There is also a plot, however, which will escape your mind as quickly as it entered. Briefly, the Eternals have scattered across the globe in the centuries since they arrived on Earth in a spaceship that resembles a behemoth, black marble Dorito. All along, they’ve been stealthily guiding humanity and fighting ravenous, sinewy monsters known as Deviants. But a potentially cataclysmic event forces them to leave the comfortable lives they’ve forged for themselves, reassemble (if you’ll forgive the word choice) and use their combined superpowers to stop what is essentially the apocalypse. Again! You don’t need to be deeply steeped in Marvel lore in general or Jack Kirby’s trippy comic series specifically to follow “Eternals”; aside from a brief reference to Thanos, and why these heroes didn’t step in to stop the events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” this feels more like a standalone film than most in the MCU. Having said that, of course you’ll get more out of the movie if you’re a fan, and the obligatory end-credit sequences will mean more to you, too.
Chan’s Sersi, with her transmutational abilities, and Richard Madden’s Ikaris, a versatile, Superman-type figure prominently as centuries-old, on-and-off-again lovers. Charismatic as Madden is, though, Chan enjoys greater sparks with Kit Harington as her mortal, London-based boyfriend, Dane Whitman, who shares Sersi’s interest in archaeology. Whatever emotional stakes may exist between any of these characters eventually take a back seat to flying around and zapping monsters with eye lasers. You can feel the struggle in trying to juggle it all. And the climactic action extravaganza is so glossy and cacophonous, it could have been plucked out of any number of soulless, sci-fi spectacles over the past decade, smothering all the smaller charms we’d enjoyed along the way.
A newly buff Kumail Nanjiani offers some laughs as a pompous Bollywood star, Don Lee provides a kind presence despite his hulking power, and Barry Keoghan merely has to show up to make us feel his unnerving vibe. All of these actors prove they’re up for the challenge of trying to establish complicated characters within the frenzy of the MCU machinery. Frustratingly, they—and Zhao—can only serve as cogs.
Only in theaters on November 5th.