Eternals is an epic saga with beautiful imagery that ultimately succeeds in the monumental task of writing the history of the universe. I’m sorry if it wasn’t zippy enough for you. It’s not supposed to be.
I typically see a new Marvel movie the weekend it comes out. Once the presales are available, I go on my little app (shout out to AMC A-List, 12 movies a month for the price one) and pick a Thursday or Friday night showing, because I hate spoilers. I’m online all the time and I like to go into a new Marvel movie with a blank slate — if there’s a surprise cameo or a funny joke or an amazing action sequence, I don’t want it ruined by a tweet.
I waited a week to see Eternals because I wasn’t pressed. The reviews weren’t that great and I wasn’t all that excited about the trailer, so I didn’t really care about being spoiled. I said “I’ll see it when I get around to it.” For me, I was stuck on the fact that these beings had been here for most of human history and just sat around doing nothing. What possible explanation could there be to justify that? I felt assured that whatever retcon Marvel came up with would annoy me, that I would roll my eyes, that I would say, “Okay I guess we can go with that…”
Anyway, I saw it yesterday so here are some spoiler-free hot takes:
- The retcon works. Their explanation for doing nothing is really the only explanation that would work. (I’ll explain how I feel in the spoilers.)
- Eternals is a sci-fi epic drama led by an Asian woman featuring a gay couple and a deaf superhero. For that reason alone, you should you want to check it out. Give more than lip-service to diversity.
- This is a slow movie where a lot happens and also nothing at all. I love the pace and how the story unfolds, and it makes sense that this kind of storytelling was given to a director like Chloe Zhao. I really enjoy films where the story is given to you in small chunks told through flashbacks, because after each flashback, you see the character as a different person. Your view of the Eternals (as a team and individually) changes multiple times, and that’s exciting.
- Watching Angelina Jolie take a backseat to Gemma Chan is so surreal, but it works. Salma Hayak being the leader and not Angelina Jolie is also a great choice, because Angelina gets to act more in her role.
- That White House Black Market suburban mom skirt set Thena decided to wear when a certain cameo happens had me howling. All the fashion on earth, and she wanted to be business casual in Omaha.
- The little boy with the two dads is too cute and I hope he’s in the sequel.
- Makkari is a white man in the comics, and he can hear. Makkari is a deaf woman of color in Eternals and that’s it. No explanation for why she’s deaf. No effect on her character, other than assumptions from others that she can be fooled because she can’t “hear.” She’s just a deaf superhero. That is so cool to me! And she was acting acting.
- Kumail Nanjiani is probably one of the worst dancers in Hollywood. I’d heard he had trouble with the choreography during his Bollywood sequence, and watching it is so cringe because even in the extremely watered down moves they gave him….he’s off beat. They should’ve just scrapped the entire scene.
- He’s hilarious though. He and Karun, his valet, are easily one of the funniest duos in the MCU. Honestly, Karun might be my favorite sidekick in the MCU. He’s funny and genuine and likable and sincere and compassionate and real. I would like a series of web-shorts about Karun and his life.
- Druig is perfectly cast. Barry Keoghan first made an impression on me opposite Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was not a film I enjoyed at all — but I was mesmerized by his performance. I can’t imagine anybody else playing that role.
- Gilgamesh is hot. Don Lee could absolutely [censored].
- Sprite is eternally young, and looks the part, but I still expected the actress to be in her early 20s. She was really grounded and held her own against some top notch talent, so I figured she was one of those actors with a babyface, like the Love, Actually kid who was 13-years-old for two decades. But no, Lia McHugh is only 16, so she was 14 or 15 during filming. Good on her.
- They did Angelina dirty with some of these wigs. I thought that blonde wig in Notable Perfect Action Film Salt was dry, but they gave mama some hay for a few of those scenes.
- A gay kiss! And I believe them as a couple! Further, these are eternal beings, meaning they’ve been around for thousands of years. The power and representation that has, that of all the people in all of the times and all of the places on Earth, the person who stole your heart is another man from the suburbs. And nobody cares or questions it or even mentions it. 11-year-old me is screaming! <3
- The climax falls flat. I can’t see any other way they could’ve shot it or written it, but it wasn’t the punch that I really wanted.
- Of all the Marvel movies I’ve seen, this is the first time the movie ended and I immediately wanted a sequel, because I wanted more story and I wanted to see what was going to happen next. There are Marvel movies I like more (Black Panther, Shang Chi, Ragnarok, etc.) but at the end of those, I was just looking forward to the next movie whenever. I want to know what these Eternals are going to be like going forward after this fundamental way they’ve changed their reason for existing.
