“Kenobi” 1st Teaser Trailer Takes The Hermit Hero On One Last Joyride

SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: REBELS AND JEDI: FALLEN ORDER AHEAD!

An intergalactic manhunt is afoot in the first teaser trailer for Lucasfilm’s long-awaited Kenobi series, coming to Disney+ this May on the 45th anniversary of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s very first appearance in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (at the time just Star Wars). Kenobi himself is one of the two primary targets of this manhunt, but the series looks to be so broad in scope from the trailer alone that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if several other Jedi show up – hiding in various far-flung corners of the galaxy, but leaving in their wake a “trail of compassion” that corrupted Jedi named Inquisitors know how to follow to its source.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi | theverge.com

This teaser trailer, with its heavy focus on the characters around Kenobi and their actions, gives me the distinct feeling that Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t the driving force behind most of the main events in this series, which doesn’t surprise me all that much. I mean, his name is in the title, so I have to assume he’s at least somewhat integral to the story Lucasfilm has chosen to tell through his unique viewpoint, but (a) they also marketed The Book Of Boba Fett as a Boba Fett show, and…that was a lie, and (b) it’s not like Kenobi is a character who can freely move around the galaxy the same way Din Djarin can in The Mandalorian.

I mean that literally (for Kenobi to leave Tatooine even briefly gives the Inquisitors so many opportunities to track him that it’s a risk he can surely only afford to take once or twice), but I also mean it in the sense that Kenobi’s place in the Star Wars canon is fixed, whereas Din Djarin’s is fluid. No matter what actions Kenobi takes, he will still need to end up back on Tatooine in hiding because…that’s where we meet him in A New Hope. Wherever his journey takes him, he’s tethered to Tatooine – as is the Star Wars franchise as a whole, but that’s a different conversation.

When the source material doesn’t provide a solution to this problem (and in this case there’s very little source material, and even less of it is still canon), the answer is always to create original characters who can move freely, and who aren’t quite as limited in what they can say or do. Kenobi gives us the Inquisitor Reva, seemingly an antagonist but one with her own point-of-view and a large role that transcends the action on Tatooine and at the Citadel Inquisitorius. That also puts her in a position where she could bridge the gap between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his nemesis Darth Vader without the two ever needing to interact onscreen.

I fear that the temptation to just go full fan-service will prove too strong for Star Wars to resist, and that Kenobi and Vader will actually clash in a lightsaber battle that might be epic to witness, but will be robbed of any stakes by the knowledge that both these characters walk away unscathed, physically and emotionally – because by the time of A New Hope, when Vader tells Kenobi that “when I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master”, he’s explicitly referring to their duel in Revenge Of The Sith, and Kenobi doesn’t rebut that statement (well, he does, but only to tell Vader that he’s become a “master of evil”, not to remind him that they actually had some other duel the Sith lord has forgotten about).

So any fight scene inserted between the two films must ultimately make so little impact on the characters involved that they fail to even remember it a mere fifteen years later, which makes it unnecessary filler – worse than a retcon, as it literally adds nothing to their dynamic and would instead strip away a layer of what was already there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a lightsaber battle, but if Kenobi has to fight anyone, I’d prefer it to be Reva or another Inquisitor – perhaps even the Grand Inquisitor.

Set to make his live-action debut in Kenobi after first appearing in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was a Pau’an Jedi Knight who turned to the Dark Side and assisted Darth Vader in hunting Jedi during the twenty years between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope. He ultimately killed himself after failing to capture the Jedi Kanan Jarrus, deeming that Vader’s wrath would be worse than death, but Kenobi catches up with him at the height of his reign of terror.

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The Grand Inquisitor | polygon.com

As Rebels fans have been quick to point out, he looks a bit…different. Not worse, necessarily, just…different. His head is more round than it is elongated, which has led to a lot of (probably unfair) comparisons to the live-action Pau’ans who appeared in Revenge Of The Sith with elongated heads and looked more like the Grand Inquisitor than Kenobi‘s version of the character. But what’s important to remember is that those Pau’ans were side characters who never did any fighting. I’m not a stunt choreographer, but I have a sneaking suspicion that top-heavy Pau’an heads, much like Togruta tendrils, aren’t exactly conducive to jumping and twirling and stunts in general.

