starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie
screenplay by Chloé Zhao and Chloe Zhao & Patrick Burleigh
directed by Chloé Zhao
by Walter Chaw Chloé Zhao's follow-up to her Oscar-winning Nomadland is one of those movies that is more interesting to talk about than to watch--which, in the final analysis, may be the poet laureate of South Dakota's most distinctive auteur hallmark. Despite that it's the twenty-some-odd instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals is defiantly a Chloé Zhao picture, and the amount of subversion required to make it so highlights both MCU overlord Kevin Feige's desperation to shake the diversity monkey off his back and his fatal lack of understanding of women creators at the most rudimentary level. In theory that doesn't matter much if all these folks are asked to do is direct the parts that aren't generic action scenes, committee-generated in the house style and dropped into the middle of whatever flaccid drama is possible under the narrative conditions like dead paratroopers into a live warzone. What you see in Eternals is a result of what feels less like a partnership with its attendant compromises than like a quiet war waged in the spaces between a boss who thinks he knows what's happening and a hired gun who's pretty clever about having her way no matter the amount of oversight. By the third or fourth laborious exposition dump by the least comfortable, least seasoned and natural actor in the loaded cast (that would be 14-year-old Lia McHugh), it's pretty clear that Zhao's empathy for unaffected performers rambling in lingering magic-hour landscapes has won the day. Good one, Zhao.