Score: 7.5 / 10
Mild Spoilers…what the reviews got wrong.
I’m honestly annoyed at how low the Rotten Tomatoes score is. In the history of the MCU, from Iron Man up to now, critics really think this is the worst movie Marvel’s made? This is worse than the first two Thor films? This is worse than The Incredible Hulk? Just because something is different from what you assumed you would get doesn’t make it bad. If I’m used to going to McDonald’s all the time and getting a Big Mac, it’s not a bad dish if I get served a chicken pot pie. It’s great in its own way, even if that’s not what I was expecting.
Because the movie has a 47% Rotten Tomatoes score and an 80% Audience score, I must assume many people leave the theater feeling as I did — what movie did the reviewers watch? So! I’m going to rebut some of the confusing things the “professional” reviewers had to say about Eternals.
The Eternals watch as over time, humans commit shockingly atrocious and shockingly gracious acts, and come to understand that humanity’s mistakes, bonds, and ability to evolve are what make them human. It’s a beautiful message, especially as the exciting diversity of the cast speaks volumes about the breadth and range of humanity in its own way. Unfortunately, this uplifting message about humanity gets lost, somewhere between trying to remember who has what superpowers, what the Deviants want, and the chronologies of varying flashbacks.
How is it hard to remember Thena, the goddess of war, makes weapons? That Ikaris, the boy who flew too close to the sun, can fly? That Sprite, the little kid, is good at make believe? That Gilgamesh, who looks like a powerlifter, is really strong? Also, the year shows up in big font at the bottom of the screen, and the flashbacks are chronological. 5000BC….present day….500 BC….present day….1500AD…present day….1947….present day….6 days ago….present day.
None of this is hard to follow.
The powers themselves aren’t particularly memorable. Thena can make luminous weapons appear out of thin air. Ajak can heal. Sersi can turn stone into other elements. Ikaris can fly and shoot laser beams. The most interesting character to me was Phastos: He can seemingly invent technology whenever he wants. Among the group, no one is a jack-of-all-trades-type like Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, nor particularly specialized at their skill like Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow. At one point Ikaris is called Superman, only stamping home the feeling Eternals’ lacks a clear identity.
Ikaris flies (like Captain Marvel), fights (like Captain Marvel), and shoots energy (like Captain Marvel). Black Widow’s special skill is hand to hand combat. Sprite’s special skill is creating an illusion of anything she wants. How is that not specialized? How is Sersi turning a bus into rose petals not specialized or pavement into quicksand not specialized? How is Makkari running around the planet in 5 seconds not specialized?
From Time Out:
The Eternals are God-like alien beings, sent to Earth by a bigger God-like being to protect humankind from not-entirely-explained monsters called Deviants.
The Deviants are explained very clearly. It’s ecology 101 — sometimes invasive species run amok. Has no one ever seen kudzu growing all over everything in the South?
From Richard Roeper:
Fine, but when the stuff hits the fan in “Eternals” and the very future of the planet is at stake, why don’t the Avengers show up to lend a hand? Are they going to address that in a future “Avengers” movie? COME ON, MAN!
Sorry. It’s just that we get so much exposition in the ambitious, occasionally entertaining but bloated (the running time is 2 hours and 37 minutes), underwhelming, rambling, forgettable and average “Eternals,” it’s maddening a big question is unanswered. As it is, there are so many moments when the action grinds to a half so we can get further explanation of the history of these characters (they’re basically nearly immortal takes on the Greek gods) and why this one is doing this thing and that one is doing that thing.
The Avengers don’t show up because the world is only about to end for about five minutes before Sersi stops it.
The bigger big question, of why the Eternals never showed up, is answered: why would they? It’s one thing to protect your crops (which is what humans are) from weevils (which is what Deviants would be, an invasive species screwing with your agriculture), but it’s quite another to go to war over some corn, especially when you have corn sprinkled all over the universe to feed your cattle (the Celestials).
I also assume “the action grinds to a halt” but anyway…do you want a film or do you want a video game? There is no reason to have non-stop action sequences. A fight ends, and then we talk for awhile. It’s literally how every action movie works.
But what does it matter to have, say, a gay kiss onscreen, when there’s no heat behind it? What does it matter if the women are of various hues and ages if you don’t care about their interiority?
