4 Things Parents Should Know about Eternals
- Michael Foust ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor
- 2021 5 Nov
Sersi is a cheerful, talented young woman who is living in London and doing her best to keep her true identity undercover.
Grade-school students know her as a 30-something museum curator who delivers fascinating lectures about nature.
Her best friends, though, know Sersi as a 7,000-year-old cosmic being who has hidden superpowers that can change the world.
Sersi – who is part of a breed of god-like "Eternals" – is perfectly fine keeping the truth under wraps. After all, she has fallen in love with a man who knows nothing of her powers. But then an earthquake shakes London. And then one of her best friends – who also is an Eternal – is killed.
Soon, Sersi and her friends must come out of hiding to save one another from their nemesis, the monster-like Deviants. If they fail, all of humanity – that's us – may perish.
The new Disney/Marvel movie Eternals (PG-13) follows Sersi and her companions on a galaxy-wide journey to restore balance to the universe.
Here are four things parents should know:
(Warning: spoilers ahead)
1. It's Set after Endgame
Eternals is the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is part of the MCU "Phase Four," which launched this year with Black Widow and Shang-Chi. The film is set five years after the events of Endgame, during which – in case you forgot – the Avengers used the Infinity Stones to reverse the actions of Thanos, who had erased half the population of the universe. In Eternals, humanity once again hangs in the balance.
At two hours and 40 minutes, Eternals is the second-longest Marvel movie (trailing only Endgame). Before you go, visit the restroom – and go easy on the sodas.
The movie ends with a mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene.
2. It's Heavy on Mythology and Worldview
If Marvel-style Greek mythology isn't your thing, then Eternals likely isn't for you. The film is heavy on myth-centric backstory – at times, too heavy. Get ready for a complex plot.
The 10 Eternals are human-like creatures with god-like powers, yet they answer to a being called Arishem (who looks like a red Lego action figure with glowing eyes). During one lengthy plot-turning scene, Arishem (who lives in the midst of nebula and stars) tells Sersi the real reason for her mission: to oversee the growth of the human population, which is needed in order to provide energy to produce more god-like Celestials (which require the energy of living beings). This, of course, involves the death of all humanity, but as Arishem says in cheering us up, "The end of one life is the beginning of another."
From that point on, the Eternals are divided: Should they rebel against Arishem and save humanity? Or should they follow the plan? (Arishem is the chief god, although – unlike the God of the Bible – he has weaknesses.)
The Eternals – who had been tasked with helping human technology evolve – question the need of people. Phastos, in particular, is troubled by wars and destruction. We see him in the rubble of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, crying after the dropping of the atomic bomb. ("They're not worth saving," he says of Earth's population.)
Ajak (Salma Hayek) defends humanity: "I have seen them fight and lie and kill – but I have also seen them laugh and love. I've seen them create and dream. This planet and these people have changed me."
For Christians, the film can spark a multitude of discussion questions, including: What is humanity's purpose? When is war just? And would you rather live forever and never love and raise a family – or live for a finite time and have both? (One of the Eternals, the forever young Sprite, faces such a choice.)
3. It's Not Kid-Friendly
Eternals is rated PG-13 for "fantasy violence and action, some language and brief sexuality." The coarse language remains within the bounds of most Marvel movies (details below) and the violent/disturbing content – like many Marvel movies – would give sensitive children nightmares.
The film, though, breaks new ground in two areas: sexuality and LGBT content.
Eternals is the first Marvel film – out of 26, mind you – to include a warning about sexuality. The scene, early in the film, involves Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi (Gemma Chan), who kiss passionately for a few moments (also a rarity in a Marvel film) before the scene switches to them nude, lying on the ground, with him on top. We see his bareback and the tops of her shoulders. Sex is heavily implied. (At the time, they are not married.) Elsewhere in the film, we hear Sersi and another romantic interest, Dane, discuss "moving in together." (Sprite encourages it: "Get a room.”)
Of course, Eternals is getting the most attention for another scene – the first same-sex kiss in a Marvel film. It involves Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and his male partner, who are living together and raising a young son. With Phastos set to leave his family to fight the Deviants, he and his partner share a kiss. Unlike the same-sex kiss in Rise of Skywalker, this one can't be missed. (Even without the kiss, it's clear they're gay.)
Parents who didn't do their research will have a few surprises this weekend. Further complicating the issue for parents: McDonald's Happy Meals have an Eternals theme (with 10 different toys representing the characters).
The film's violence and frightening content includes the typical punching and kicking seen in Marvel films, although we do watch main characters die on-screen – some by being stabbed. (It remains bloodless.) The Deviants look like a cross between four-legged giant reptiles and monsters, with tentacles. We see them die multiple ways, including by being cut into multiple pieces (by Thena, the goddess of war).
4. It's... Just OK
Eternals begins solid. We watch the birth of the 10-member group in 5,000 B.C. We see them help humanity develop tools. (In one of the film's most humorous scenes, Phastos, an inventor, creates a steam engine – only to be told the humans won't be ready for it for another millennium. Dejected, he quickly invents another item: "Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the plow, because that's what it does. It plows dirt.”)
It's fun to watch the 10-member group put their diverse set of powers on display. Ikaris can shoot lasers out of his eyes. Sersi can force plants to grow. Makkari can race thousands of miles in a mere second. Druig can control minds.
Perhaps making a single movie about 10 superheroes would be a … superhuman feat. Even so, the movie is too complicated. It's knee-deep in mythology. With 10 primary characters, we barely get to know any of them. The movie also is too long.
My tween-age son enjoyed Eternals. But compared to the other 25 Marvel movies, this one lands toward the bottom of the list.
Eternals is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, some language and brief sexuality. Language details: S--t (2), h-ll (4), OMG (1), a-- (1), single misuse of "God" (2). We also see Sprite flip off a fellow Eternal.
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Staff, ©Marvel/Disney
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.