Eternals' Bad Reviews Explained: 8 Biggest Criticisms

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Eternals bad reviews

After first premiering last November, Chloé Zhao’s cosmic epic Eternals has finally hit Disney+ for audiences worldwide to stream in their homes. The project introduces big names such as Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, and Kit Harrington into the MCU. It also features the introduction of Harry Styles’ big character Starfox, aka brother to Thanos.

When the film landed, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t received all that well. It was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to be rated as Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. When general audiences saw it, they were kinder on the adventure, but lukewarm reactions were still happening all around.

But then there were those who saw the movie and had no idea what all the negative fuss was about. They couldn't understand why people had so many issues with the film.

Thankfully for them, the list below will help explain the most common criticisms about Eternals and why they're an issue in the first place.

The Deviant Problem

Eternals deviant

One of the elements that gets called out the most by critics and fans is the villains. Ranking right down there with Thor: The Dark World’s Malekith, the Deviants dragged the story down at every point they could.

Not only were they uninspired and bland in their design, but they never did anything for the plot. Instead, they show up when the story demands an action beat, then go away.

The real reason they exist within the script? They were vehicles for the theme and nothing more; the ethical and philosophical questions brought up by them only amounted to a single moment anyhow.

Then there was Kro, who the story attempted to make meaningful, but nothing about him felt any different from the mindless drones that followed him. It simply felt awkward when he started speaking and spouting his life’s mission. He never felt like he belonged in any scene.

It didn’t help how the writers crammed him into the final act, a sequence that was one of the movie’s best. This emotionally-fueled confrontation between Ikaris and his family was fantastic, but then Kro, who the plot all but forgot about, just randomly stumbled onto the beach.

It was a head-scratching moment, and forcing the character into a situation which he had no right to be in was awkward and questionable—especially since he died minutes later.

The idea of the Deviants could easily work and paint a compelling parallel with the Eternals themselves. One which would show that even though they seem entirely different, they are, in fact, the same. 

Eternals sadly does not pull this off and instead is left with generic and forgettable villains who only show up because the plot needs that antagonist force to move the scenes forward; any and all depth is lost.

The Mediocre Punchfests

Eternals action

The Deviants lead into the next criticism, which resides on the lips of many who have watched Chloé Zhao’s new adventure. Simply put, the action scenes are nearly all forgettable.

It doesn’t help that the movie was released right after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a project which contained some of the best fight sequences in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So Eternals already had a disadvantage out of the gate.

The reason for their mediocrity is two-fold. First, the action choreography is dull, and the visuals are equally bland. Then there’s the fact that there’s nothing to strengthen most of the sequences; no emotional hook or character moments to be found. It ends up just being repeated scenes of super people punching bad guys.

Many respond to this point by saying it’s not all about the action—and that’s true. But if a story has a forgettable fight sequence, then the tale still has a chunk of time that’s not worth experiencing.

However, there is an exception to this: the aforementioned final act with the group against their former brother Ikaris. After that, things finally got more interesting, both visually and emotionally; letting Makkari actually utilize her powers certainly helped.

What If...Ikaris and Sersi Had Chemistry?

Eternals Sersi Ikaris

One of the major plot points touted about this MCU film before its release was its focus on the love story between characters in ways no others have. But, sadly, many don’t believe that Ikaris and Sersi worked in the slightest as the main couple.

The movie tells audiences that these two have been in love for thousands of years, yet it never truly feels that way; there’s no noticeable spark. 

Sure, the story repeatedly talks about how the two pine for each other, but they fail to make it seem that way to those watching. The writers can tell viewers all day long that two people love each other, but if it isn’t portrayed well in the script and performances, then it simply won't work.

It was a bigger issue here thanks to their relationship being the core factor that plays into the plot’s resolution; since their dynamic faltered, so did the impact of some crucial moments.

While the writing certainly plays into the issue, Richard Madden’s Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi simply don’t have chemistry. They're both great actors, but the two never truly meshed on screen.

This was accentuated even more by the fantastic chemistry that Barry Keoghan’s Druig and Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari had. Their subtle flirtatious dynamic wasn’t even originally meant to be part of the movie, yet it ended up working better than the story’s key couple.

All The Many Characters

Eternals characters

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Eternals’ large cast is how stunningly diverse everyone is, without it ever feeling forced. The leading group themselves are meant to represent what the world as a whole looks like, and for the most part, they nailed it.

The downside of having a cast this size is simply how many characters the story has to service. Alongside the Eternals themselves, there’s also Dane Whitman, the Celestials, and the Deviants—that’s over a dozen characters, most of whom are equally important.

This is another place where many believe the film faltered. The story doesn’t do justice to all of its characters.

