The back half of 2021 ushered in a new wave of subversive blockbusters in the aftermath of COVID-19. No Time to Die made a series of unprecedented choices with the character of James Bond, while Dune began a quiet, methodical deconstruction of the science fiction epic. Now, along comes Eternals to stand apart from the Marvel Studios catalog as the most interesting and solemn film of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Watching this film—and, apparently, the critics agree—feels a lot like watching Man of Steel (2013), Zack Snyder’s infamous subversion of the Superman mythos. If that nebulous Rotten Tomatoes score is to be trusted, it seems critics are split right down the middle regarding whether Eternals is worth your time.
One thing is abundantly clear when it comes to Eternals: everything you think you know about how Marvel movies operate, just like everything you think you know about Superman before watching Man of Steel, should be checked at the door, and failure to do so will likely result in disappointment. And if you think it unwise to draw parallels between these two films from these wildly different and rival comic book companies, consider the fact that Chloé Zhao, director of Eternals, cited Snyder’s film as a direct inspiration for her approach to the character of Ikaris (Richard Madden), by far the most nuanced and intriguing tragic superhero Marvel has ever put to screen. How interesting that Snyder’s powerful and seditious take on the most iconic superhero of them all proves, in hindsight, to be weirdly prescient in anticipating the future of the genre.
Episode 263 of the Postmodern Realities podcast is a spoiler-filled conversation with Journal author Cole Burgett about his article, “Free Will, the Power of Choice, and Skin in Eternals“.
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