re told approximately 40 times that they are not to interfere. So the solution is to interfere but not openly interfere. Nudge, don’t push. Bad writing or subtle writing? I’m going with ‘bad’. Druig in particular wants to mind control all humans so there’s no more war and violence and such. He’s a red herring villain especially as Barry Keoghan is I Can’t Believe It’s Not We Need To Talk About Kevin. Eventually he fucks off to run his own community of mind controlled humans and the other Eternals….let him? And he faces no repercussions in the present for enslaving people for 500 years? If any of this was explored it’d be worthwhile, but it’s not. Eternals morality is basically the same as human morality. It’s easier that way.

So Sersi (Gemma Chan, Captain Marvel) teaches classes at a London museum and is dating Dane Whit(e)man (Kit Harington, Silent Hill: Revelation). She also has a ward, I guess, named Sprite (Lia McHugh, The Lodge). It’s not explained what relation they are to each other. Sersi and Sprite don’t really put an effort into establishing human cover identities, which is why they go by Sersi and Sprite. Apparently Sprite also just tells Whiteman shit about how they’re 7000 year old beings, and it’s not even played as a joke, like “those imaginative kids”. I’ve already lost the plot with “a woman named Sersi with no last name who hangs out with a preteen named Pepsi”. Anyway, a Deviant attacks London and the pair are forced to reveal themselves to the world. This doesn’t matter because humanity is irrelevant to Eternals. Ikaris (Richard Madden, Chatroom) shows up and it becomes a game of getting the band back together. Finding Ajak (Salma Hayek, Grown Ups 2), the Greg of the team, dead at her South Dakota ranch adds a Watchmen dimension to things. Who’s killing assholes wearing Jack Kirby’s 54th best costume designs? Who cares?

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Deviants are called such because they leave the bathroom without washing their hands.

If you think this article has been long and dry for spending so much time introducing the characters that make up the film, that’s it in a microcosm. It takes about 100 minutes for all of the Eternals to join together. Let’s see what other losers this movie has in store. Uh, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani, Stuber) is a Bollywood star who is introduced doing a minute long Bollywood number in English for a movie about Ikaris’ life. Thena (Angelina Jolie, Wanted) and Gilgamesh (Don Lee, Train to Busan) live together in a convalescent home type situation because Thena is suffering from space dementia that causes her eyes to cloud up and to fight everyone around her, including friends. Don’t you hate it when grandma thinks it’s 1954 again and tries to murder you? Druig (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) went off to form his own mind controlled community in the jungles of South America whereas Phastos forsakes humanity after he creates the A-bomb so he moves to Chicago (where black people live? Uh) and gets married to a dude and has a son with him. Yes, Virginia, the MCU has a gay character slightly more developed than Grieving Man from Avengers: Endgame. If Marvel had guts this movie would just be Beau Travail; instead we get one kiss, one mention of “husband”. No sex scene for the gays. Sersi and Ikaris receive one, which consists of them synchronizing shoulder movements on the beach. If trends continue, we’ll get some man-on-man action by Marvel’s 46th picture. Prepare yourselves for some Iceman/Northstar bareback 69ing. Whether “cinema” will still exist or whether we’ll all be underwater in a climate apocalypse are good questions beyond the purview of this article.

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This is basically hardcore pornography. Did Michael Douglas body double for Richard Madden cause this is erotic.

There’s a big twist in Eternals and whether or not you see it coming depends on your level of density. The Eternals are not here to protect humanity, they’re here to burnish the human population so there’s enough people to power the birth of a new Celestial. A big dildo monster resides inside every planet with sentient life on it. The villains weren’t the vine wolfmen, it was the unknowable red dildo the entire time! Thus occurs a philosophical split among the Eternals. Some of them think the Celestials are right, others love humans too much to let the extinction of all life on Earth happen. On one side, Ikaris and Sprite. On the other, everybody else. On the sideline, Kingo, who literally exits the movie after deciding he doesn’t want to use his sick gains to fight his “family”. (He said the magic word! Everything’s a fucking family, found or not, nowadays. Thanks a lot, Michael Schur.) Sprite sides with Ikaris because she’s in love with him, an infatuation lampshaded by somebody comparing him to Peter Pan and her to Tinkerbell. Who’s the alligator with the clock in its mouth? Who gives a shit.

