MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD
Alright, let's talk spoilers.
The non-linear narrative structure of Eternals has its share of advantages and drawbacks. On the plus side, hopping across time means there are always new environments on-screen with colorful renderings of Mesopotamia and Babylon consuming the screen. Weirdly, I never felt Eternals was torturous in its runtime (though it certainly needed a trim) partially because of how it was always shifting to new locations. Eternals is always on the move and going the non-linear route makes that mobility possible.
On the other hand, dishing out information piecemeal style like this proves a hindrance to the two big “twists” in Eternals. The first comes when Sersi learns via the Celestial Arishem that she and her fellow Eternals are not aliens from the planet Olympia. Instead, they’re automatons created by the Celestials to protect the population of Earth so that it can eventually reach a high enough level that it can be wiped out and create the energy necessary to birth a new Celestial. It's a wordy bit of exposition, but one told through some striking visuals and does get across the vast stakes of this plot.
The next one sees Ikaris remembering how he betrayed Ajak to the Deviants and is actually planning to betray his fellow Eternals. The flawed nature of how this plot twist is executed comes from how we learn about it just from Ikaris recalling these actions while he’s moping alone. Suddenly, we’re waiting for the other Eternals to wait and catch up with us, the audience. At least this flashback does deliver its share of memorable imagery, particularly Ikkaris screaming in agony and blasting off his laser vision upon plopping Ajak's corpse on the ground. It's a very powerful physical manifestation of a man being torn between his intended purpose and his own heart.
Moments after this sequence, another clumsy twist occurs where Sprite suddenly announces she’s teaming up with Ikaris, which happens so suddenly you’ll miss it if you blink it.
On a more positive note, I liked that Eternals caps off its big punch-heavy climax with Sersi saving the day through ways that don’t involve fists or guns. First, she changes the birthing Celestial into a being made out of ice (how Moana of her!), then she gives Sprite a chance to grow up and be a normal human being. I wish the rest of Eternal’s grand finale was this inventive, but these two developments embody the best of Eternals’ gutsy spirit. It wants to conclude its big fight scenes with compassion and, via Ikaris committing suicide through flying into the sun (what an appropriately grandiose way to go!), regret. What human emotions for grand beings from the stars to deal with.
And now, just a slew of random thoughts:
* Don Lee gets some of the weakest comedy moments in this movie, including a clumsily-executed bit where a pie he's making plops to the ground after he hears that Ajak's passed away.
* It's always nice to see Patton Oswalt in anything, but his Pip the Troll in the mid-credits scene just didn't look right to me. Can't we bring back forced perspective? Why must we use CGI to render humanoid creatures that could easily be accomplished through practical means?
* I only realized yesterday while walking what the underlying significance of a character named Ikkaris plunging himself into the sun is.
* All the scenes of Phastos and his domestic homelife were so cute and had such a wonderful warmth to them.
* Clever use of Barry Keoghan here, as Eternals appears to be playing on audience expectations on this guy always playing villains, as well as him playing the Eternal that goes bad in the comics, to make it seem like we all know who the "secret villain" here is. Nice subversive casting, especially since Keoghan proves plenty capable of playing a nice but morally complicated fellow in his work as Druig.