'Eternals' breaks the Marvel mold

The newest MCU movie isn’t for everyone—and that’s okay

'Eternals' moves away from a decade-old pattern of storytelling.

In 2008, Iron Man was released to rave reviews. 

The movie was a surprise hit, subverting expectations of who a superhero was. Iron Man did what nobody thought was possible—it was the first superhero movie that was grounded in reality. The film sparked a superhero renaissance, and superheroes went from campy to cool in a matter of years. 

Marvel used Iron Man to create a film franchise unlike any the world has ever seen. Using formulaic storylines, impressive special effects, and impeccable casting, Marvel made a cash cow incapable of failure.  

Marvel’s Eternals is the 26th film and 29th project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s also the first to break the patterns the MCU has followed for over a decade. 

It’s only the third MCU film with a non-white protagonist. It’s the fourth MCU film with a non-white director. It’s the first MCU film with a woman of colour as the protagonist, as well as the first with a woman of colour as the director. 

It’s undeniable that Eternals is the most diverse MCU film to date. However, its storytelling is what sets it apart. 

Throughout the film, director Chloe Zhao jumps back and forth through thousands of years with an ensemble cast of ten heroes, all with different goals. There’s an overabundance of plot for just over two and a half hours, which both aids and hinders the film. For some viewers, it’s engaging. For others, the film may feel disjointed or confusing. 

Eternals is ambitious enough that it’s bound to put some audiences off. 

The film asks deep moral questions and makes no effort to provide an answer. 

Audiences are meant to leave the theatre asking themselves whether we should interfere in the natural order of things and who has the right to be a god. These questions tease plotlines that will guide the MCU as it moves into a new era.

To some, Eternals might be hard to take seriously. After two Avengers movies brought together dozens of characters, it’s difficult to grapple with the idea that the Eternals were on Earth the whole time—not helping with any of the world-ending events that were presented as the most important in the history of the universe.  

Eternals goes back to Marvel’s comic book roots, where the universe is chalk-full of world-ending events, all happening at once. This kind of storytelling hasn’t been seen in cinema to this scale. 

Some fans will always want Iron Man—a story with a simple structure and a charismatic lead that doesn’t require much from the audience. As the MCU reaches to the outskirts of Marvel’s catalogue of characters, not all fans will enjoy every MCU project going forward. 

Despite mixed reviews, Eternals is by no means a failure for Marvel. The movie brought in over 70 million dollars on its opening weekend, the fourth-best debut since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The MCU is changing, not only because it’s becoming more diverse, but because it’s left the bubble of a realistic Earth, based on human history. With Eternals, Marvel is sending fans a message: it’s time to say goodbye to the days of Iron Man

The MCU—or at least part of it—is about to get experimental. Get with it or get off the spaceship.

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