A Double Feature Review!
Eternals is an enormous film: ambitious, emotionally resonant, and visually stunning. Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao (The Rider and Nomadland) has put her stamp into the superhero realm. Full of mythos and a diverse cast, Zhao’s film reaches for the stars. It’s not without some flaws in the writing, pacing, and it’s too long. But damn those imperfections, Eternals is marvelous. Coming in at No. 26 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Zhao's Eternals is one of the boldest visions of this long-running superhero franchise. After just winning Best Director and Best Picture for her film Nomadland last April, Zhao is one of the most requested directors in Hollywood right now. Zhao brings everything that she has done with her previous three pictures (Songs My Brothers Taught Me, The Rider, and Nomadland) — vividly beautiful scenes, on-location shooting, and a humane story at its core. Eternals heavily focuses on the characters, their love, pain, and hope. This is something Zhao loves to focus in on, asking the question of what does it mean to be human?
Though all of the characters in this picture are gods, Zhao still took the deconstructive approach to superheroes. Here, she forced them to question their own purpose in the world, through reflective and melancholy beats, narratively speaking. By doing it this way, Zhao subverted critics' and audiences' expectations of what they have come to expect in an MCU movie and superhero movies in general. I believe this was one of the reasons why Zhao's picture has been looked upon more harshly and divisively by critics. Yes, Eternals often tries so desperately to reach for the stars and, at times, stumbles, but at least it tries. Eternals also showcases the MCU's most diverse cast consisting of Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. Zhao's Eternals features an interesting new team of superheroes, an immortal race of superpowered beings who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind's most ancient enemy, the Deviants. Zhao's movie juggles multiple storylines and periods, jumping back and forth between present and past. Chan plays Sersi, who has a romance with Ikaris (played by Madden). But their love has fallen apart over the many years.
Sersi is incredibly empathic, while she can transform matter through physical contact. Ikaris is the Eternal who can fly and his character is heavily inspired by Zack Snyder's Superman portrayal in 2013's Man of Steel. Zhao also took the MCU to a more mature level by giving Sersi and Ikaris an actual sex scene. Nanjiani plays Kingo, who has become one of Bollywood's most famous actors, while McHugh plays Sprite, who is dissatisfied with humanity. Tyree Henry plays Phastos, who is the team's most powerful inventor. Phastos has started a family with his husband, and they have a son in Chicago. Eternals is also the first MCU movie to portray an LGBTQ+ family, continuing to show why representation matters. Ridloff plays Makkari, an Eternal with super speed. Makkari's character is also deaf, and Ridloff is a real deaf actress. Ridloff's acting chops are stellar throughout, showcasing one of the movie's best performances. Makkari has a bit of a fling with Druig (played by Keoghan). Lee plays Gilgamesh, the strongest Eternal, who has been watching over an unwell Thena (played by Jolie). Lastly, Hayek plays Ajak, the leader of the group. It's a ton of characters and ground to cover, which is why Eternals does become stretched throughout the movie. But I was always awed and inspired by Zhao's interpretation of these superpowered gods. She has left her mark on the superhero realm. In the end, this is her story to tell. It was marvelous.
Eternals is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Fantasy Violence and Action | Brief Sexuality | Some Language.
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie.
Finch doesn't break new ground in the post-apocalyptic story, but it's a movie that is both emotionally resonant and strongly acted by Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks + doggy + 2 robots = a sci-fi road trip with a big heart. Finch is a wonderful little movie with a lot to say. Director Miguel Sapochnik's (director of several Game of Thrones and Masters of Sex episodes) robot road trip through the apocalyptic wasteland will tug away at your heartstrings. With Finch, Hanks gives the audience another powerful performance that we have come to know over the years. Our story follows a robotics engineer named Finch (Hanks), who lives alone with his dog Goodyear and a helper-robot Dewey (think WALL·E) in an underground St. Louis laboratory. Ten years have passed since a solar flare destroyed the ozone layer, turning the Earth into a largely uninhabitable wasteland ravaged by extreme weather. Finch has just created an advanced humanoid robot companion, who goes by the name of Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones). Because the weather is becoming too extreme, Finch decides to pack up and take his companions across the country to San Francisco in his heavily modified motorhome. During the journey into a desolate American West, we also learn about Finch's undisclosed terminal illness he is also dealing with. Hanks gives us another superb performance. One that is both raw and cunning, while Jones' voice acting for Jeff cuts deep. Finch is a movie I did not realize that I needed. Who knew that so much heart could go into a little picture about a man, his dog, and robots. Finch might not add anything new to this worn-out apocalyptic genre, but it's one that speaks directly to the soul.
Finch is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Stream it now on Apple TV+
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Starring Tom Hanks, a dog, and two robots.
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