Yesterday The Eternals became available on Disney+. Given the reviews and discussion from its theatrical release, I didn’t have particularly high expectations. I figured it would just be the typical Marvel thrill ride. And mostly it was that, but it also had a few zingers that made it interesting.
I don’t remember much from the comic book version of The Eternals. I just recall them as one of Jack Kirby‘s offbeat creations, one I don’t remember being very developed, at least not during my comic book period, which was mostly the late 1970s. It sounds like the concept got fleshed out a lot more in the decades since. Not being familiar with any of the later stuff, the plot twists were completely new.
The Eternals are a group of beings sent to Earth c. 5000 BC to protect humanity from creatures known as Deviants. Their mission is narrowly focused on the Deviants. They are forbidden from interfering in human conflicts. Which explains why they don’t do much about human conflict throughout history. Or why they don’t show up in the Avengers movies to help in the battle against Thanos. (Although this movie does have an interesting tie in with Thanos in the closing credits.)
The Eternals were sent by someone known as Arishem. Arishem is a Celestial, one of the giant ancient primordial beings identified in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie as the developers of the Infinity Stones. So Arishem comes across as a sublimely powerful entity.
The Eternals manage to eradicate all the Deviants just as the Spanish are conquering the Aztec empire in 1519 AD. But for unknown reasons, Arishem does not recall them. So they continue living on Earth, but go their separate ways. They are living in different parts of the world, more or less acting like normal humans, until modern day, when Deviants suddenly start showing up again.
But this isn’t just a story of the Deviant threat. It turns out that Arishem hasn’t recalled them because their main mission isn’t over yet. And that mission, not realized by most of them, isn’t just to protect humanity from the Deviants. The Eternals are not what they think they are, nor are the Deviants. Both are pawns in Arishem’s broader purpose, a purpose involving a dark fate for humanity.
One of the things I liked about this movie is there are no cackling villains. There’s plenty of conflict, and some characters do make monstrous choices. But everyone has reasons for their actions, reasons that, to them, seem like the only right choice. As a result, the movie feels slightly more morally complex than a lot of superhero stuff.
Overall I enjoyed it, and recommend it, but with a warning. It ends on something of a cliffhanger. That’s concerning because the reviews for this movie are pretty lackluster, and for a Marvel movie, its box office numbers are nothing to write home about. It makes me wonder if there will be sequels. I hope so. The story and premise are interesting and I’d like to see more. I guess we’ll find out in time.
Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?