Marvel, that magic porridge pot of resources is back after a 2020 without much ado in terms of major productions, leaving us crying out for a fresh dose of action and adventure. Well, this year they’re going all out. What with the new Bond and ‘No Time To Die’, then the ‘Dune’ remake kicked open the door to a whole new world, followed by the second installment of ‘Venom’ as we once again returned to the world of arachnids. Not to mention big-screen adventure of superheroine ‘Black Widow’and martial arts supremo ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. But we were still left hankering for a troupe of superheroes joining forces to save the universe, that was until ‘Eternals’, from Oscar-winning director of ‘Nomadland’ Chloé Zhao delivered, and we discovered a fresh batch of beings who’d always been there, but we just never knew it. The eternal, those who never die, crossing time and space without even so much as a wrinkle or crease in those impeccable suits. But who exactly are they? And why didn’t they show up before when humanity was in danger..? …when, without going any further, in ‘The Avengers’ Thanos decided to snap those pinkies and wipe out half the planet? Where the heck were they then?

The ‘Eternals’ didn’t come into being to alter the course of history and, although they might be able to lend us a hand in becoming technologically superior, they cannot intervene in a war. If one side decides to fight, all they can do is wait for the battle to end. Their essence is to ensure humanity’s survival on Earth over the years but cannot prevent us from slaughtering  each other. The rules are clear: do not intervene, unless we are attacked by their archenemies, the evil Deviants. Living among us, the Eternals disguise their powers and watch closely … The rest is up to us. The film works, in this sense, as an introduction to a new batch of characters we haven’t met before as each one is presented, strengths and weaknesses and, of course, their powers. Comparisons with household superheroes like Superman are inevitable at this point, like why does Ikaris (played by Richard Madden) look so much like the man of steel? He flies like him, shoots laser beams from his eyes and even crosses his arms like the DC hero. And that’s not all, as there’s also a romantic twist just like Clark Kent with Lauren Ridloff’s, Makkari, the only deaf Eternal who strangely enough moves like DC’s Flash, inevitably sparking memories of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Chloé Zhao’s hallmark is well and truly stamped on the movie, and despite being a far cry from the tale that conquered our hearts in ‘Nomadland’, there are several points of connection. Both the protagonist of the Oscar-winning film and ‘Eternals’ are regular travelers with no fixed abode,  while the beautifully crafted treatment of landscape is another point they share. Whether it’s a coastal scene, a volcano or the set of a Bollywood movie, Zhao brings her own personal touch and particular strength to the surroundings, nailing every last detail masterfully. The erupting volcano, for example, is of a unique magnificence. The Zhao brand is also palpable in the female leads, led by Salma Hayek and Gemma Chan, with Angelina Jolie on the other side of the fence as one of the most evolving characters in the film. The first ever deaf superheroine in Marvel history also plays a leading role andfeaturesa gay African American superhero played by Brian Tyree Henry, who has a son, ticking all the diversity boxes we’d already seen in ‘Nomadland’ reminiscent of the vast array of characters McDormand meets on the road.

The concept of the extraordinary nature of humanity is central to the theme and demands our superheroes protection: our ideas, creations and good deeds, not to mention the capacity to create life… and role model for Sprite, played by teen actor Lia McHugh, a superheroine with the power of invisibility who cannot age, no matter how many centuries go by. She yearns for an adult life, to fall in love and start a family, all impossible feats stuck in an eleven-year-old-like body for all eternity. There’s also room for the darker side of humanity, the one who lies,  destroys, and kills is also present, and who’s existence although inevitable, is left to do its own thing. Just like yin and yang, humans are a pack, with good and bad, an indivisible one. A reflection that gets us thinking about the future of humanity. We’ve waged wars in the name of religion that have claimed countless lives, but, in turn, we donate organs to save others. The ‘Eternals’ knows exactly how to tap into our good side, and while Thanos could only perceive the evil of humanity, thus justifying his decision to put an end to it all, maybe here the key is do better and, who knows, maybe even change the future of humanity.

Bárbara Padilla
Bárbara Padilla. Collaborator in the Series section of La Vanguardia. News editor and presenter on RAC1. Barcelona-based journalist since 2007. An amateur movie buff since she was old enough to know right from wrong and of series since the Netflix boom.