Ultimately, as long as the Grand Inquisitor is appropriately terrifying in live-action, that’s all that really matters. On the flip-side, Kenobi has an opportunity to flesh out the Grand Inquisitor’s character – and all the Inquisitors, for that matter – in a way that Rebels never did. The Jedi: Fallen Order video game franchise has done slightly more in that regard, even featuring a morally conflicted Inquisitor named Trilla Suduri, but we still know surprisingly little about these former Jedi who chose to devote themselves to the task of hunting and killing people who used to be their friends, mentors, and apprentices.

The Grand Inquisitor, for instance, was a Jedi Temple Guard who fell to the dark side after witnessing the Jedi Order’s harsh treatment of Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars. His real name, the name of his Jedi master, and all details regarding his training are a mystery. Rebels‘ Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother, the latter of whom will reappear in Kenobi, are even more enigmatic. But the fact that Reva even has a name attached to her character, a name that represents a tangible attachment to her past life (one she’s perhaps unwilling to sever?), gives me hope that, like Trilla Suduri, she’ll be a three-dimensional character in stark contrast to her uniform Brothers and Sisters.

Pulling the strings behind all the Inquisitors is the shadowy figure of Darth Vader, whose true identity is still a mystery at this point in the timeline – one to which audiences already know the answer, mind you, but watching characters in-universe come to the same realization on their own never fails to make me emotional. And if Ahsoka’s reaction when she found out was devastating, then the mixture of guilt, anger, and heartbreak that Obi-Wan Kenobi is sure to feel when he first hears of the reappearance of Darth Vader and starts connecting dots is going to be…a lot.

Interestingly, the question of when and how Kenobi discovered that Anakin Skywalker was still alive following the events of Revenge Of The Sith has never properly been answered – not by the current Star Wars canon, at least. That offers the Kenobi series at least one key plot-point around which to construct an early episode, leaving several more in which the character can grapple with the ramifications of his discovery and ultimately make up his mind to seek out Darth Vader, who at this point in the timeline is still the stuff of rumors; the full extent of his power having not yet been revealed to the galaxy.

I know everyone is gearing up for the rematch of the century between Kenobi and Vader, and I also know that the discourse around this show will be unbearable because the two characters will either never meet, leading a certain demographic of fans to complain that their demands aren’t being met and that Star Wars (but like, especially Kathleen Kennedy) hates the fans, or they will meet, and it will create a whole bunch of weird plot-holes, or they’ll fight in some kind of vision and fans will be split down the middle on whether they’re satisfied by it. It’s gonna be a mess regardless.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker | wall.alphacoders.com

But hey, I love a good mess. And frankly, without Jon Favreau attached in any capacity, I actually have higher hopes for Kenobi than for most of Lucasfilm’s other Disney+ series’, which have recently begun to suffer from their monotonous stylistic consistency and obsession with Tatooine, as evidenced by The Book Of Boba Fett‘s failure to hold audiences’ interest (including mine). Kenobi, ironically, is the one series that arguably ought to stick to a Tatooine setting but is instead choosing to take its famously cloistered protagonist on one last spin around the galaxy – and we’ll just have to wait and see whether this approach pays off.

Trailer Review: 8/10

What’s Next For The Eternals After Their First Film?

SPOILERS FOR ETERNALS AHEAD!

Eternals may not be the sure-fire Best Picture nominee that Marvel Studios thought they had on their hands when they debuted it at the Rome Film Festival to a lukewarm and increasingly negative critical reception, but in the long run, fans of the film needn’t fear that the Eternals will be ret-conned out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or that their storylines will be abandoned going forward. The box-office has been strong enough to ensure that heroes like Sersi and Thena and the newly-knighted Dane Whitman will return somewhere down the line, in various other MCU projects if not in their own sequel.

