Marvel Studios' Eternals Is A Love Story

Chloé Zhao is the biggest name to helm a Marvel movie yet — the prolific auteur made history last year after her work on "Nomadland” earned her Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. She became the second woman to win an Oscar for directing and the first woman of color to earn the title. And she's terrific — Zhao's breathtaking vision and eloquence translate to the screen with ease, and she brings a distinctive style to the MCU, making "Eternals" an exciting step into the franchise's future.

With "Eternals," Zhao finally introduces us to the characters from Jack Kirby's trippy comic books. They're god-like beings from Olympia sent to Earth by the celestial Arishem, tasked with wiping out the Deviants, a race of ravenous monsters committed to destroying human life. These heroes came to Earth 7,000 years ago; they haven't interfered in any human conflicts or aided the Avengers in the fight against Thanos because they were instructed to stay away from any wars unless Deviants were involved. And now, 7,000 years later, a new race of the CGI monsters (blessed with some new, impressive evolutionary powers) has returned to Earth and are upending the lives built by the Eternals over the centuries.

"Eternals" was my first film back at theaters since the pandemic hit in 2019, and I loved it. But it wasn't for everyone (just look at its Rotten Tomatoes rating). With the film arriving on Disney+ today, a rewatch is in order for those who have already experienced Zhao's grandiose on the Marvel Studios' silver screen, and for those who haven't, a glimpse into what happens when a filmmaker of Zhao's stature brings humane superheroes to life.

Found Family

"Eternals" spans thousands of years and takes you back to events occurring in Babylon, Mesopotamia, Hiroshima, and the Amazon, eventually closing in on how the Eternals broke up. Every hero has individual arcs and has lived multiple lives through the years. In the years they've been apart, the Eternals have found friendship, love, and family. From Richard Madden's sexy-yet-flawed, silver-streaked pseudo-Superman, Ikaris; to the love of his life, the powerful and cautious Sersi played by a doe-eyed Gemma Chan; to Bollywood superstar Kingo's laugh-out-loud antics masterfully delivered by Kumail Nanjiani (the real MVP of the film); Brian Tyree Henry's ingenious Phastos; and the forever scowling Sprite (Lia McHugh), a god trapped in a 12-year-old's body; there is no stone left unturned in making Eternals' team dynamic one of a kind. 

Angelina Jolie's Thena displays why she is the Goddess of War, and Don Lee's Gilgamesh documents vulnerability alongside his colossal strength. Barry Keoghan's Druig, a character as complex as his powers, and deaf actress Lauren Ridloff's remarkable portrayal of the speedster Makkari steal the show. Whether it's their on-screen chemistry or the fleeting moments they share across millennia, I feel compelled to say that I could watch Makkari and Druig longingly glance at each other for hours over anything that happens between Sersi and Ikaris ... which brings me to my next point.

A Story About Love

"Eternals" was posed as this massive, diverse, all-star cast ensemble brimming with larger-than-life action sequences, but the most prominent theme prevalent throughout the movie — love — was lost in its marketing strategy. Zhao's film takes fans across picturesque, illuminated landscapes, and rebuilds empires long gone. Still, beyond the exciting new cosmic aesthetic that the director weaves into the narrative, "Eternals" is a story about love.

"Eternals" is about the love shared by Ikaris and Sersi — the kind that spans thousands of years, the type that is unfamiliar to humankind. It's about Thena's love for Gilgamesh; though its nature is never explicitly called out, it is well-represented through their actions and how they influence each other. It's about Ajak's love for the heroes, her unwavering sense of trust in them to do the right thing. It's Sersi's love for humans and planet Earth. It's Druig and Makkari's resolute companionship. It's Phastos' love and curiosity about technology and Sprite's longing to love. It's Kingo's love for music and dance. Love, as the overarching theme in "Eternals," is what makes the film so special in a franchise teeming with superhero origin stories, and "Eternals" needs to be recognized for that.

Not Another Marvel Movie

I mentioned before that "Eternals" wasn't for everyone — it's long, the glacial pacing can feel somewhat disconnected, and most of the film follows one group of heroes trying to reunite with the rest. It doesn't fit in with the other quintessential Marvel movies — there's minimal CGI, no cameos from already-known characters, no teasing an already-existing project. You don't need to watch three different movies to prepare yourself for it. But it's emotionally intimate. It doesn't feel like it's a part of the MCU and yet, gets you excited about its future. It is the breath of fresh air we didn't know we needed.

"Eternals" is a valiant effort from Chloé Zhao to fill the Avenger-size void we've been living with following "Avengers: Endgame" and reinvents the quintessential Marvel movie concept that frequently centers on the fight between good vs. evil. It shines a light on the most overwhelming emotion known to humans while raising questions about what makes humans special. The director's talent makes "Eternals" as reflective as watching a movie can be. Chloé Zhao's vision and eloquence is her superpower, evidently.