The Grumpy Old Man and The Eternals (2021)

Since I have been practicing for my late-stage career as a Grumpy Old Man since basically the inception of the Internet, I will start this by going Full Andy Rooney (a dated reference that should cement my Grumpy Old Man status) by bitching about fast food.

I know I should not be eating fast food, but as retirement is a laughable fantasy, I work all freaking hours of the day, as needed, and thus do not have time to source and cook every meal at home. And thus I have run into the scurrilous habit of the industry for Limited Time Offerings, those burgers and burritos that are extremely delicious and probably a little harder to put together so that one day, as you drive up and give your order, wanting nothing more than a Hatch Green Chili Burger to take home and enjoy, you are told that you are shit out of luck, here is the new taste treat we have decided you will enjoy for the next couple of months.

I bring this up mainly because this seems to be what happened with The Eternals.

Now, before we get into the meat (lol) of that statement, I feel I should address the elephant in the room (hi, elephant!) Yes I have noticed that over the time Marvel movies have increasingly become the pariah of social media. I get it, you’re tired of superhero movies. Totally understand. I was tired of slasher movies, zombie movies, and vampire movies, but they still kept making them. Attempting to defend Marvel movies apparently puts me in the ranks of anti-cinema barbarians.

After a quarter of a century on the Internet, I have honed a strategy for dealing with this sort of thing, and here it is, as succinctly as possible: fuck off.

That shouldn’t be necessary, unless this is the very first of my posts you’re reading, in which case welcome, and I was saying fuck off to that other guy. Have you seen the sort of movies I watch? Marvel movies are comfort food, pure and simple, like the Hatch Green Chili Burger and the Grilled Cheese Burrito. They helped me get through the Trump years. In the years to come, they’re likely to be relegated to ranks of movies like the garish musicals of the Depression years, one-dimensional stories with lavish production numbers, quaint and visually exciting.

The reason you’re tired of superhero movies is not their fault; it’s the fault of the suits who would only commit significant money where the numbers said profits would be – and we know where that was. Especially with COVID throwing theatre attendance in the garbage.

Now, as for The Eternals: what we were expecting was the usual Marvel formula of here is an extraordinary person, here is how they got that way, and here is the big rock we are throwing at them, with embellishments as necessary.

The Eternals, however, gives us eight characters, and almost dares us to figure them out and sort them as we go; I’m a big fan of movies that realize the audience doesn’t have to be spoon-fed, but I was adrift for waaaaay too long, figuring out the dynamics of the group and what was actually going on. So much so that when the scene occurred that marked a definite turning point of the Eternals’ mission that I was rather bored and didn’t catch it. That required a YouTube video.

Any undertaking to capture a story that evolved over hundreds of pages and many years, I think we can agree, is a fool’s errand. Two attempts to put Dark Phoenix onscreen testifies to that. I had read Jack Kirby’s original run back in the day, and thought I had a good basis to handle whatever Marvel Studios was going to throw at me – what I was not expecting was some lifting from Neil Gaiman’s version (okay, I was cool with that), and certainly not a whole underpinning from the Earth-X mini-series, which presented a dystopian alternate Earth, and seems like it’s going to upset the cosmology presented in earlier movies.

Not that cosmology-upsetting doesn’t happen in comics all the time.

I also kind of resent that rushing toward the denouement of the movie, everything seems to have returned to normal, prior to the Celestial Arishem’s final appearance. Worldwide earthquakes and a freaking alien giant rising from the Indian Ocean didn’t seem to make much of an impact. Then again, the consequences of the five-year absence of half of mankind was not explored until movies after Endgame and the Marvel TV shows.

This is the sort of thing that happened to me with The Suicide Squad; I didn’t much care for it the first time, but upon re-watching it – and prepared to meet the movie on its own terms – I loved it. The Eternals has earned a re-watch from me, but I really wish that urge had originated within me instead of some YouTube videos pointing out that there may be treasures hidden inside.