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Arishem and the Eternals | cbr.com

If you ask me, the instantly endearing characters of Eternals are easily the film’s greatest strength. I’m sure Marvel has their secretive reasons for wanting to get us acquainted with the complex (and somewhat convoluted) lore of the Celestials and Deviants and the origins of the universe itself, all of which will be revealed in due time, but it’s these characters who make continuing this story worthwhile right now. Director Chloé Zhao infused almost all of the ten earthly Eternals with vibrant humanity, and they each have seven-thousand years of individual stories to explore in prequels and spin-offs even before we look to their collective future.

So in today’s post, we’ll be looking at where the Eternals will be headed next in the MCU, both separately and as a team unit. There’s a spoiler warning at the top of the page, but in case you missed it, I’ll be discussing the film’s shocking ending, mid-credits scene, and a number of other plot-points including character deaths. You’ve been warned.

Now, speaking of character deaths, let’s start there – because by the end of Eternals, there at least two characters whose arcs conclusively end in their deaths, and a third whose death is satisfying and oh-so-poetic, but who might be too good a character to waste this early. Salma Hayek’s Ajak and Don Lee’s Gilgamesh fall into the former category, and Richard Madden’s Ikaris is of course the latter.

Ajak is the first Eternal to die, surprisingly early in the film, and her teammates happen upon her lifeless body outside her home in South Dakota without being given a chance to properly say their goodbyes to the caring yet deeply flawed woman who led the Eternals for seven-thousand years. We’re initially led to believe that Ajak was killed by a Deviant who absorbed her regenerative powers, but it’s revealed in the third act that there was a little more to it than that. Ajak was sacrificed to the Deviants by her own right-hand man, Ikaris, after he discovered that Ajak didn’t want to complete the Eternals’ top-secret mission to destroy the earth.

As I explained in my review of the film, Ajak’s entire character arc is scattered over just a couple of out-of-order scenes, so it’s hard to initially feel much grief for a person who until the third act is largely depicted as turning a blind eye to various tragedies, including the genocide of indigenous Mesoamericans in Salma Hayek’s home country of Mexico. But when we learn how she used her last few years to evolve and find the good in humanity just before Ikaris brutally executes her, well, it doesn’t make up for any of her wrongdoings, but it perfectly illustrates how the Eternals’ centuries of inaction caused all their problems and how they nearly were too late to change. So I think Ajak’s death is fitting.

Gilgamesh’s death also comes at just the right moment in the story, although I’d be less opposed to some fantastical resurrection plot device being used to engineer his return in the future. He and Angelina Jolie’s Thena are platonic soulmates for thousands of years, and their relationship only grows deeper when Ajak diagnoses Thena with Mahd Wy’ry, which she misleadingly describes as a buildup of memories in the brain over centuries that can cause an Eternal to become mentally unstable and violent. Gilgamesh brings Thena to Australia, where they settle down in the desert and live quietly for the next few centuries, with Gilgamesh caring for his friend and giving her love and support.

With Sersi’s help, Thena discovers that everything she thought she knew about Mahd Wy’ry was a lie. Long story short, her visions, panic attacks, and aggressive outbursts are actually a result of her glimpsing into the memories of other Eternals on other planets across the universe – or rather, former planets. Thena and Gilgamesh join the Eternals’ quest to stop the destruction of earth, but sadly Gilgamesh dies not long thereafter, killed by the same Deviant that took Ajak’s life. He and Thena share one last moment together, one which actually drew tears from my eyes, as he pleads with her to remember. The fact that even as he’s dying he wants her to remember her life and not specifically him is heartbreaking and hard-hitting.

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Gilgamesh and Thena | thewrap.com

Then there’s Ikaris. The second highest-ranking member of the Eternals and the only one besides Ajak who knows their true purpose on earth, Richard Madden’s Ikaris is defined both by his unwavering loyalty to the mission and by his age-long love for his teammate, Sersi. It’s unfortunate that their romance is almost entirely devoid of chemistry, because it had the potential to be truly epic. Sersi loves the earth and its inhabitants from the moment she first looks upon it, but Ikaris has only ever pretended to love humans so he can get closer to Sersi and try to relate to her. They find themselves on opposite sides in the film’s third act, with Sersi fighting to save earth and Ikaris to destroy it.