Sure, in theory, it’s okay that Whitman was only there for a little set-up and was never intended to be part of the wider narrative. But then there’s Ajak, who only ever serviced everyone else around her and not herself; she was a shell of a character, whose purpose was simply to be an inciting incident with a sprinkle of retroactive drama towards the end.

A similar situation happened with Gilgamesh. While his friendship with Thena is notable, most of the narrative weight was on her instead of him. He had nothing besides that. When he died, his death had next to no emotional impact. It also didn't help that the character had a visually dull, and just generally boring, power set.

This doesn’t mean all of the characters are a bust, but with so many people to focus on, the juggling act to give the appropriate amount of service to each is a difficult one that many feel the project dropped the ball on.

Films like Civil WarInfinity War, and Endgame all balanced the many aspects of their story masterfully. However, one of the biggest factors that made it harder for Eternals is that every single person in its story is entirely new—the script needed to build these characters from the ground up.

An Idea-Fest

Eternals plot

Readers may soon start to feel a pattern with these next few criticisms, which all relate to how bloated the film can feel.

On top of the number of players the story had to worry about, the movie introduced countless new ideas to the MCU. So while fans were learning about over a dozen new people, they also had to keep track of the ballooning expansion of the world’s lore.

The film had to go over what the Eternals were, The Celestials’ place in the Cosmos, the Deviants, and how there are giant space beings waiting to be born in various planets across the universe. There were some grand ideas, some small, and others informed by various twists throughout the adventure. And then there were those that had massive implications for the MCU as a whole.

It was a lot to keep up with and keep straight, while juggling getting to know a dozen new characters.

The Runtime Keeps Running

Eternals runtime

Given how much the movie deals with and introduces, it was easy to assume that the film’s length would be a long one; at 2 hours and 37 minutes, it lives up to expectations. Its length, however, is an issue in itself.

The complaint of something being too long is often misinterpreted. Movies can be two hours or three hours, but it’s all about the pacing; how the story is delivered to the audience.

If a movie feels like three hours, then there’s probably an issue somewhere. However, if the pacing is solid and everything is laid out well, then you can have a three-hour movie in which the viewer has never once thought about how long they’ve been staring at the screen.

Avengers: Endgame is a perfect example of this. It’s the longest project the MCU has ever had, yet many hardly notice when watching—the story is delivered in a way that audiences are engrossed fully from beginning to end.

With Eternals, there are the issues of the flashbacks sometimes awkwardly placed in the story and the long fetch-quest that the main characters are on, which makes some of the middle pieces of the movie feel drawn out, among other elements.

Then, of course, there are all those scenes of people staring into space awkwardly contemplating life, as the story slowly continues.

Expositional Exposition

Eternals Sersi

When you put the previous three complaints together, there is an additional problem that comes from it: exposition. Many viewers felt as though most of the scenes within Eternals were simply explaining concepts for motivation.

Exposition is always better when the story shows us instead of telling us. Obviously, telling the viewers new information isn’t always avoidable, but the balance a story strikes between the two makes it all work.

Another MCU project last year that had the same problem was Marvel Studios’ Disney+ show Loki. Tom Hiddleston’s first solo project introduced so many new concepts and ideas to the MCU that 80% of its first season was explanation after explanation.

The inevitable sequel to the film might have a better time with this issue, since most of its characters and the new lore behind them have been established. Speaking of the probable Eternals 2 leads right into the final issue of the list.

More Excited About The Future And Not The Present

Harry Styles Eternals MCU

Setting up future installments is what the Marvel Cinematic Universe does. Its continued and expansive continuity has made these films the successes they are. So, it’s ironic to say that teasing the future was a problematic aspect of Eternals.

When walking out of a movie, one should be excited about what they just watched. On top of that, the film should work on its own and not need a set-up to have a beginning, middle, and end.

Many people feel the story failed at this. Some audiences voiced how they were more excited about what would be coming next than what was just watched; others shared the excitement, but held no enthusiasm for the first installment.

It’s also been said that the story feels incomplete with how it ends, as nearly every person involved in the main story is subject to a cliffhanger and most of the characters didn’t have any form of a resolution from the events of the film.

The Eternal Difference of Opinion

Eternals reviews

Even if Eternals is a flawed project, it’s hard to say that it’s the worst movie to come from Marvel Studios yet––a claim many are making regarding Zhao’s addition to the MCU.

For fans that are down because of the general reception, look no further than Thor: The Dark World for solace. The movie led to Thor’s mini-reboot in Ragnarok, a film that was critically acclaimed across the board. The story of director Alan Taylor’s project also played a key role in the conclusion of The Infinity Saga.

All that is to say everything can turn around at any point. Thor had two solo adventures and two Avengers outings on his belt before his drastic re-work.

Don’t let all of these criticisms get in the way of watching the film for yourself. Take an afternoon, sit down, and form your own opinion by clicking that play button on Disney+; after all, it is IMAX enhanced.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.