Chloe Zhao’s epic and divine cinecomic

Chloe Zhao’s epic and divine cinecomic
Chloe Zhao’s epic and divine cinecomic

In the beginning there were the Celestiali. The first of their lineage, Arishem the Judge, sent a group of champions to Earth – the Eternals – to fight a cosmic threat that no one else could have defeated: the Deviants. The immortal warriors of the cosmos were absolutely forbidden to intervene in mortal affairs, leaving the human race to face their own battles and learn from their mistakes. But their job would also be to inspire humanity and help it progress, at least until the aberrant creatures from outer space were defeated forever.

The Eternals dei Marvel Studios carries upon itself a great load of responsibility, just like the saving burden that rests on the shoulders of its protagonists: the twenty-fifth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directed by an Oscar-winning director (Chloe Zhao), as well as the first major cinematic adaptation of the cosmic heroes created by Jack Kirby. Long last we previewed it at the Rome Film Fest 2021, and waiting to deepen all the themes after its arrival in the hall (from next November 3) here is our review, strictly without spoilers!

Eternals: the origin of the heroes

Eternals is a long and layered tale, assembled over two and a half hours of discoveries and revelations. A film that opens a decidedly important and unprecedented window for the Marvel universe, telling us about characters less known to the general public (but also to that of comics) and connecting on several occasions to the fascinating cosmic vein of the House of Ideas, so far only explored in starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy (in this regard, choose your mixtape and jump on our review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2).

The story sees the Eternals reunite to face the return of the Deviants, once believed defeated, and deal once and for all with the role entrusted to them by the Celestials eons ago. But above all, for each of the protagonists, it will be a path that leads them to rediscover their own nature, and especially their own relationship with humanity and life. That of Eternals is in some ways a dynastic tale, which has its roots in myth to tell us an epic with a decidedly different flavor compared to a classic cinecomic. Chloe Zhao, who is also co-writer of the opera, tells us a family story, but above all of love, declined and developed through subplots and macro-themes between theology, current events and philosophy. It does so through the bond between Sersi and Ikaris (an exceptional Gemma Chan and a granite Richard Madden), between her love for her neighbor and his unshakable phlegm; but also with Thena’s suffering eyes, an extraordinary one Angelina Jolie which stages the inner and mental dramas of an indomitable warrior, and with the generosity of Gilgamesh (Don Lee); and again the determination of Druig (Barry Keoghan) and the torments of Sprite (Lia McHugh), with the figure of Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and that of Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), up to the secrets of Ajak (Salma Hayek).

A mammoth and demanding cast, to which are added the charismatic Kingo di Email Anyway and the Dane Whitman of Kit Harington, perhaps the only character who does not fully express his potential and who sees in Eternals a transition path towards the role of Black Knight, the Black Knight of Marvel Comics. In short, Eternals is a great choral work, a complex and stratified cinecomic that Zhao directs with great awareness, without neglecting any (or almost) of its protagonists.

Between mature work and commercial product

Between a writing attentive to the great messages of current affairs (the film presents quite a few interpretations that we will address in some time) and the evolution of the characters, Chloe Zhao’s Eternals is undoubtedly one of the most mature and complex films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this does not mean that the film spares a lighter and more fun approach, in line with the commercial and target needs contained in the aegis of Disney.

The comic brackets are present, but never too invasive, and well balanced with an important and intense dramaturgical charge. We said that it is a long and layered tale, which carefully constructs a narrative fresco that in the second act becomes even surprising, subverting roles and expectations with a largely convincing script. Not everything is perfect, on the contrary: the last act brings to the stage a resolution that in part seemed too hasty to us, and that runs too far in exhausting the storylines of all the protagonists. A small stumbling block which, in our opinion, does not drastically compromise the overall quality of the work, which remains excellent, but which unfortunately prevents it from achieving absolute excellence.

The epic according to Chloe Zhao

Among the many lights and small shadows of Eternals it stands out though a powerful artistic frame. Chloe Zhao interprets the Marvelian epic in her own way, crafting a scenically sumptuous film without renouncing to infuse it with a profound directorial character.

While we would have liked that the authorial signature of the creator of Nomadland (find our review of Nomadland below and you will understand why it won the Oscar for Best Film of 2021!) Would be perceived more markedly, overlapping the approach pop and the creative direction shaped by Kevin Feige, it must be said that Eternals packs an unedited photograph for cinecomics and a more explosive visual apparatus than usual. A staging that shouts at the top of its lungs a deep reverence for the cosmic gigantism of the House of Ideas, which screams unconditional love at Kirby’s tables and which pours a raw, impactful and grandiloquent action on the spectator. Eternals has an epic of its own: however different, in the opinion of the writer, from the sacral and religious conception of superomism of Zack Snyder, but undoubtedly unique in shaping its own superhero theogony. A film that will tickle those who know the cosmic front of Marvel well and will intrigue those looking for a more mature cinecomic, albeit always linked to the inclusive and generalist approach typical of Disney and Marvel Studios.

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