But when they confront each other face-to-face in the film’s most dramatic moment, Ikaris has a change of heart – not because he realizes for himself that humanity is worth saving or that he’s loved earth all along and didn’t want to admit it, but because he finally understands what earth and its people mean to Sersi. And in the end, his love for her outweighs his devotion to the mission and his belief in the Celestial plan for the Eternals. Ikaris stops fighting, leaves earth, and looks back at it one last time – mirroring his and Sersi’s first scene in the film, where he only had eyes for Sersi while she was the one staring down at earth – before flying into the sun.

This bleak and beautiful death is obviously intended to evoke the myth of Ikaris’ namesake in Greek mythology, Icarus; a boy with wings who flew too close to the sun in a moment of reckless pride and burned up. But the parallels to ancient mythology go deeper than that surface-level reading: mythology is uniquely full of stories of tragic couples in which one or both lovers will die by their own hand, usually after some misunderstanding and horrific moment of revelation. It’s a story structure that’s not quite as popular nowadays, and to see it used in a Marvel film is actually extraordinary. But another common theme in mythology, particularly Greek mythology, is that of the hero’s descent into the underworld to retrieve the soul of a lost loved one.

Could we see Sersi or another Eternal attempt to resurrect Ikaris? It’s not as implausible as it sounds. Halfway through Eternals, it’s explained to Sersi in one of the film’s several exposition-heavy monologues that the Eternals were forged, not born (an interesting and perhaps deliberate parallel to Agatha Harkness’ description of Wanda Maximoff), and that all of their memories from before arriving on earth were implanted into their heads by their true maker, the Celestial Arishem. He keeps these memories stored away in a chamber of the World-Forge, which is where he designs, builds, and breathes life into his Eternals.

So there is a path for Ikaris to come back, or more likely for his memories to be transplanted into the body of a new Eternal (i.e. a different actor). And Arishem himself might have already arranged for that to happen. At the end of the film, the Celestial arrives on Earth and summons Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo to join him in deep space, presumably at the World-Forge judging by Arishem’s remark that he will look through their memories to determine if they and the planet they love so much are actually worth saving. I can’t wait for Chloé Zhao to get the chance to explore that location in more depth and detail, but most importantly it will give our characters a chance to find Ikaris’ memories.

And something else Arishem doesn’t realize is that Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo aren’t the only Eternals left from the team he sent to Earth. Shortly before Arishem’s arrival, Thena departed the planet along with the speedster Makkari and telepath Druig on a mission to find other Eternals scattered across the universe and try to persuade them to save the planets which they’ve been assigned to destroy. The mid-credits scene picks up with this trio sometime later, arguing about whether they should head back to Earth to find out why their friends aren’t responding to their messages or continue their objective.

That’s when they’re rudely interrupted by the arrival of not one but two characters new to the MCU. Patton Oswalt voices Pip the Troll, an obscure Marvel Comics antihero who’s usually paired up with Guardians Of The Galaxy characters like Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Yondu Udonta’s Ravagers. In the MCU, he serves a different role as the herald and traveling companion of a maverick Eternal, Eros. Pop-star and Dunkirk actor Harry Styles portrays Eros, a stunning casting choice that was unfortunately ruined for general audiences long before the film’s release by a professional critic.

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Harry Styles | esquire.com

Eros is a fascinating addition to the MCU, for several reasons. Sure, he’s the younger brother of Thanos and it’ll be interesting to explore more of the history of their home-planet Titan and the branch of Eternals that lived there before they and everyone else were wiped out by famine and war. And yeah, he’s a part-time Avenger with strong connections to Mar-Vell and the Kree that could be depicted in The Marvels. But let’s be honest, that’s hardly the most noteworthy thing about a character who, just like his Greek mythological counterpart, can manipulate the brain’s pleasure centers in a number of ways.

