I went and saw Eternals the other night. Not really sure it should have been hit with the rotten stamp. It has its moments and a few plotlines that work well enough, especially Kumail Nanjiani and Harish Patel’s chemistry. It’s certainly not the mess some people are pretending, but there is no chance I will ever watch it again. I only thought it was fine enough, and if you’re only going to be fine enough, for the love of Gilgamesh, you should not be two hours and thirty-seven minutes long.
Two hours and thirty-seven minutes. I have so many questions, starting with… What? Why? Who decided this was a reasonable runtime for an introduction to deep cut characters from the Marvel comics? How much total footage was even shot? Is there a special Zhao cut that’s four hours long? Is the assumption that people always just want more perceived value for their money?
To be explicitly clear here, I’m not against long movies or even activities that take a long time. I’ve probably watched Magnolia eight or nine times all the way through. I sometimes play golf. I regularly cook baked potatoes in an oven. I watched at least five full-length baseball playoff games live this year. I’m not against devoting time to something that’s worth it, but Eternals isn’t anywhere close to two hours and thirty-seven minutes of worth it. It’s like an hour and forty-five minutes of fun and excitement stretched into a roomy two hours and thirty-seven minute box.
It’s not that all that extra time is used in bad or stupid ways. There aren’t obvious problems or clear scenes that are screaming to be cut. We get a chance to sort of know all of the forty-seven or so named characters, many of which are meaningfully diverse. We get a few extra fight scenes and some occasionally moving conversations and reflections on life and immortality. We get to see a bunch of historical places and a fun tease for the future (spoilers). In that sense, I get it. Everything does logically fit, but none of it helps to create anything new or particularly compelling.
To maintain momentum or interest for two hours and thirty-seven minutes, you need to have really compelling characters. Or you need to have a bunch of moments that stand out. Or you need to have shifts in tone or you need to have profound things to say. Eternals doesn’t have any of that. It just has a lot of stuff that mostly works well enough or on the surface level. But because it’s too damn long, what mostly works starts to drag and the end result feels a lot more like fine enough.
Eternals isn’t the first Marvel movie that has suffered from being unnecessarily long. That fight scene in the third act of Black Widow feels like it’s longer than the entire runtime of Dirty Work. But, in my mind, it’s the first time that it’s felt this glaringly obvious. Shooting a long movie is more expensive. Showing a long movie cuts down on the number of screenings each theater can have per day. Given Disney enjoys, among other things, making money, you would think it would be pushing its directors to cut back. Instead, it seems to be giving them the green light to go longer. That’s a bold creative choice. I appreciate the vote of confidence for the directors, especially for a studio that’s often accused of being too meddlesome and formulaic. I’m not saying I’m the world’s biggest advocate for studio notes, but in this case, I wish the studio would have said the movie is too damn long.
At least that’s my take. Maybe you enjoyed it or thought it was just the right runtime. Let me know by voting in the poll below…
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.