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‘Eternals’ is huge, fun and great — but it’s not really a Marvel movie

The latest film from Marvel is really good. But does it have a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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Kingo, Makkari, Gilgamesh, Thena, Ikaris, Ajak, Sersi, Sprite, Phastos and Druig in Marvel Studios’ “Eternals.”

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani, left), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) in Marvel Studios’ “Eternals.”

Marvel Studios

“Eternals” is huge in cast, story and scale. It's a beautifully told epic with an excellent score, acting and pacing.

It’s one of the more “cinema” Marvel movies to date. There are fewer Marvel movie moments — like the cheesy one-liners, massive car chase scenes and weird inside joke Easter eggs — and more beautifully shot scenes that show this is a step above other MCU films.

In many ways, “Eternals” feels like something different. It needs the Marvel Studios logo to remind you it’s a Marvel movie. There are fleeting references to other MCU characters, but it’s so offhanded that you don’t notice.

Truly, “Eternals” deserves a place in the upper tier of MCU films. I don’t think it rises to the level of “Infinity War” or “Endgame” since those had such massive stakes. It might not be as good as Marvel’s other recent film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which is a more traditional Marvel solo story that focuses on one character. “Shang-Chi” is a Marvel movie you, sort of, expect. But “Eternals” is unlike anything you’d expect. It’s almost on the level of the science fiction film, “Arrival,” if that makes sense. It’s new, beautiful and fun, but not really a solo superhero flick.

There are moments where you want more action, more battles rather than a story. If you love dialogue, you’ll love this movie — that’s for sure.

The good news — each character in “Eternals” has their own story and motivation, which is nice to see with a 10-person cast. Some motivations and origin stories are better than others, and some are more built out. It’s a little uneven in how much attention it brings to each character. There are points where you wish certain characters had more developed motivations.

Gemma Chan (Sersi) and Richard Madden (Ikaris) own this movie. Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos) steals the show. Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo) had fun moments, but I was personally left wanting more from Nanjiani, who is one of the funniest actors alive today. Lauren Ridloff (Makkari) adds an excellent element as well.

I did not take to Barry Keoghan (Druig) or Lia McHugh (Sprite). Both of their stories fell short and flat for me. I would like to see more of them in a sequel. I didn’t buy Druig’s motivation at all. And Sprite’s story seemed thinly told when it has such huge implications.

If anything, “Eternals” needs more. It needs more storytelling because it’s done so well in building out its own world. And that’s pretty remarkable that “Eternals” could build its own world inside of the MCU, which is already an expansive universe and galaxy of characters and location.

Knowing it’s in the MCU, though, it’ll be cool to see how it fits in with the Marvel world. My press screening did not include post-credits scenes (which have been leaking online). So I don’t know how the MCU will connect with “Eternals,” but there seems to be a lot of room to explore that connection.

That’s why “Eternals 2” can, and should, happen. Lots of world-building to explore from here. And the film raised a lot of questions that need to be answered. You can bet there’s plenty to explore moving forward.