They depart to their big triangle spaceship to try to figure shit out, and I found it was a weird choice to make the Eternals spaceship buried in Iraq. I was hoping when Makkari (finally) showed up she was deformed and shit from all the chemical weapons and waste we dropped on the country during the occupation. The philosophical debate over whether to let the Emergence happen or defy their Celestial master to save humanity ought to be the crux of the movie, but it’s limp and taste-free like everything else. Humans are special, so they deserve to live. The opposing side to this just kicked Salma Hayek onto a hockey rink full of vine wolves. Kingo has the most interesting perspective of siding with Ikaris but refusing to fight anyone. This would be a brave choice if he hadn’t reappeared at the end to send Pepsi off to boarding school and everybody’s acting like nothing happened.

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SYNERGY! BUY EVERYTHING YOU MINDLESS DRONE

At times Eternals feels like the third movie in a series because so much of it relies on established interpersonal relationships no one bothered setting up. Like, Phastos will have a remark about having wanted to clip Ikaris’ wings for some time. When? Why? Who the fuck are these people to each other? I’m not a huge fan of Marvel movies but to their credit they have condensed long running characters into simple and relatable personalities. Captain America is the humble leader. Iron Man is the sarcastic genocide participant. Thor is Homer Simpson. And so on. Whereas the Eternals are lucky to have one personality trait between them, and that’s looking dour. The diversity among them becomes the main feature because it’s easier to say “the deaf one” than “the one with a penchant for antiques, no the other one”. I cannot overstate how damp these squibs of heroes are, and if Marvel’s trying to replace the Avengers with them they’ve got another thing coming. Eternals has done the impossible and made me look back fondly at previous Marvel movies.

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I joked this scene blew the movie’s kissing budget because later on Sersi/Dane only hug and Druig and Makkari touch foreheads to indicate their love. By 2025, all MCU films will be acted out by eunuchs.

 Because Phastos’ intelligence is indistinguishable from magic, he’s able to whip up a machine that combines their powers if they all put rings on their arms. Or not, because eventually Sersi can take power from characters without one too. It’s some Care Bear bullshit. The original plan is to use Druig, beloved Druig, to mind control Boss Dildo into abandoning his plans, but it falls on Sersi to use her matter transmuting powers to stop Tiamet from being “born” in the first place. Yes, reader, Eternals is about performing a Celestial abortion. They have to try doing this while also contending with Ikaris, who has the same powers as Superman. Have you ever wanted to see nobodies fight an evil Superman? Well, kids, this is slightly better than the Injustice cartoon where Superman is voiced by Justin Hartley.

The result is Tiamet crowns but doesn’t destroy the Earth, leaving this half-head of a Celestial in the ocean for kids to play on. Ikaris decides to commit the Eternal version of seppuku by flying into the Sun, thus fulfilling his character’s name. Wait, but Pepsi confirmed she made up the story about Icarus, so while he’s burning alive is he going “I am doing a killer homage to the myth!”. Big Dildo (David Kaye, Beast Wars) does his best Galactus impression yet basically goes “you got me this time, Eternals” and doesn’t, like, kill them or reset them or punish them in any way. He vows to judge and again, that’s just Galactus. Is MCU Galactus going to be a faceless red thing? Lame.

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“I’m very mad at ou!”

Sersi forgives Pepsi and makes her a real girl instead of a 7000 year old who said “give me the Home Improvement kid” at the hairdresser. “No, all of them at once.” With the uni-mind Sersi can transmute anything into anything else, from fancy robot to human being, and it raises some interesting questions as to how they’ll deal with her powers—I mean, it would if there was a chance the Eternals had more than cameos in Phase 4, 5 and 6. It would be funny if the next Avengers Sersi one-shots Kang the Conqueror by turning him into candy corn. The team that’s not a team splits up to continue their lives on Earth or go into space and find more fancy robots that are feeding planets to the Celestial woodchipper. Of course, that’s already undone with one of the post-credits, so what can you do.

Speaking of which! Increasingly MCU movies are less movies and more post-credits scenes delivery apparatuses. Who cares about the thing you just saw when the next big thing is on the horizon? Starfox the love god, aka a rapist, encroaches on the Eternals ship, and Stafox is played by Harry Styles. He too is an Eternal…and Thanos’ brother! Wait, fancy robots can have brothers? There’s also another scene amidst the 15 minutes of credits. Eternals half-assedly set up Dane Whiteman’s arc by having him mention his messed up family history and Sersi suggesting he make up with his uncle when the end of the world is imminent, yada yada yada he’s heir to the Black Knight ebony blade fortune. (Aside: funniest thing is knowing the world is going to end and telling your boyfriend the one thing he should do with his time left is make amends with his uncle.) He contemplates picking it up, then a voice asks if he’s ready. Chloe Zhao confirmed the voice is Blade’s. See, Blade is in charge of seeing if Dane is ready for the Ebony Blade. Blade is black! You could call him EBONY BLADE. It’s all a tapestry.

