Fast Food Cinema: Chloe Zhao’s Eternally Forgettable MCU Entry


Yet another product from the Disney machine: turgid, soulless corporate drivel, devoid of any form of artistic integrity.

How foolish was I to expect Chloé Zhao, the creative mind behind the likes of Nomadland and The Rider, to singlehandedly finish an impossible task: herald the introduction of bold, daring ideas outside of the Marvel formula and become a bright beacon in a new era of superhero films?

Displays of Chloé Zhao’s brilliance are shown in fragments. Her signature close-ups, certainly influenced by Terrence Malick’s visual style, lingers on the small gestures of characters, where the camera is finally liberated from Disney’s strict creative control, breathing free and gliding into sensitive moments, allowing the audience to build a strong, emotional consonance with the characters’ pain and anguish.

Utterly overwhelmed with such strong, intravenous emotions, the film quickly swoops down into its safe zone, retreating into the Marvel formula where moments of humanity are undermined by the next unfunny one-liner, undoing earned catharsis for the sake of a basic elevation joke.

An established indie-darling, Chloé Zhao uses her eye for color palettes: colors are finally rich and vibrant, unhindered by an overlaid grey filter, and the overuse of VFX shots have also been toned down, relative to other films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, this isn’t much of an achievement when compromised by amusing Bollywood-tier CGI, where glimpses of sprawling creativity are followed by cliché battles between CGI monsters and actors on steroids before a murky, under-lit green screen.

At least Zack Snyder’s much-maligned, and much-compared, direction depicts clear action.

As for the narrative, Eternals is a step up from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) previous entry, Black Widow, one of the most unwatchable MCU films to date.

It opens with a giant blurb of text, which bears little relevance to the rest of the 160-minute runtime. In its staggeringly nauseating length, the narrative is, of course, mind-numbingly stupid: story beats are predictable and unapologetically brimming with exposition, accompanied by a laughable air of confounding self-seriousness.

Just like every Marvel film, everything you would expect is back: the puerile platitudes, the asinine attempts in deconstructing the superhero trope through subversion of expectations, and the occasionally intelligent one-liners that would be funny but for the incessant regurgitation through the trailers.

There is a sad conclusion to be made from the fallout of this project: it doesn’t matter how many A-list actors or Oscar-winning directors you have, because the MCU is, in all its monumental scale, fast food cinema. They are, and always will be, commercial films, and any attempts in pushing creativity will be neutered down by higher-ups, leaving us a hybrid stylization of what it already is, and what it could’ve been.

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