Eternals

So this is the third film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so far, they are batting .333. Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was terrific, Black Widow was so-so, and this is warmed over leftovers from a meal that I don’t remember ordering. It’s not that it’s a bad film, it just feels like the DC Universe has rubbed off on the MCU, and that the goal of creating interconnected stories has become more important than telling a compelling story. There are ten new characters that are being put on the plate in front of us and we are supposed to care immediately? I don’t think so. This is a distinct group of superheroes, true, but unlike the X-Men, where we got a similar character dump, there is not as much popular history to ease us in, and the characters start fighting amongst themselves before we have much of an idea of how they fit into the whole picture of MCU films. 

The Eternals seem to fit into the same category of human development as the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Their appearance seems to arrive to  prompt civilization in ways that will make the planet and its inhabitants more useful to the universe. Early on however, there is an indicator of a hidden agenda, and after an hour or so of trying to get us familiar with these characters, we are let in on their true purpose and one can legitimately wonder where this idea came from. Part of the plot focuses on the creation of Celestials, who are certainly different creatures as illustrated by “Ego” from “Guardians of the Galaxy V.2” . The brief history we are given here is designed to hide some of the surprises that are instore for the film, but they end up becoming confusing and seem inconsistent with prior knowledge and even things brought up for the first time in this story. 

The Ten new characters are supposed to fight Deviants, who are depicted as mindless animals early on but for some reason develop an ethos later in the film that legitimately, provokes some philosophical  conversation. That conundrum though is quickly overtaken by a sudden change of heart by the leader of  the Earthbound Eternals, Salma Hayek’s Ajak. I say it is a sudden turn despite the fact it takes place over a 7000 year period, because in the context of what we learn about the Eternals origins, that is a blink of an eye. For a group of heroes, who supposedly think of themselves as a family, I would say they are a dysfunctional family. There are resentments, jealousy, and apparent psychological trauma in this group. The only time they seem to cooperate is when a Deviant is in the immediate vicinity. The big threat of the story therefore ends up coming primarily from the group itself, rather than an outside force. We seem to have jumped right into “Civil War” without the preceding dozen films that it took for The Avengers to get to. Richard Madden and Gemma Chan as Ikaris and Sersi, are a couple who end up on opposite sides of the dilemma, and it seems completely real that they have broken up as a couple, although there is no hint that this was the reason. 

Clearly the intent of the film makers was to create a team of heroes that is as inclusive as possible. There is a great degree of diversity among the Eternals, but some of it is a little confusing given what we ultimately learn about their origins. There are some interesting ideas in the story that will not get the attention they deserve because there are so many characters. The character of Sprite is eternally pre pubescent, but 7,000 years of life have given her feelings that are not resolvable given her physical development. The emotional choice that she makes seems to be natural, but like everyone else in the story it doesn’t last long. Kumail Nanjiani is a hoot as Kingo, but when the climax comes, he is no where to be found. I enjoyed Ma Dong-seok as Gilgamesh, the keeper of the nearly mad Thena played by Angelina Jolie. Their relationship is more touching and believable than any of the others in the film, and that is another problem, Jolie is under utilized and the character of Gilgamesh is not on screen for most of the second half of the film. Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos is supposed to have the sarcastic wit in the film, but it feels way more labored than his work in Godzilla v. Kong, and that is saying something. The Ikea joke falls flat and that was supposed to be the big punchline that they used in the trailer.  

There is a mid-credit scene and a scene after the credits, so the MCU fans will have plenty to speculate on, but they have nothing to do with what we saw and they raise some questions about the relationships we have seen in earlier MCU films. Maybe this will be an extension of themes covered in the comic books, but it is an example of overload in the film. I’m writing this a couple of days after seeing the movie and my memory of the events is already fading. This is a movie intended to launch the new characters in the MCU but it does not do it in a way that is very inspiring. I love the series of films and I want them to grow, but somewhere along the way, the spectacle overwhelmed the characters and stories and that is a problem. Maybe it’s just me, my favorite MCU films have been Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger and Ant-Man, which were all stand alone stories, so the team up concept takes some time getting used to. James Gunn managed to pull it off with Guardians but director Chloé Zhao, seems like she may have bitten off too big a chunk to have the same result. 

As I said, I did not dislike the movie, I just didn’t like it very much. Like all things, maybe it will grow on me, but for now that’s where I stand. 

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

The original film came out four years ago, and was obviously successful enough to spawn a sequel. The high concept of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is all in the title. This film is no more subtle than the original. It hits you in the face with the premise, follows it up with a lot of mayhem, and then tops it with enough vulgar language for three Al Pacino and two Samuel L. Jackson films. This is the embodiment of mindless entertainment, it often makes no sense whatsoever, but you won’t care because you are shame laughing the whole time. 


