Eternals: Film Review

Marvel

There seemed to be a curious lack of buzz surrounding Eternals just weeks before its release, which is odd behaviour for a Marvel film, but having now seen Chloe Zhao‘s venture into the superhero genre, I understand the lack of excitement.

This epic film tells the story of the Eternals, immortal beings who are sent to Earth to protect the human race from the evil Deviants. After the Deviants are wiped out, the Eternals carve out human-like lives for themselves, with Sersi (Gemma Chan) teaching in London, group leader Ajak (Salma Hayek) residing in rural South Dakota and elite warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie) hiding out in Australia. The action truly kicks off when the Deviants return to Earth and start hunting down Eternals rather than humans.

This film is one of the most ambitious and expansive Marvel films we’ve seen so far as the Eternals have been on Earth for thousands of years and are spread far and wide so there is a lot of time and location-hopping so we can brush up on their history – while some of these jumps are needed for backstory, it flashes back too often, making the narrative feel rather disjointed and preventing the story from achieving a decent pace and forward momentum. There are a lot of new characters and concepts to introduce too, so naturally, the first half of the film suffers from a lot of exposition. I know there is a lot of content to pack in, but I still found the film too long (it’s 2 hours 37 minutes), too slow and the narrative rather bloated and messy, while I would have liked a few more jokes or light-hearted moments, even though it has plenty of these already.

When it was announced that Zhao, who won the Best Director Oscar for Nomadland earlier this year, would direct a Marvel film, I wondered how that would work as her naturalistic observational style is so at odds with bombastic superhero movies and while she may not have totally succeeded story-wise, she puts her stamp on the film visually, with her bringing her eye for gorgeous cinematography to the project and preference for practical on-location shoots instead of green screen ones. It looks different to the usual Marvel fare and the locations are stunning when CGI isn’t involved.

Zhao has also assembled the most diverse cast yet and made breakthrough strides in terms of representation, not just with the actors she’s hired but in terms of the characters. Eternals has Marvel’s first sex scene as well as Marvel’s first onscreen gay kiss (to be clear, these are separate scenes). The latter didn’t feel like pandering at all, it seemed perfectly normal for two husbands to kiss before one goes to help save the world. There is also the inclusion of sign language thanks to Lauren Ridloff as Makkari.

The best element of the film is the casting. Hayek brought gravitas to the role of Ajak, Chan made Sersi the most sympathetic and human-like Eternal, Kumail Nanjiani was hilarious as Eternal-turned-Bollywood star Kingo (he and Harish Patel as his valet got the most laughs), Barry Keoghan was devilishly charming as Druig and Brian Tyree Henry brought great emotion to Phastos. I also enjoyed seeing Jolie wielding weapons and kicking ass once again and Ridloff – who I love in The Walking Dead – in a big MCU movie. The biggest letdown was Richard Madden as Ikaris, I just find his acting so wooden.

It’s a shame that Eternals isn’t an outright success because I don’t want Marvel to stop taking risks with interesting filmmakers and go back to the same old formula. As much as I wish I loved it, I just felt no excitement watching this movie at all.

Make sure you stay until the very, very end. I cannot stress this enough.

In cinemas Friday 5th November

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Raya and the Last Dragon: Disney+ Film Review

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

Disney’s latest animated adventure Raya and the Last Dragon comes to Disney+ on Friday for a premium rental fee. Is it worth the extra money? I would say hell yes!

Kelly Marie Tran voices Raya, a courageous warrior who has been training to become a Guardian of the Dragon Gem alongside her father Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim). People in the other divided regions of the land, formerly known as Kumandra back in its united days, resent Heart for having the gem, as they believe it brings them prosperity. As a sign of goodwill, the Chief invites his enemies to Heart to help heal old wounds, but instead, they fight over the gem and smash it, unleashing the Druun, sinister monsters which turn people to stone. Raya must track down the last remaining dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), and find and put the gem pieces back together to fight the Druun and reunite Kumandra once and for all.

Disney has set a high standard with its animated offerings in recent years and Raya and the Last Dragon is another worthy addition. My expectations were high and I still came away impressed. Sure, it doesn’t exactly break up the rulebook in terms of formula, but it works so why change it? Raya is a wonderful, charming adventure that children and adults alike should easily enjoy and, as always, it delivers a worthy message – this time, it focuses on the importance of trust and unity and how it’s better when you work together, which I thought was particularly relevant given the ever-growing divide in America these days.

It is also visually stunning and stylish, with gorgeous cinematography – some shots were so beautiful they literally made me gasp and say out loud “wow, what a shot!” – and beautiful landscapes, has some amazing fight sequences involving cool swords and wooden staffs, and an interesting-looking sidekick named Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) who is a woodlouse/armadillo-type character who also serves as Raya’s mode of transportation.

Tran was perfectly cast as Raya, this fierce warrior with a heart of gold who could probably do with loosening up a little bit, which is where Sisu steps in. The dragon – which can shapeshift into a human with shaggy purple hair and oversized clothing – brings the fun and who could be better than Awkwafina and her goofy, awkward energy? She steals the show. More comedy characters join them on their journey – first, there’s Captain Boun (Izaac Wang), a 10-year-old boy from Tail who owns a boat restaurant, Little Noi (Thalia Tran), a baby con artist and her trio of animal sidekicks from Talon (they made me laugh the most), and gentle giant Tong (Benedict Wong) from Spine. I must also mention Gemma Chan as Raya’s nemesis Namaari (Gemma Chan) and her mother, Fang leader Virana (Sandra Oh), as the main human antagonists of the piece.

Disney continues to make strides with representation by setting the film in Southeast Asia and having all Asian characters voiced by a predominantly Asian-American cast. I laughed out loud often, I found the message quite touching, and generally had a great time with it.

Streaming on Disney+ with a premium rental fee from Friday 5th March. Subscribers will be able to watch for free from 4th June.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Captain Marvel: Film Review

I can’t really put my finger on why but I wasn’t excited about Captain Marvel, even when everyone was raving about the trailers etc. I just didn’t understand the hype. So I went in with a certain ambivalence and I’m pleased to say I came away feeling positive. It’s good!

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Brie Larson, Jude Law & Samuel L. Jackson at the Captain Marvel U.K. premiere

Tonight it was the U.K. premiere of Captain Marvel and the stars of the film – Brie Larson, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson and Gemma Chan – hit the blue carpet at the Curzon Mayfair in London. Here are my pics!

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Crazy Rich Asians: Film Review

Crazy Rich Asians has been killing it over in the US and the hype about it has been insane, so naturally I was very excited to check it out. The annoying gap between US and UK made my anticipation even higher and it truly didn’t disappoint.

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