In the beginning, before tales were written or filmed, there were only stories of bravery and bravery spoken and passed down for posterity’s sake, typically involving some kind of moral or lesson to teach future generations how to be better, even when facing the impossible.

Heroes are the common denominator of stories throughout the ages. Across cultures, there are dozens of heroes.

Known for their remarkable strength, unbelievable speed, unlimited knowledge, masterful witchcraft or wizardry, and other cunning abilities, heroes were lauded as gods as they became the basis for stories, myths, or legends to which ancient civilizations would relate to listeners while under the stars. While celebrated for their skills, their duty and heroic acts were always carried out for the glory, honor, or love of someone or everyone. They would commit acts of benevolence in the best interest of those around them.

In the now, with mass-produced comics books and movies now existing, tales of heroes have transcended into superhero stories. Those who look ordinary, but possess gifts far beyond our own, just like the heroes of old. Every year, we are introduced to more and more friendly neighborhood folks who end up being tasked with saving the world. In the case of Marvel Studios’ “Eternals,” the film differs from your everyday capes crusader because these heroes confront the essence of their heroism and why they fight.

After winning the Academy Award for Best Director (and Best Picture) this year for “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao’s latest chooses to examine the very essence of heroes with a group of immortal, godlike aliens known as Eternals.

Beginning with an opening crawl reminiscent of “Star Wars,” the film follows the titular group of heroes as they were sent to Earth by the Prime Celestial Arishem, voiced by David Kaye to protect humanity from a group of predatory beasts known as Deviants, but they are instructed not to interfere in any human conflict so that the race may thrive. This directive disillusions the Eternals, causing them to disband, until a new threat of Deviants and a cataclysmic event known as the Emergence, an event prompted by the reversing of The Blip in “Avengers: Endgame,” incentivizes the team to rejoin forces, disobey their Celestial creator, and save humanity from annihilation.

Clocking in at 157 minutes, “Eternals” is sprawling with plot exposition, musings of humanity, immaculate visuals and a plethora of story avenues that is sure to elevate the MCU to some crazy cosmic courses. It’s a lot to take in, but there’s a lot to like here.

For starters, the film is majorly ambitious from other MCU stories as a thematic love letter to humanity as a whole, but it’s majorly disjointed in its storytelling. The scope is massive, spanning millenniums, yet littered with incoherent transitions between ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Babylon and the Present Day. It’s convoluted, yes, but the characters, action, and stunning visuals are more than satisfactory. The representation was great to see too.

The cast is stacked with Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiana, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, and Brian Tyree Henry being the film’s standouts. Everyone embodies their roles quite well, even if it’s at the disservice of character development for some players. There’s also a certain character cameo that is surely a sign of the times if you catch my drift. However, the main star though is Zhao’s intimate direction, maintaining a steady balance of pathos-powered imagery and rich themes with superhero action.

In the end, the overarching problem with “Eternals” is that it strains to introduce an entire species of heroes, their creators, and an entire corner of Marvel mythology which it somewhat succeeds at. Still, it has to be my favorite MCU movie of the year so far. The film was serious and quite grim when it needed to be, even if it suffers from the same old tired act CGI fight and awkward humor. Granted, this didn’t exactly impede on my viewing experience because, after twenty-six of these movies and four Disney+ shows, I knew what I was in for. It was simultaneously different and similar to everything Marvel has done before, but at this point, I’m going to enjoy whatever comic book property producer Kevin Feige sets his baseball cap gaze to.

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