What did you want Phastos and his husband to do? Tongue each other down on the front porch? He’s going off to war to save the planet.
Thena is having a mental breakdown because she doesn’t want to see another world destroyed. Ajak doubts her first mission in millions of years because she’s on a planet whose people saved half the population of the universe. Sprite follows the man she loves into folly because she’s been stuck in the body of a child for 7,000 years and she desperately wants to grow up and be loved. Sersi…the human she loves and the people she cares about are about to die while the robot she loved for thousands of years wants to let billions of people explode. Makkari literally screams in anguish — the only sound we hear her make — when she thinks Druig is dead. You don’t care about any of them?
I could do this all day, but you get the picture. I personally feel like Eternals suffers from bandwagon syndrome — a couple of Important Critics didn’t like it (for reasons they didn’t put in print, like it was too diverse and felt too woke or it wasn’t the raucous ride they expected or they didn’t like being confronted with the fact that humans, as a species, are indeed not that great) so other critics followed suit with nitpicky grievances. Eternals is not a perfect movie. If it was, I would’ve given it a ten. It feels long, the chemistry between the leads doesn’t have half the chemistry of the side characters (Druig & Makkari 4 Lyfe), and it’s nearly impossible to be fully invested in nine brand new characters in the course of 2.5 hours.
But to say Eternals is worse than half the movies that come out is beyond ridiculous. The ambition and attempt at this scale already puts it out ahead, and it largely succeeds anyway.
Hot Takes: House of Gucci
This is the longest, prettiest, Lifetime movie I’ve ever seen.
1. I don’t understand movies set outside the Anglosphere where everyone is speaking English with an accent but slip into their native language randomly. This is Italy. Everybody would be speaking Italian, but it’s made for Hollywood, so they speak English. I get that. But then there is no need for anyone to ever say anything in Italian if we’re going with the illusion that they all speak English with a thick accent. I wish every director would stop doing this.
2. Everybody is in the same movie, except Jeremy Irons. He came to work on a run-of-the-mill Hollywood adaptation of a true story, and everybody else came to a community theater production of Fashion Godfather. It’s like he doesn’t realize what kind of movie he’s in until he’s in the room with Jared Leto and thinks, “oh…we’re doing this kind of acting.”
3. Jared Leto’s Paolo Gucci is one of my least favorite movie characters of all time because he’s unnecessarily buffoonish and there was no need to make him that way. And because they wrote the character as an utterly incompetent manchild, they put Jared in fat prosthetics to drive the point home. For what? It is 2021. There was so much outrage of Sarah Paulson wearing a fatsuit to play Linda Tripp because they could’ve just gotten a larger actress to play her. Where is the outrage for Jared Leto doing fat cosplay to portray a character that wasn’t even fat and is only depicted that way to make him stand out from his fashionable family?
4. Lady Gaga is not a good actress. She’s not a bad actress, but y’all give Stefani a lot. She was fine in A Star is Born and she’s fine in House of Gucci. Literally just fine.
5. The first 10 or 15 minutes are actually charming. I didn’t expect Stefani to be good at that kind of character, but she actually pulls off Doe Eyed and Besotted quite well.
6. Everyone is laughing while watching the movie, but are you having a good time? No really — do you want to be laughing? That’s my thing with the tone. It is very clear that these people are making a very serious film about Gucci and the shoehorned bits of levity are meant to break the tension of this very serious film. But you’re only supposed to laugh then. If you are giggling throughout, the movie has missed its mark. Unintentional camp is just bad moviemaking. It’s bad direction and it’s bad screenwriting.
7. There are plenty of height differences more extreme than Lady Gaga at 5’1 and Adam Driver at 6’2. I’m not sure why that became a story, but it’s really not that notable. Plenty of short women star in movies with tall men. Kristen Bell is 5’1 and Jason Segel is 6’4 in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, plus Jason gets his big ol’ hog out for it. I don’t need breathless reporting about any other category of inches.
8. Kind of more interested in a Tom Ford biopic . I didn’t know he was from Texas and I didn’t really know what Gucci was like before he took over the reigns.
9. Al Pacino is having a great time and for me, he’s the only one who managed to be over the top without going over the edge. Everyone else is either playing it safe or jumping off a cliff, but Al is comfortably perched upon the precipice of taste without going over.
