Marvel's Eternals early reviews aren't so glowing

Some critics say the film tries to accomplish too much, making it "messy" and "disappointing."

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3 min read
Eternals group shot

The Eternals are gathering for their first Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure.

Marvel Studios

As one of the most anticipated movies of the year, there are high hopes and expectations for Marvel's latest film Eternals, which lands in theaters Nov. 5. But many early reviewers have called the flick everything from "messy" to "disappointing." Reviews currently place Eternals as the MCU's fourth worst film, according to rankings reported by Forbes on Monday, with the film earning a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of publication.

Some critics, however, have lauded the film. The Atlantic, for instance, called it "the most poetic Marvel film yet."

Here's a roundup of early reviews for Eternals, which stars big names like Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and Salma Hayek, and is directed by Nomadland's Chloé Zhao.

'Overstuffed' and 'messy'

Some critics thought there was too much going on in the film. Reviewer Brandon Davis, for instance, tweeted a 6/10 rating for Eternals, writing: "All the right tools but an uneven, overstuffed story. It makes you more excited for characters' futures than their presents. Great visuals. Funnier than expected. Ambitious MCU expansion but not super engaging." He added, "Kumail Nanjiani tremendously steals scenes."

Polygon reviewer Joshua Rivera called Eternals "a mess" and "incongruous," writing that the film wasn't able to live up to its dreams of tackling big themes.

"Eternals considers where we are, where we've been, and how much it's changed us, if at all," Rivera writes. "These are largely internal ideas that are not easily translated to superhuman brawls in dim environs, where the beauty of the natural world is just a blank canvas for lasers and punching. Every fight is like a tether pulling Eternals back to the ground when it would rather fly. Each scene expounding on the cosmology of the MCU does more for movies we haven't seen yet than it does for the one we're watching."

CNN's Brian Lowry said the "movie's structural flaws offset its stunning visuals and strong performances," though he noted the film is "certainly interesting." Still, Eternals' process of introducing the new characters is "awkward and ungainly," Lowry writes, and Eternals "simply takes too long getting to the good stuff."

Brian Truitt of USA Today notes filmmakers may have bit off more than they could chew, as they were tasked with covering more than 7,000 years of history while introducing 10 "very different" characters. "Unfortunately, the exceedingly earnest narrative struggles to juggle its many subplots and tries to do too much in its hefty two hours and 37 minutes," Truitt writes. 

The Guardian's Steve Rose also writes that "there's just too much going on." He concludes: "One of the strengths of the MCU to date is how it has taken time to define each character individually and lay out the grand narratives over successive movies, building a sense of momentum. Here, it's all thrown at us at once. It's like coming into Avengers: Endgame cold without having seen any of the preceding installments."

BBC Culture's Nicholas Barber wrote that Eternals' filmmakers weighed the film down "with lots of rudimentary dialogue, a daft plan ... and a standard CGI-heavy showdown to round things off."

Barber's review leads up to the harsh verdict: "Eternals may not be the worst of Marvel's movies, but it's undoubtedly the most disappointing." 

'Huge, fun and great'

Not all reviews are dismal. Deseret News' Herb Scribner said Marvel's latest film is "really good," and is a "beautifully told epic with an excellent score, acting and pacing." He adds, "Eternals deserves a place in the upper tier of MCU films."

Scribner notes that Eternals hardly feels like a Marvel movie, with "fleeting references to other MCU characters" that are easy to miss. He also writes: "There are moments where you want more action, more battles rather than a story. If you love dialogue, you'll love this movie -- that's for sure."

Shirley Li of The Atlantic lauded "Zhao's delicate examination of her characters" and how she "mines a quiet and poignant humanity from the group." Instead of focusing on typical Marvel themes like the struggles of being powerful, Zhao focuses Eternals on "the nature of everlasting bonds."

Still, Li noted the film dealt with the challenge of having a lot to explain, and "information dumps slow the narrative."

Keep an eye out for CNET's review, coming soon.