The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which includes dozens of blockbuster films, sequels and spinoff TV shows, is fundamentally about a group of super-heroes that can be trusted to save humanity when it needs them.
Eternals, the latest entry in Disney’s MCU and the franchise’s first unmitigated train wreck, introduces another team of remarkable people—the titular Eternals—and implausibly suggests that they were there all along, serving as Earth’s silent protectors for thousands of years.
Frustratingly, the film’s ham-fisted attempts to explain why the Eternals—guided by official den mother Ajak (Salma Hayek) and including an all-star roster of underdeveloped leads—interfered in some human events but not others fall flat. According to Arishem (the group’s alien puppetmaster), preventing the events at Avengers: Infinity War should have been the Eternals’ highest purpose. However, it is not.
It lacks large ideas and is poor at expressing its small ideas. Once the Eternals discover more about their mission, they realize what it is. It is supposed to prevent wars as part of their effort to protect mankind, because, you see, war spurs technological innovation, and innovation eventually increases the population.
However, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), the MCU’s first gay superhero could have just given humanity the steel shovel a few centuries before the deadline and speeded things up without all of the destruction and death. It is filled with patronizing ideas that superheroes should be benign despots that know best for us all. The unsettling revelation that this mission was a complete sham partially undermines that notion.