Chloe Zhao Marvel movie is a chaotic bible epic

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You may have heard that “Eternals” is overloaded. Too long. Too complicated. Too much invested in a complicated cosmology involving space gods and the even greater space gods who created them.

Yes well. Have you ever heard of a little book called the Bible, my friend?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with a movie in which Robert Downey Jr. played a second-tier superhero in a tin can, is now hiring Oscar winners directly to tell the creation myths for nearly three hours. “Eternals”, directed by “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao, hits theaters this weekend.

The first line of the film: “In the beginning”. I don’t throw willy-nilly bible comparisons, gang. I have too much respect for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

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For its 26th film (the third released this year), Marvel goes in-depth with “Eternals,” based on somewhat obscure characters created by Jack Kirby, the clever designer behind most of your favorite comics. Fictional millennia ago, omnipotent space deities named Celestials sent an overpowered race called the Eternals to Earth, in order to guide the development of humanity and protect it from a fierce and monstrous race called the Deviants.

Through the Ages Immortal Eternals – healer / mater familias Ajak (Salma Hayek), non-Superman-for-copyright Ikaris (Richard Madden), humanity-loving material manipulator Sersi (Gemma Chan) , non-Wonder-Woman – for copyright reasons Thena (Angelina Jolie) and six others with their own unique gifts – move among humans, aiding them and doing general “Highlander” antics, but not interfering never in the conflicts of mankind, according to heavenly orders. Seemingly accomplished deviant destructive mission, they end up going their separate ways to live out the rest of the story.

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But when a Deviant resurfaces attacks today’s London, Sersi and Ikaris travel the world to reunite the family. Along the way, they discover that the millennial truths they believed were not so true after all.

Now, just a few weeks ago, I criticized the new film adaptation of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” for trying to cram into an overly austere and joyless world-building at the expense of giving a story to beginners. . “Eternals” has the opposite effect: Zhao, who also co-wrote the film, brings together 7,000 years of colorful, wide-eyed sci-fi humanism (including 14 years of Marvel continuity) at the same time. execution of almost three hours. And you can find the flaws in “Eternals”, but the lack of story threads certainly isn’t.

Among the Marvel "Eternal," from left to right: Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and Druig (Barry Keoghan).

It’s a lot. It’s an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a testimony to having heard Salma Hayek say the phrase “It’s time” while wearing a wacky headdress.

Fortunately, for about 85% of the movie, “Eternals” is heady, cheesy, silly, and intelligent fun. An incomplete list of his most peculiar joys, which you won’t find in most Marvel movies:

  • Angelina Jolie strokes an iguana
  • Space gods launch into Marvel’s first sex scene in an ancient desert
  • Angelina Jolie is wearing so much white you guess she’s running till Labor Day
  • The first Bollywood issue (I think) in a Marvel movie
  • Brian Tyree Henry, Emmy and Tony nominated, pronouncing the phrase “uni-mind” more than once
  • Angelina Jolie creates an ax out of thin air and slices up space dinosaurs with it
  • Lizzo
Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi (Gemma Chan) have a long ... long history in "Eternal."

At its best, “Eternals” is brimming with the sense of the possible that makes comics, that inspired this blockbuster, thrilling and enduring movie franchise. The film is an inconspicuous feat of inclusion, from the tender gay romance of the prolific inventor of Henry Phastos to the supersonic exploits of speedster Makkari, played by deaf actress Lauren Ridloff. (I also enjoyed some subtle and respectful nods to mental illness via Thena’s story.)

“Avengers” characters like Thanos and Thor get name checks, but Zhao’s film is never bogged down by his shared universe. Even the concept – “Oh, did you like the Iron Man and his friends stuff?” OK, well, all the time there were these galactic gladiators wandering around the Earth doing completely different things, and boy, this is nuts ”- boldly engages the imagination. There are even wilder and more impactful concepts that we won’t spoil.

However: This chaotic feeling of dread also prevents “Eternals” from satisfactorily fulfilling its cinematic alliance. Much like Icarus (or Ikaris, but… well, never mind, look), Zhao’s sprawling epic flies too close to the sun at the end. Her final act is a hat on an immortal hat, with new powers, new stakes, and inexplicable behavior – oh, that sounds like the Book of Revelation – flooding the screen in Noah’s way.

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It’s never a hit on the cast, who all find a different angle on approaching the Hall of Fame, especially Kumail Nanjiani as conceited energy blaster Kingo and Don Lee as expert in nurturing punch Gilgamesh. (Yeah, that one.) But with 10 lead roles, a human love interest (Kit Harrington as Dane, Ikaris’ rival for Sersi’s Eternal Affections), giant cosmic deities, a few CGI beasts and a bang As a general whip of the flashback, there were bound to be some weird gods.

You can feel the Marvel house style sneaking under Zhao’s author sensibilities, like Pennywise lounging in a sewer grate. The views ? Impeccable. Makes you want to buy a national park pass. The seriousness of bad humor on the morality of an immortal in a world of tissue paper? The first issue of “The Eternals” in 1976 cost a quarter. We don’t have to meditate too much.

“Eternals” could have stood up to remove something before leaving the spaceship. But not you, Angelina. You are doing amazing. Keep smiling and slicing, amen.

‘The Eternals’

Class: B

With : Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harrington

Director: Chloe Zhao

Rated: PG-13 for fantastic violence and action, brief sex and a little talk

Duration of operation: 2 hours 37 minutes

To concern: In theaters November 5


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