Ambitious “Eternals” Puts Chloé Zhao in Marvel Director’s Chair

Now streaming on Disney+

After a Marvel villain famously destroyed half the world population, director Chloé Zhao actually raises the stakes in her cerebral and engrossing entry into the MCU, the epic action ensemble Eternals (A-). The “let’s get the gang together” type story centers on a group of ten superpower-wielding immortals who must come out of hiding to join forces and stop an eminent attack on earth. Although long in running time, Zhao leverages her ensemble and set pieces for some spectacular world building; and the action, while more sporadic than some fans may wish, is also consistently delightful. A-listers Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are very good but not the center of gravity here. Lots of up-and-comers make the movie. Richard Madden is dashing, and Lia McHugh effective as mythic characters. Gemma Chan is wonderfully winning as the professorial heroine, and Kumail Nanjiani is wryly funny as a hero in hiding in the Bollywood film industry (his character continues to knowingly chronicle his quest documentary-style). This is a thinking person’s superhero movie with real characters and respectable tension; it’s quite a bit more talky than most in this franchise. Picturesque and powerful, this film and its auteur are forces with which to be reckoned.

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