Early reviews pegged this as the worst-reviewed Marvel Cinematic Universe movie so far (since it started in 2008) – and the first one to get a ‘rotten’ score (below 60 per cent, currently standing at 46 per cent) on acclaimed film rating aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.

Fortunately, that’s way over the top (and a little harsh) as it’s more than commendable superhero fare – even if it's arguably towards the bottom end of the MCU pantheon with the likes of Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk – that tries to change things up a bit, and move the franchise in an ambitious new direction.

And it nicely sets things up for future standalone movies with its mid and end-credit scene ‘stingers’.

Ten superhuman ‘Eternals’ – led by Salma Hayek’s healing-ability powered Ajak, and including Richard Madden’s cosmic energy-wielding Ikaris, Gemma Chan’s physical-matter manipulating Sersi and Angelina Jolie’s elite warrior Thena – are sent by the Celestial Arishem to Earth in 5,000 BC to exterminate the invading alien-esque Deviants, to protect humanity.

Since killing the last of them in 1521 across some iconic time periods and global locales, the ageless group have lived apart for nearly 500 years awaiting Arishem’s return, and have become attached to the planet – with Sersi for example forming a relationship with Kit Harrington’s Dane Whitman.

But when Arishem actually reveals that the mission of the Eternals was not to just fight the Deviants, but prepare the Earth for an ‘Emergence’ – an event in which the planet must be destroyed to continue the ‘celestial’ goal of populating the entire universe – it doesn’t sit well with some of the crew.

What ensues is a more methodical and thoughtful superhero film with some well-established characters and visually breathtaking direction from Chloe Zhao – who won the Best Director Oscar for Nomadland this year. And there’s a decent twist too.

But she does struggle in some obvious areas, with the trademark Marvel humour falling flat alongside the sometimes ‘plodding’ – to non-comicbook fans at least – storytelling.

Eternals are no Guardians of the Galaxy in the ‘fun’ stakes for sure.

Despite it never getting higher or lower than ‘middling’ territory throughout the ‘No Time to Die’ length duration – it’s an intriguingly contemplative adventure that adds a new Marvel family in a relatively competent fashion.

And on top of that it ends up introducing (or hinting at) several new characters with the likes of Eros/Starfox, Black Knight and Blade – which is solid ‘fanboy’ treatment.

So, while the Eternals probably won’t etch an everlasting memory – it could just provide an important one for the future of Marvel.

For that alone, it could achieve immortality.

ESP Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Don Lee, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Harish Patel, Kit Harrington, Harry Styles & The Voices of Bill Skarsgard, David Kaye, Patton Oswalt & Mahershala Ali

Running Time: 2 Hrs 37 Mins

Director: Chloe Zhao

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