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Patton Oswalt as himself

The pre-release materials drew comparisons between this and Terrence Malick’s films, and I think that’s a disservice to both Eternals and Marvel’s stable of films, to say nothing of Terrence Malick. It seems so condescending for the marketing to hype up the use of natural lighting and real locations, as though that’s a high bar to clear. It also diminishes Marvel’s other films, basically saying they’re bullshit composited entirely on green screen. “Check out Eternals, it’s for REAL PEOPLE!” Pitching this as prestige makes their prior output decidedly NOT prestige by dint of comparison. Never once did I think of Days of Heaven or even Badlands, because no matter who’s responsible, Eternals is pretty bland visually. The colors are muted, the designs of the costumes are ugly (Ajak looks like she’s wearing Mega Man as a skin) and the final sequence that takes about 45 minutes appears to be one of those deserted quarry areas Power Rangers loved employing.

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I wonder what Rita Repulsa has in store for them now!

Frankly the film doesn’t look a lot better than your average episode of Power Rangers. The lip sync may be better but the CGI is strictly Playstation 2. These fucking things cost hundreds of millions and yet the CGI always sucks. I don’t get it. 10 years from now we’re going to find out Kevin Feige embezzled a shitload of money out of these. Fucker’s probably hiding the money under his hat. The Deviants don’t look substantially better than the monsters in Lady in the Water for fuck’s sake. Phastos’ power manifests in the ability to make rings and/or fidget spinners, and Kingo does finger guns and nobody stopped that from happening. If these films didn’t rely so much on the spectacle I wouldn’t complain about everything looking somewhat cheap, but they do so I will.

I don’t think I’d be able to determine it’s a Chloe Zhao movie without being told about it beforehand. Some elements of it cry Zhao—Ajak is retired to a ranch in South Dakota—but The Marvel Machine, such as it is, overwhelms her filmmaking. Anybody who tells you this is substantially different from other Marvel movies is a liar or is the kind of freak who will go “you know, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is basically The Parallax View”. It may lack comparatively in the bants—the banter—department, but there’s more than enough comic relief and tension deflating moments to satisfy a Marvel fan. Cell phones going off at inopportune times? You betcha.

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“One for the movie that’s upsetting the right people, please.” “What?”

When projections for box office starting trending downward, the marketing team and the principal actors pulled the “oh, it’s the alt-right that hates this”, the same blueprint Ghostbusters: Answer The Call used to…success? Well, they sure used it. Here’s a secret, though: something can be diverse and also suck. There’s a dimension to the woke tug-of-war neither side seems to want to acknowledge. Make no mistake: Eternals does not suck because it’s diverse, it sucks and is diverse. Got it? Speaking of diverse firsts, I do have to question the first deaf hero. Although this way lies madness, I do have to wonder how is it that American Sign Language existed before America did. Also, it seems to me that Makkari can feel the vibrations of people talking and therefore can do better than lipread, we’re falling into the Daredevil territory where a disability is itself a superpower. She can even listen to the complete discography of Spunkadelic via vibration. The fuck’s the downside?

I guess Eternals might be one of the worst MCU offerings yet; it’s hard for me to judge as a diehard hater. Making up shit about Eternals did prove far more fun than the process of actually seeing it. All the memes about Kingo’s death overwhelm the all too real death of Gilgamesh. Remember him? He dies! Nobody cares. Let me remind you: this film is 2 hours and 40 minutes and you feel every minute of that runtime. Does it matter, though? Can the MCU fail or can it only BE failed? It seems like everybody’s failing upwards on this one. The opening weekend was $70 million and Zhao is rumored to be directing the Kevin Feige produced Star Wars. Everybody wins except me, who spent his Friday morning ruminating on the interminable.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my little (long) article on how much Eternals sucked. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to protect Shailene Woodley’s reputation from the braying hordes that place the blame for Aaron Rodgers’ turn on her shoulders.

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