ST. LOUIS — There's a group of good folks and bad folks. Earth is being attacked. Human beings are in danger. Just don't call the "Eternals" if you want a good time.
Let's get right to the point, movie fans. The biggest problem with "Eternals" is that it doesn't have one remarkable element, performance, scene, or moment in its two and a half hour running time that made me think I was watching something marvelous--or even something decent. If you're Marvel and you have assembled a gigantic cast and crew like this, there needs to be magic involved or else the big swing looks awfully hollow.
The fact is that Chloe Zhao's latest film is a colossal failure on many levels, including the fact that a highly-anticipated film has all the emotional resonance and power of a Michael Bay "Transformers" sequel. The special effects carry all the allure and eye-opening stunner effect of the poorly-rendered and laughable "The Matrix Revolutions." Supremely-talented actors like Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie are utterly wasted here in a series of brooding stares, CGI-cloaked heroics, and recycled Marvel fun. Even "Game of Thrones" actors like Richard Madden and Kit Harrington seem lost or misused here.
Everything in "Eternals" was either better elsewhere or in the years before this feature arrived. The plot is thin, boring, and familiar: a group of superpowered beings called the Eternals, who have protected Earth for thousands of centuries (but not when Thanos tried to break it in half), must come back together to stop the elimination of our planet after the events of "Avengers: Endgame" unlocked an emergence in the galaxy. In other words, the bad guys-known as Deviants here who don't have any personality and grow redundant 30 minutes into the movie-now have a chance to consume the planet and all they have to do is get through the "Eternals." Audiences, especially the non-Marvel variety, may have a tough time getting through this movie.
Another problem here is the alarming lack of comedy. Ever since Jon Favreau's "Iron Man" launched this party back in 2008, a palpable sense of humor was established in each and every Marvel movie. The laughs are few and far in between, more due to bad writing than an actor dropping the ball . While "Eternals" tries to be different in certain areas, it forgot about the key element that made the movies special and allowed them to endure all these years: witty humor. "Eternals" has none of it and the jokes that do find their way in-mostly from the likes of Brian Tyree Henry and Kumail Nanjiani-fall very flat on the ground.
The cast looks more like a group of well-known performers playing awkward post-Halloween dress-ups than a group of people taking characters and making them their own. One of the ways "Eternals" tries to be different is the manner in which it kills off main characters (spoiler alert, it happens a few times here)--but if you don't care about that character or didn't get the time to care for them, there isn't a dramatic impact when they depart the screen. A romantic subplot falls flat and the overly busy film changes time periods and dates faster than a speeding bullet.
The audience isn't given an incentive to care about the character tropes and types here. Remember when Clark Gregg's Agent Phil Caulson's death in 2012's "Avenger?" He was a distant supporting character-not even a superhero-and the audience mourned him so much they got a television show called "Agents of S.H.I.E.LD." In Zhao's film, I felt little to nothing when a hero perished, because they weren't given a level of complexity or depth that affords such feelings for make-believe players. The movie carries a visual palette that's familiar and crowded with thought but it's hollow on the inside--much like Denis Villenueve's "Dune." Except that film had Jason Momoa to make some of it more tolerable. "Eternals" lacks a Duncan Idaho.
The post-credits scenes (middle and at the very end) drum up little earnest interest in a sequel or follow-up. All I can hope for is that the next movie will have more interesting characters with a better plot. Zhao co-wrote the script with Patrick Burleigh and Ryan Firpo, and it's a flat rendition of cardboard cutout heroes fighting personality-less villains for 155 minutes. For the first time in its 20-plus film lifespan, a Marvel movie is forgettable in just about every sense.
You know what would have been better than a group of old heroes taking on another bad fella? Going back to the origin of the "Eternals" and showing us how they became the heroes, instead of presenting their boring last stand. Speaking of those words, Brett Ratner's "X-Men: Last Stand" had better action and sequences than Zhao's film. Maybe it was too much for the "Nomadland" filmmaker to handle, or maybe she never had a chance. Big blockbuster movies aren't easy to leave an imprint of your style on, especially when you don't care about what happens to the characters.
I am all for Marvel taking a bigger swing and trying to be different in its post-"Endgame" phase, but it has to be better than this. All I saw here was retreads of better, earlier products. "Eternals" isn't just a bad movie; it's the worst Marvel movie yet.