This bizarre power comes with greater responsibility than most, and I don’t expect Marvel to utilize it to the same degree as in the comics – not unless they’re prepared to adapt all the stories in which Eros is accused of sexual assault, and even stands trial at one point with She-Hulk acting as his lawyer. I mean, they could do that, and it would allow them to explore some important real-world topics, but I’m wary of them handling those topics well. And honestly, I think Harry Styles’ Eros would make a much better superhero intimacy coach than sexual offender. If the dispassionate sex scene in Eternals is any indicator, the MCU could use a lesson or two from the god of love.

That being said, Eros is probably as morally ambiguous as any of the Eternals, and I won’t be surprised if he uses his powers recklessly at first – perhaps playing matchmaker with Sersi and a resurrected version of Ikaris. If he runs into the Guardians of the Galaxy anytime soon, I could easily envision a scenario where Eros gets entangled in Peter Quill’s awkward relationship with the time-displaced Variant of Gamora who doesn’t love Quill the way Quill loves the deceased version of her from the main MCU timeline, using his powers with disastrous effects. Basically, just don’t romanticize the removal of consent, and things should work out.

Back on Earth, there’s one last wild-card to consider. Lia McHugh’s Sprite, an Eternal trapped in the body of a child, made the difficult choice to become a human so that she can finally grow up and live a normal life – with the chance to experience love being one of her primary motivations for giving up her illusion-casting powers. Arishem didn’t take Sprite with him to the World-Forge, but it’s hard to believe that she’ll be completely absent from the story going forward. She could help Sersi’s distraught boyfriend back on Earth, Dane Whitman, as he musters the courage to embrace his destiny as the Black Knight and take on the Celestial host.

I don’t expect we’ll see the full team reassembled for a long time, perhaps not ever seeing as Ajak and Gilgamesh are probably really dead and Ikaris might not come back in the same form. But we now know there are hundreds of thousands of Eternals scattered across the universe, including several important characters from the comics who didn’t make it into this film. I suspect we’ll even meet a few in Thor: Love And Thunder, if Gorr the God-Butcher considers Eternals godly enough to make worthwhile targets for his Necroblade. And the distinctions between Eternals and Greek gods are already blurry enough that Hercules could easily be another member of their species.

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The Eternals | cnet.com

As long as Makkari, Thena, Kingo, Druig, and Phastos stay on the team, I wouldn’t object if others come and go. Sersi could make her way onto the Avengers team just as she did in the comics. Druig has a comics history of villainy and connections to the Soviet Union that haven’t really been touched upon (I’m still waiting for the reveal that he’s Natasha Romanoff’s biological father). And Kingo is delightfully off in his own world most of the time, so give him a Bollywood spin-off with lots of over-the-top musical numbers, and I’ll be more than happy.

So where do you hope to see the Eternals pop up next, and which character are you most excited to follow throughout Phase 4? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Eternals” Is Two Movies In One, But They’re Both Excellent

It’s simultaneously unfair and unsurprising that the conversation around Eternals has been dominated by discourse about the film’s abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score. Marvel Studios very obviously wanted Eternals to resonate with critics, and they were confident enough in its ability to do so that they reserved the film a spot in the Rome Film Festival in the expectation that it would lead to favorable word-of-mouth and kick off a strong awards season campaign – so when it didn’t, and Eternals instead got saddled with the dishonorable distinction of becoming Marvel’s first “rotten” entry, everyone took notice.

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The Eternals | blazetrends.com

Of course, the initial critical reception led to backlash from fans. But with everyone pointlessly bickering about whether it’s critics who are too biased against superhero films or fans these days who are too easy to please, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise about Eternals itself – its merits and its flaws. And having now seen the film, I think that’s both unfair and ironic, given how much of the story revolves around the subject of nuance, which is sorely lacking from most online arguments. Baseless declarations are great if all you’re looking for is attention, but to paraphrase my man Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), don’t do it for the views.

