• by Wes Singleton

Eternals -B-

Rated PG-13, 157 minutes

There's always one in every family - the different one. The latest MCU entry, the flawed but highly entertaining, fun "Eternals" is that one in the Marvel family. Directed by recent Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao in an auspicious follow-up to her acclaimed "Nomadland" last year, "Eternals" has an intense energy and a slightly darker edge than other entries in this genre, and while it could've used a sharper focus, it's also hardly dull.

After the return of half the population in Avengers: Endgame (2019) ignites "the emergence", the Eternals—an immortal alien race created by the Celestials who have secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years—reunite to protect humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants. Led by Ajax (Salma Hayek), the diverse team includes Sersi ("Crazy Rich Asians' Gemma Chan), Ikaris ("Rocketman's Richard Madden), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Druid (Barry Keoghan), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee) and Thena (Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie), each with their own superpowers working together to help save the planet from destruction by the Deviants.

"Eternals" is led by an all-star cast and director and co-writer Zhao, who leaves her own unique stamp in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that's based on the relatively obscure Marvel comics of the same name created by Jack Kirby. Filled with intense action and first-rate, sublime visuals, "Eternals" is on solid footing, but its overly ambitious script, by Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Kaz Firpo and Ryan Firpo, also fills the narrative with simply too many characters to keep track of, and the ones listed above are (mostly) just the good guys.

While flawed, Zhao has created a film that Marvel purists will certainly love, but with her unique view, she is the perfect one to bring "Eternals" together, and I'm hoping she stays with its planned sequels. Of the large cast, Chan shines as Sersi, providing both courage and warmth in her leadership; Madden is also fine as Ikaris, though you won't be surprised at his character's true motives. I also loved Jolie's Thena, mainly because she comes with a stellar kick-butt pedigree, and "Eternals" only adds to it. I wanted to see more of Lee's Gilgamesh, Keoghan's Druid and Ridloff's Makkari, the series' first deaf action superhero, but hoping they see more screen time in future outings.

"Eternals" is too long at 157 minutes, and you're likely to forget some character backstories and for us who aren't comic book enthusiasts, a few character names won’t stick with you, either. The middle act could've been trimmed, but the finale is terrific fun, with great pacing, visuals and action. It's filmed by Ben Davis, who's photographed other MCU outings including "Dr. Strange" and "Captain Marvel," and his lush, detailed photography adds nice context to the film, as does the classic pop-tune soundtrack.

"Eternals" is intense fun and worth your time, though if you're not a huge comic book fan, before you go, it may be worth doing some brief internet research to get some insight as to how this fits with previous MCU outings (I did and it helped greatly). As you might have guessed, there are a couple of "stinger" scenes mid and end credits, so don't jump up too quickly to leave.