10. Stunning cinematography. Fantastic wardrobe choices. It’s very pretty to watch.
11. I would like a movie survey from the people who loved this movie where they also list their top ten films, because I’m not sure who this is for. People who I assumed would hate it seem to either love it or at least not be bothered, and people I assumed would love it wanted to walk out. I feel like there’s some overlap of people who liked Austin Powers and A Star is Born with this movie in the middle and I can’t think of a more painful Venn Diagram.
Watch: Marry Me Trailer
JLo and Rom-Com go together like biscuits and gravy!
One thing about me, I *will* absolutely watch anything starring Jennifer Mediocre Lopez and I will enjoy the absolute fuck out if it too!
When I heard JLo and Maluma had a movie coming out, I did not expect Owen Wilson to be standing by with a buck of cold water dashing my hopes and dreams. There are few leading men in Hollywood I would accept as being hot enough to exist next to Jennifer Lopez and draw breath, and I assure you Owen Wilson is not even remotely near that list. But if the goal is to watch the most glamorous pop star on the planet have a mental break and marry literally Some Guy, I can’t think of a more nondescript nobody than Owen Wilson.
The thing about JLo is, I can’t say that I think she necessarily excels at anything. She’s an average singer, an average actress, and an average dancer, but I do think mama has taste. There’s something to be said for the Talent of Discernment, and I feel confident that if Jennifer Lopez has put her name on it, it’s going to be an enjoyable experience, whether it’s perfume or a single or a new movie.
And did you see her trynna belt her little tune? JLo was hitting notes and they weren’t kicking her ass back this time! C’mon, vocal coach! She’ll never be Whitney, but she’s come a long way since “If you had my love and I gave you all my trust, would you be offkey with me….”
Zazie Beetz pays lip service to colorism.
Don’t talk the talk if you are not prepared to walk the walk.
I was sold on The Harder They Fall as soon as I saw the trailer. I didn’t completely understand what it would be about, but I saw Regina King and I saw a western full of Black people. That was enough for me. When I looked up more information about the film, I learned that the characters were based on real people. It wasn’t a biopic or a historical account, but the actors in the movie were playing characters based on real Black people from the Old West. Zazie Beetz was playing Stagecoach Mary, who I’d never heard of, so I looked her up.
Do casting directors have to cast for accuracy? No, not really. There are plenty of movies about real people where the actor in the role looked nothing like the character in real life.
Is it the responsibility of actors to turn down roles offered to them when the role should have gone to an actor from a more marginalized segment of society? Not necessarily. They have free will to accept any role that interests them. The public in turn has free will to criticize them for it, and that actor has to accept that the consequences of their actions may be some public backlash.
So I was not surprised to see Zazie Beetz cast as Stagecoach Mary. I was annoyed, but not surprised. I am however surprised to see that Zazie has gone on record about her privilege and about colorism in the press.
Last month the website Jezebel published a piece on Hollywood’s colourism problem, citing Beetz as an example.— The Times (@thetimes) November 10, 2021
“This is something that I think about a lot and consider when contemplating any role that I take." pic.twitter.com/DfCqlDiSp5
It’s on your mind and you just…don’t care? It’s on your mind and you have decided to acknowledge it exists but do nothing to improve the situation or change the narrative?
Zazie Beetz is a bi-racial woman with a German father and a Black American mother who moved to the US from Germany as a tot because the homogeneity of Germany wasn’t the best place to raise a little brown girl. She has said — like many other bi-racial Black folks with a white parent — that she sometimes doesn’t feel Black enough. And I hear that. This is not me questioning her Blackness.
But Zazie can’t say that she considers colorism in the roles she takes, and then take this one where the director had the opportunity to give us a full figured dark skinned love interest and we got the typical thin beige lady. It feels so obvious in the movie that the director felt we wouldn’t believe the chemistry and attraction between Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) and Stagecoach Mary unless she was a skinny light-skinned woman. She’s the only light-skinned actor in the entire film, and she happens to be the love interest.
I’m just irked by the fact that there are more than enough roles specifically written for the Zazie Beetzes and Zoe Kravtizes of Hollywood. Most of the leading roles in Hollywood are written for White Women. Most of the leading love interests written for Black Women have someone in mind who looks like Tessa Thompson. Roles for dark skinned women who aren’t a size 2 are few and far between. Stagecoach Mary was the perfect opportunity to cast someone who isn’t even invited to audition for most of the other roles written for women. The source material was a rarity, and if Zazie truly had colorism in mind, she would have turned it down.
Hot Takes: House of Gucci
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Zazie Beetz pays lip service to colorism.
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