Eternals is primarily a story about the complexity of being human, and the various nuances that comprise our individual personalities, ideologies, creeds, virtues, and vices. Provided with an all-star cast of ten main characters representing a broad spectrum of gender identities, races, ethnicities, body types, sexual identities, ages, and disabilities, through which to explore all of these nuances, director Chloé Zhao jumps at the chance. Eternals is intimately engrossed in the personal lives of all its titular characters, and Zhao’s camera is especially fascinated with parsing out how these god-like beings either embrace the trappings of humanity, or else reject it, in their mannerisms, fashion choices, found families, and careers.

And yet at the same time, all of the Eternals – those who choose to immerse themselves in human culture as much as those who isolate themselves in enforced solitude – are keenly aware that they are meant to be othered. The MCU has an understandable desire to try and humanize even its most outlandish cosmic characters, from Thor to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but the dichotomy of the Eternals is that most of them desire to be human without understanding fully the responsibility of being human and sharing a planet with billions of other people. Whether descending from the stars in eerily perfect formation or striding gracefully into battle, the Eternals have an aloofness that isn’t easily cast aside.

These are the same unearthly qualities that have earned the Eternals a place in mythology, revered under many different names as gods and heroes around the globe. There were concerns prior to the film’s release that the Eternals would take credit for the accomplishments of early humans in much the same way that (usually racist) conspiracy theorists attribute the construction of ancient landmarks across South America and Africa to aliens, but I feel that the film mostly steers clear of that pitfall. There are one or two weird plot-holes, but everything starts to make more sense as the full backstory of the Eternals comes to light in the second act.

As a history buff, I really wanted to enjoy the film’s frequent movements across time to events and regions we don’t often get to see onscreen, from the heyday of Babylon to the fall of Tenochtitlan, as well as scattered references and allusions (some of which are…extremely poetic) to the mythological counterparts of the Eternals. But as a viewer and a critic, this is one glaring weak-spot in Chloé Zhao’s screenplay (cowritten with Kaz and Ryan Firpo), which strains to remain laser-focused on its ten characters across a span of seven-thousand years.

Every flashback sequence in the film is beautifully shot, featuring lavish production design and an impressive attention to detail, but the transitions between past and present feel increasingly random and even clumsy as the film goes on, and the flashbacks are so long that it feels like you’re switching between two separate storylines rather than enjoying a single cohesive narrative; both storylines are almost equally compelling, mind you, but neither is given the necessary space to breathe. Keeping track of so many dates and trying to piece together what’s happening when and in what order is also more of a chore than it likely needs to be.

The characters who suffer most as a result are Ajak (Salma Hayek at her most elegant), whose arc is sprinkled over a couple of scenes placed at roughly opposite ends of this gargantuan film; and Sersi (a disappointingly mellow Gemma Chan), who fades in and out of the story, never fully solidifying into a three-dimensional character, much less the face of the franchise that she’s theoretically intended to be. Her contributions to humanity’s development as one of the team’s five scholars are left rather vague, and her transmutative powers – while visually stunning – are poorly defined. Miss or forget an early reference to Sersi being unable to transmutate sentient beings, and nothing that happens afterwards will make sense.

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Druig | ign.com

Seeing as there are currently no other Eternals projects in development that urgently require these characters, I wouldn’t have objected if this first film were either set entirely in the past like Captain Marvel, or almost entirely in the present, following the format of Neil Gaiman’s run in the comics, in which the Eternals were mind-wiped by Sprite (Lia McHugh) and only slowly regained awareness of who they used to be…which, interestingly, is also like Captain Marvel. Neither alternative would make for an objectively better movie, and I think Eternals is still very enjoyable regardless, but sometimes less is more, and this is one of those instances.

It’s doubly frustrating because otherwise, Chloé Zhao really gets that – more so than any Marvel director before her. Her filmmaking style is simplistic, even stark. She doesn’t shy away from using CGI, but at the same time she’s careful to always be artistic with it, crafting intricate designs and patterns from the tendrils of sinuous golden energy that cling to the Eternals. Kingo has his finger-guns and Ikaris his laser-eyes, but Zhao goes to great lengths to ensure that neither character clogs the screen with meaningless energy-blasts and explosions, the bane of most MCU action sequences.

