By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Marvel Studios release and Chloé Zhao‘s take on The Eternals isn’t very exciting when the heroes aren’t fully recognizing how they “changed” classical mythology. They were told to go into hiding as soon as they finished dealing with a space alien threat sent to prevent a birthing of sorts. The prime directive is to avoid interacting with the native species of Earth, humans, but the damage is done. There were witnesses.
After defeating the wolf-like invaders, the Deviants, sent by a cosmic overlord to destroy ancient man, this group parted ways. We don’t really know if all of them went underground or got involved with the cultures that lived nearby. I suspect a few did, and it explains why their names persist in history. I kept on wondering, “Where’s Hercules?” (Yes, he’s in the Marvel Comics canon and is an Avenger)
This group of unknown heroes have to reassemble. When they learn when and where this baby will emerge, the race is on. Epochs had to pass so the planet could draw upon the residual energy from its native species needed to give the spark of life to, if not to spit out a moon-sized entity known as Tiamut. The Eternals are created by the Celestials (of Guardians of the Galaxy renown) and in the film learn that they have to prepare the Earth (Gaia, an important mythical figure not even mentioned) for giving rise to a new God.
Curiously, the film defines the epic clash between Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok) and the dragon Tiamat in modern times. He’s killed before even facing the serpent. This kind of retcon is normal for any story reimagining the old myths as science fiction like Gods of Egypt, but it’s unusual because leaps of faith are required. We have to ignore the plot holes and logic fails if we’re to believe the Eternals are the figures from myth and legend.
Jack Kirby’s 1976 comic book series did a better job of recognizing how they influenced the past and how the team dealt with it. The 19 issues presented an epic saga. The cinematic one is approximately three hours and barely scratches the surface.
Getting to know that many “heroes” in this ten celebrity team is exhausting! For half the film, it’s about them getting back together and talking about the failed relationships within. They barely mention how they accidentally influenced parts of Mediterranean society. Sersi (Gemma Chan) is nothing like Circe from Greek lore. For the others, Thena (Angelina Jolie) most likely loved the fact she’s the mighty warrior Athena.
Even the legend of Icarus’ (Ikaris) fate takes place in the modern age. So what does it mean for the original myth? It’s safe to say those Greco-Roman theologians had the Oracle of Delphi to consult. She didn’t realize she’s scrying into a multiverse; maybe all she can peer into is a parallel world where the Eternals helped humanity evolve. Those visions foreshadow what’s still to come on MCU prime–or Earth-616 for those who’ve watched the Loki mini-series. Viewers of Marvel’s What If will notice how dealing with grande problems in the multiverse is tough.
Next up is Spider-Man No Way Home and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness. There are fan theories concerning a god, Mephisto, being part of these films. Should this be true, that means Doctor Doom is waiting in the wings. The best graphic novel about him, Triumph and Torment, concerns this mad scientist getting help from Doctor Strange to save his mother. It’s the best piece of backstory ever offered for a villain and I hope Doom’s tale is the path taken to introduce The Fantastic Four. I’d love to have a sympathetic villain because the MCU killed off the last one.
In the comics, this quad faced more threats to Earth than a mad ruler from Latveria. As for bringing another Avengers: Endgame level tour de force, it won’t happen until more super-powered teams are introduced. Many groups will be required to unite should Kang the Conqueror be that foe everyone has to fight.
3 Stars out of 5