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Eternals (2021) Review

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Eternals

Time: 157 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Gemma Chan as Sersi
Richard Madden as Ikaris
Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo
Lia McHugh as Sprite
Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos
Lauren Ridloff as Makkari
Barry Keoghan as Druig
Don Lee as Gilgamesh
Harish Patel as Karun
Kit Harington as Dane Whitman
Salma Hayek as Ajak
Angelina Jolie as Thena
Director: Chloé Zhao

The Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years, reunite to battle the evil Deviants.

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My interest in the MCU has been gradually decreasing ever since Endgame, and while I still enjoy the post Endgame instalments (especially the recently released Shang-Chi), there were only a few movies I was really looking forward to. One of these was Eternals, mainly because it’s a very different kind of Marvel movie focussing on completely different characters. Not only that, but it also has a great cast, and the director is Chloe Zhao, who earlier this year won Oscars and acclaim for Nomadland. Then the trailers eventually were starting to release and it looked rather disappointing, looking much blander than I was expecting. Then strangely, the reviews for Eternals turned out rather mixed, and if anything that got me excited for the. There was clearly something different about this movie from the others, and I was very interested to see it for myself. While it definitely has issues, I really liked Eternals on the whole.

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First and foremost, Eternals is not a traditional MCU movie and in a way, it is a welcome break for the franchise. I will say though that it is a bit of a mess. It is refreshing seeing a different structure than the one we see in pretty much every other MCU movies. There is a lot of worldbuilding, especially as if it’s for a side of the MCU we’ve not seen or known about before. While I was interested in it, it’s not like it didn’t come with its problems. It feels like there’s so much information that needed to be conveyed, and a lot of this is done through numerous flashbacks over the course of the movie, specifically focussing on the Eternals. You could say that Eternals has something of a non-linear narrative, and it doesn’t always work. It’s not unusual for a Marvel movie to have flashbacks but the Eternals are 10 immortal beings who have lived for centuries, and so there’s many moments that are presented to us, and most of the time it interrupts the flow and pacing. I really do feel like they could’ve pulled back on the flashbacks, an example of this is one involving Brian Tyree Henry’s character which lasts less than a minute and doesn’t end up adding anything. All this exposition is probably why it’s the second longest Marvel movie at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long. It doesn’t help that much of the main plotline is the Eternals reuniting, so it feels like its on repeat until it approaches the third act.

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The plot itself isn’t the best, essentially it’s about the Eternals trying to save the world from ending. Not only is the premise very simple and familiar, but it’s also feels meaningless at this point given the countless other “save the world” plots from the other Marvel movies. With that said, I was still invested in the plot, and I think its to do with everything around the plot. For one, despite the overload of information, I was interested in the lore and the worldbuilding. There’s particularly a scene where Gemma Chan’s character is being presented a lot of information, and I loved the way that it was shown on screen. The characters also got me invested, and it really helped that despite the large scale and stakes, Chloe Zhao approaches the story from a very human angle like Nomadland (and presumably The Rider which I haven’t seen yet). She deliberately focuses on the human emotions and the relationships between these beings who have lived many centuries and generations. The downside is that it unfortunately clashes with the Marvel formula that Eternals still partly follows, and in a way it makes this one movie feel like two very different movies struggling to meet a compromise. For what its worth though, it made the story a lot more interesting to watch. The reason I was still invested in the third act was because of the characters, making the stakes feel more personal despite the scale. I also appreciate the subtle moments and it actually seems like its taking the audiences seriously in a way. As expected the MCU has humour that’s hit or miss, and being placed in this movie makes it play even worse and out of place. I feel obligated to mention that Eternals has two credits scenes as expected, teasing a follow up if it ever happens. However it will be disappointing if Eternals doesn’t get a sequel, because even before the credits roll, the film ends on a cliff-hangar. While it does make an effective hook for the sequel, it is tempting fate if we don’t see a continuation.