Zhao also displays an extraordinary talent for directing character-driven action with an emphasis on teamwork – comparable, dare I say it, to the Russo Brothers’ work on Captain America: Civil War, which is pretty much the gold standard for superhero action, as far as I’m concerned. Because the Eternals all possess visually consistent powers, I don’t know if audiences will necessarily feel the same way, but Zhao knows exactly how to play with her characters’ strengths and weaknesses, whom to pair up on the battlefield, and how to ensure that every hero has at least one awesome moment. Given how frequently Marvel movies fall apart in their third act, it’s commendable that Eternals truly delivers on an epic and emotional finale.

In particular, I want to give shout-outs to both Angelina Jolie and Lauren Ridloff. Jolie instantly commands the screen with an effortless majesty befitting one of Hollywood’s last real movie-stars, and she draws on her background in action to craft a unique fighting style for the warrior goddess Thena, both ethereal and efficient. But the true revelation of Eternals is Ridloff’s Makkari, the MCU’s first deaf superhero. Ridloff has an incredible physicality that helps Makkari stand out as arguably the coolest speedster around. Instead of simply running, Makkari springs across continents, causing sonic booms whenever her feet touch the ground, and Ridloff sells that raw power with ease.

His role isn’t as action-heavy until the third act, but Brian Tyree Henry also makes a strong impression as Phastos, the team’s tech genius and inventor. Although we only get to see the bare-bones of his character arc (another fault of the split-timeline), there’s so much substance to his story that it’s honestly a mystery why he’s not the main character. After eagerly encouraging humanity’s progress for centuries, Phastos is left dumbfounded and disillusioned in the wake of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, unable to wrap his head around the human capacity for destruction on such a vast scale.

In the present day, we discover that Phastos’ husband and son are his only remaining link to humanity, which allows for a few touching moments between the family – including the MCU’s first onscreen gay kiss. It’s a lovely kiss, but in a film that also boasts the MCU’s first awkwardly modest attempt at a sex scene between Sersi and her partner Ikaris (Richard Madden), it’s sad that it’s still groundbreaking for two men to even display the most basic form of romantic affection for each other onscreen. The door is officially open for more solid LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU, but only a smidge.

With all these characters and their individual storylines, there’s already a lot going on in Eternals before you even get to the overarching plot, everything having to do with the Celestials and the villainous Deviants, the winding backstory of the Eternals themselves, and a score of other small worldbuilding details that should have been simplified or excised entirely to help the whole movie flow with the same grace as any one of its characters. Zhao relies heavily on long exposition-heavy monologues (and even an opening credits crawl, à la Star Wars) to make sure you don’t accidentally miss anything, but if the effect she was going for was biblical, she succeeded a little too well.

To use a comparison I hope most of my readership will understand, there were several points in the film where I remembered how normal people feel when they read The Silmarillion for the first time, how I myself felt when I read The Silmarillion for the first time: disoriented by a seemingly endless deluge of information and names, while still entranced by it all. But if anything, that bodes well for Eternals‘ rewatchability factor. It took me a long time to try reading The Silmarillion in full after my first unsuccessful attempt, but when I did, and when I finally got it, everything changed. It’s one of my favorite books now.

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Ikaris and Sersi | forbes.com

I will likely discuss Eternals‘ mid-credits and post-credits scenes in a separate post, but for now I want you to leave you with this note. If Eternals is dense and disjointed, it also has heart, soul, beauty, and genuinely thought-provoking themes – all of which are lacking in several Marvel films considered “fresh” by critics. Zhao’s film resists any generalization, just as she argues through Eternals that there is no universal definition of goodness, and that we are all far more complex and multi-faceted than we often choose or want to believe.

Movie Rating: 8.5/10

“Eternals” 1st Trailer Review!