I said it in the review of the first film, and I will repeat it and emphasize it here, Selma Hayak not only gives Jackson a run for his money, she clearly wins. It must have struck the writers of this film that doubling the use of the f-word by Jackson’s character’s wife would be funny, and they calculated correctly. Hayak delivers the good twice as much and frequently in a second language which makes this even more preposterous. She is a songbird with the f-word. Poor Ryan Reynolds has to make due with using the word mostly as a rejoinder to the other two. He can barely get a f-you in edgewise. 


It’s not entirely clear why the love interest for Reynold’s character in the original film was left out, although she would have been superfluous to the story with the direction they have taken here. Instead, they have inserted a character for Morgan Freeman to join the cast and get a paycheck. He also gets a few choice f-bombs but some of the biggest laughs he generates are from Reynold’s worshipful description of his voice. 


Appearing as the bad guy is Antonio Banderas, who does most of his acting with silly hairstyles and even sillier clothing choices. I would have appreciated a bit more by play with Banderas and Hayak, they were once matched together in another hitman story, “Desperado”  about twenty five years earlier. They do get a fight scene towards the end, and unlike the Robert Rodriguez film, this one is often played for laughs. In fact most of the action in the film has a comedic element to it. 


There is plenty of blood to go around, and many of the deaths are done for comic effect. Ryan Reynold is first billed but once things get started, he becomes a supporting character to the married couple of Jackson and Hayak. He is quite a bit the Coyote to everybody else’s Roadrunner. He gets dropped, kicked, run over, shot, stabbed and generally abused, but is right back up for the next sequence, ready to do it all again. 

The story is not as strong as the first film was, although neither is particularly sturdy. I do think there are more laughs in this film and that makes it a winner in my book. This is entertainment that is crude and disposable, which means for adults, you can enjoy your date night, drink to your heart’s content, and not worry that you don’t remember much about the movie the next day,…you don’t need to. 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Video is NSFW)

Normally on this site we try to keep it at a PG-13 for the readers. If it is something I am writing, than I want it to be in my voice and I use vulgar language in a fairly narrow spectrum of circumstances. The trailer above however is an accurate reflection of the vulgarity and coarseness of the interactions in the film we are talking about here, so if you can’t guess how the maestro of the “MF” word does in this film, the clip will give you plenty to chew on. Reynold’s character actually suggests that Jackson is single-highhandedly ruining the word.

This kind of movie is mostly bulletproof. It is not critic friendly, it will be obvious as to what is going to happen, and it will offend a few people both intentionally and unintentionally. It will also entertain you for a couple of hours while you enjoy a refreshing beverage and some popcorn in a cool theater on a hot day. I prefer my popcorn with a good amount of butter flavoring and then I dump in a box of Hot Tamales to sweeten things up. The popcorn taste, mixed with the sweet but spicy candy is solid, but as the candy gets coated with the butterflavoring it adds an extra texture to the treat. If you are dieting, you should not go to see this film, because it demands that you consume things that are not good for you but taste delicious.

Mosaic electronic poster at Hollywood Achlight

Ryan Reynolds has become a very successful film star, although his most successful film is also one of his most recent. “Deadpool” has a few things in common with this movie, an irreverent sense of humor and a willingness to go for big action, but otherwise they are very different films. Samuel L. Jackson could make this movie in his sleep. He simply brings his usual bravado and colorful vocabulary and supplements it with the kind of gleeful violence we used to get from “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. The premise is simple, a professional bodyguard ends up trying to protect a contract killer that has crossed his path before. This is a bickering buddy film, each character has quirks that make them appealing and repulsive, and we spend a lot of time with the two of them togeteher matching insults.

If there is a pretender to the crown of “Most Colorful Cursing in the Movies”, it might be the character played by Selma Hayek in this film, plus she does it bi-bilingually. If you ever feel a bit overwhelmed by the language, let me suggest some Junior Mints to go along with the popcorn. A refreshing mint might take the edge off of the palate enough that you can tolerate a few more curse words, in at least two languages.

Now leaving the snack bar menu for a bit and talking about the movie, I will say there are a couple of things that were nice about the film. The locations for the last act are in Amsterdam and take advantage of the city’s quaint architecture and street layouts. There may have been an Alister MacLean film that used the canals of Amsterdam for a chase, I have a vague childhood memory, but it was certainly not as elaborate a chase scene as we get here. The integration of  boats, cars and motorcycles made for a terrific sequence. The main problem is that there are at least two more car chase scenes after this and neither is as exciting. Gary Oldman is in this thing collecting a paycheck and playing another evil villain. His part is so underwritten that when he gets to the big moral equivocation his character launches into, we are already laughing before Samuel Jackson does.

Mostly, I’m just filling space here. There are some moral qualms you can have about using genocide as a plot point in a comedy, and the use of vehicles as terror weapons may be offensive as well. This movie is too silly to take seriously. Go get a refill on your Dr. Pepper or other beverage of choice. Don’t worry about missing anything while you are gone, they will still be cracking wise and shooting crap up when you get back. As a matter of fact, you might want to go to the bathroom as well.