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'Eternals' reviews call Chloe Zhao's Marvel film epic, stunning and perhaps a little too ambitious

From Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao, Eternals arrives in theaters Friday, Nov. 5. So what do the critics think?

By Josh Weiss
Eternals: The Deviants Arrive in the Wake of 'Avengers: Endgame' in Full Trailer For Chloé Zhao's Marvel Film

With the post-premiere high wearing off and the review embargo lifted, critics are getting candid about their thoughts on Marvel Studios' Eternals. It's undeniable that the centuries-spanning epic is one of the most artistic, visually stunning, and heartfelt MCU titles to date, having been directed by the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Nomadland, Chloé Zhao. Her commitment to using real-world locations wherever possible effectively grounds this larger-than-life tale about ancient aliens who have protected humans since the dawn of time.

The only potential issue seems to be the story and its large cast of characters, both of which seem to be a little too unwieldy, even for a 157-minute runtime that makes Eternals (opening in theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 5). the longest Marvel outing after Avengers: Endgame. Indeed, some reviews have compared Eternals to Endgame, albeit in some unflattering way (i.e., a lot of rushed set-up crammed into one film rather than over the course of many years and projects).

As of this writing, the movie holds a solid 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, placing it closer to lower-rated MCU entries like The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World.

Head below to see what critics are saying...

"The visuals have an epic scope that renders the Eternals, for all their superhuman powers, inhabitants of a recognizable world, scarcely different from the mortals among whom they hide in plain sight. The action generally is staged against physically imposing settings without relying too much on greenscreen trickery, a choice validated by Ben Davis’ sweeping naturalistic cinematography, which gives the film a less synthetic look than the average MCU joint." -David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"It’s clear that Zhao, in signing up for this project, made a decision to put her highly expressive and idiosyncratic style on the shelf, and to embrace the straight-up expository conventionality of Marvel filmmaking. That’s something of a disappointment. Yet Zhao’s sensibility, to a degree, is there — in the casual humanity of the characters, in the flow of quip and conflict and passion (at times romantic), in the beauty of the effects, in the deceptively effortless way that Zhao scales up her logistical skills. She’s a master craftswoman, and Eternals, while too long (157 minutes? really?), is a squarely fun and gratifying watch." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"The definite standouts are Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo, an Eternal who takes on a second career as a Bollywood star; his ‘valet’ Karun, played by Harish Patel, who supplies a scene-stealing everyman befuddlement; and Angelina Jolie’s Thena, effortlessly regal and classically aloof. Richard Madden’s Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi have trickier jobs; as steely heroes and nominal leaders, they’re lumbered with generic dialogue ('We’re a team — we should stick together!') and smothering earnestness." -John Nugent, Empire Magazine

"Eternals is huge. Centuries worth of stories and a whole team of vastly different heroes are condensed into a visually stunning and impeccably acted film. The relationships of these complicated characters keep things as fresh as they can, but the story gets unwieldy when it shifts into a cosmic scale. Had it kept the narrative closer to home, it would have played better as a standalone film, but it wouldn’t have felt like the grand Eternals introduction into the MCU had that been the case. Director Chloé Zhao was met with an impossible challenge that she took on with grace, skill, and her trademark jaw-dropping scenery." -Amelia Emberwing, IGN

"There’s just too much going on: it’s all headed towards yet another 'race against time to stop the really bad thing happening' climax. It’s not exactly boring – there’s always something new to behold – but nor it is particularly exciting, and it lacks the breezy wit of Marvel’s best movies. One of the strengths of the MCU to date is how it has taken time to define each character individually and lay out the grand narratives over successive movies, building a sense of momentum. Here, it’s all thrown at us at once. It’s like coming into Avengers: Endgame cold without having seen any of the preceding instalments. Most mortals will simply find it too much. Bigger isn’t always better." -Steve Rose, The Guardian

"The beauty of Marvel's interlocking universe is that by playing the long game the pieces build upon each other, so that appraisal might change as the next phase comes fully into shape. Eternals certainly doesn't lack for ambition, but for now, Marvel — emboldened by its success — has reached for the stars without quite getting there." -Brian Lowry, CNN

"Eternals considers where we are, where we’ve been, and how much it’s changed us, if at all. These are largely internal ideas that are not easily translated to superhuman brawls in dim environs, where the beauty of the natural world is just a blank canvas for lasers and punching. Every fight is like a tether pulling Eternals back to the ground when it would rather fly. Each scene expounding on the cosmology of the MCU does more for movies we haven’t seen yet than it does for the one we’re watching." -Joshua Rivera, Polygon

Eternals arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 5. 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 co-star.