After months of anxious waiting, with only a thirteen second clip to assuage our hunger for new Eternals content, a full-length trailer for Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao’s upcoming Marvel blockbuster has finally been released, offering audiences a proper look into the sprawling, colorful, world that Zhao has designed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Eternals
Salma Hayek as Ajak | cbr.com

The confines of that universe are nearly limitless, but the Eternals are outsiders regardless – a group of immortal beings appointed by the Celestials to watch over Earth for thousands of years, and determine impartially whether the human race and their planet is worth saving. The twist, of course, is that many of the Eternals end up falling in love with Earth, and start subtly manipulating the flow of human history to guide humans towards a more desirable outcome for everyone…something which will presumably result in chaos, although there’s no official indication yet of the film’s main villain. Unofficially, thanks to toy leaks, we know that the unearthly Deviants, led by a Lovecraftian entity named Kro, will be battling the Eternals.

But thematically, the primary antagonists in this conflict are humanity’s darkest impulses and urges – constantly thwarting the Eternals’ well-intentioned efforts at every turn, and leading the planet into further turmoil. The trailer starts out with a recreation of idyllic rural life in prehistoric times and at the dawn of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, gradually building to the construction of the first walled settlements and cities, including ancient Babylon. There’s plenty here for history buffs to mull over, including the implication that it was the Eternal sorceress named Sersi who gifted an early human one of the famous ceremonial golden daggers found in the tomb of Meskalamdug in the Mesopotamian city of Ur.

But it’s not long before we see humans turning on each other, the gifted dagger being only a prelude for greater and more terrible weapons to come. One scene in the trailer appears to depict the fall of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to Spanish colonizers, with the supernaturally fast Eternal Makkari helping Aztec civilians to escape while Salma Hayek’s Ajak prepares for battle with the conquistadors. We catch a glimpse of the youngest Eternal, the mischievous Sprite, wandering through the wreckage left in the wake of a volcanic eruption. The trauma and dawning realization in her eyes that this fate awaits the entire world if the Eternals don’t act is clearly a turning point in her character arc.

Eternals
Richard Madden as Ikaris | variety.com

But in the meantime, while Skeeter Davis’ “The End Of The World” plays hauntingly in the background, many of the other Eternals simply abandon their mission and enjoy themselves while they still can. The film teases several sequences of extraordinary beauty, including an Indian wedding ceremony for Sersi and the Eternal Ikaris, concluding literal millennia of flirting and courtship; a sprawling Bollywood dance number for Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo (who has become a popular celebrity, and is constantly followed around by a camera crew documenting his interactions with the other Eternals); and karaoke night with Sprite. I’d have loved to have seen even a single shot of Phastos joined by his mortal husband (with whom he apparently shares the MCU’s first gay kiss), but alas, nothing just yet.

Crucially, there’s one other thing that we don’t get to see in this trailer – and that’s the Celestials, at least one of whom will presumably arrive in the film’s climax to judge the fate of the world. And I’m talking about the real Celestials, not whatever the heck Ego the Living Planet was supposed to be in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. A Celestial is clearly inbound for Earth based on a shot of the skies darkening with storm-clouds and alien lightning while Sersi and her mortal boyfriend, Dane Whitman, stand hand-in-hand to face the apocalyptic sight. It’s a classic “time-to-get-the-team-back-together” scenario.

But getting the team back together, in this case, has a very literal meaning. The Eternals all have the ability to sync their minds and bodies through something known as the Uni-Mind, which Chloé Zhao depicts through luminous ribbons of golden energy connecting the characters as they levitate above a cliffside in the Canary Islands. Zhao’s use of light – particularly natural light – has become one of the hallmarks of her style, and Eternals provides her with a chance to turn that up to an eleven with the CGI budget now at her disposal.

Eternals
Ikaris and Sersi | indiewire.com

Of course, this is still a Marvel trailer, so it still has to end with a humorous stinger to remind general audiences why they should go see it (since apparently Chloé Zhao’s name alone and the potential for Marvel’s second serious Best Picture contender isn’t enough for some). But the humor between the Eternals feels natural and easygoing – Ikaris jokes that he should take over the Avengers in the absence of Iron Man and Captain America (whom the Eternals refer to as Captain Rogers, further evidence of their attempted impartiality), and his fellow space gods laugh at him. It’s a cute little moment, made even more endearing by the fact that Angelina Jolie is sitting at one end of the table, cheerfully swigging from a beer mug.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10