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One of the biggest selling points of this movie is the huge and talented cast. A lot of attention has been going towards the diversity and representation with the cast and characters, and its very well earned. Some characters get more focus than others, but when you essentially have 10 main characters that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of relationships between a lot of the Eternals that feel very real and genuine. I also like how a lot of the characters are very distinct and different from each other. Unfortunately, two of the weaker performers/characters are the leads, Gemma Chan as Sersi, and Richard Madden as Ikaris. Sersi is the closest character to being a main protagonist, and despite Chan’s solid performance I found her rather boring and not that interesting. I also found Madden quite underwhelming as Ikaris (who is pretty much Marvel’s Superman in terms of powers), and he was not that interesting especially when he’s placed alongside the other Eternals. With that said, there is a point later on in the movie where Madden and Ikaris do vastly improve and become more interesting. Also while I earlier mentioned that the relationships between the Eternals are believable, the relationship between Sersi and Ikaris felt very weak. It just feels fake and stiff, Chan and Madden barely have any chemistry, and annoyingly it’s the most prominent on screen relationship in the film. Salma Hayek plays Ajak, the leader of the Eternals, and while she’s good in the part, she has the least amount of screentime of the 10 main characters. So while its established that she means something to each member of the Eternals, its hard to get emotionally connected to her.

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Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo is quite funny and of the cast probably brings the most amount of levity. Lia McHugh as Sprite was a mixed bag, I oscillated between liking and not liking the character. The rest of the Eternals I will be mentioning really needed a lot more screentime than they received. Angelina Jolie as Thena had an interesting character setup especially as she’s on the more unstable side, but she’s strangely underutilised outside of the action. She is good at the action, I liked her powers, and Jolie is really good at the silent warrior thing, but unfortunately that’s really all there is to the character outside of her relationship with Gilgamesh, played by Ma Dong-seok. Gilgamesh was enjoyable and likable, and I liked his powers, and I wish we saw more of him. Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos was also one of the highlights of the film for me. Barry Keoghan as Druig was probably the most interesting of the Eternals, especially how he’s quite different in both personality and powers. Lauren Ridloff as Makkari is definitely held back by her lack of screentime but makes a strong impression, especially with her speed powers.

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There’s a few other supporting actors I want to mention. One of the cast members is Kit Harington as a guy named Dane Whitman, who early in the movie is Sersi’s boyfriend. He’s really only in the movie for a few scenes but he’s likable, and shares believable chemistry with Gemma Chan. He’s basically just in this movie to establish him here before he plays a more prominent part in future instalments (if they ever happen). There’s also Harish Patel as Kingo’s manager who is along for the ride with the Eternals for much of the film, and he’s quite fun to watch. The villains aren’t special but I didn’t have a problem with them, with the exception of one. Many of the physical enemies the Eternals are up against are Deviants, monsters they were sent to fight and destroy. They work well enough as physical threats, even if they are nothing special. However there is one deviant voiced by Bill Skarsgard that’s focused on and given some prominence, and I don’t really get why. I only mention this because he’s forced into the third act for some reason, and he just distracts if anything.

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Chloe Zhao’s work as the director of Eternals definitely helps the overall film. You do get to see the massive scope and scale of the film. The cinematography is really nice, it’s a beautiful movie to look at, especially with some stunning landscapes. The action sequences are quite good, even if there’s not a lot of them. The visual effects could be disappointingly average a lot of the time, but I was able to look past them. I like how a lot of the Eternals’ powers are represented, a highlight being Makkari’s speed power. The score from Ramin Djawadi is great as expected, and it really elevates the movie.

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Eternals has its fair share of issues, some of the characters needed more screentime and fleshing out, and there is an overload of exposition which results in the narrative being a little messy and disjointed. With that said, it’s one of the most interesting MCU films in a while, if only in terms of how it differs from the other movies. While the central plot is nothing special, the characters and their relationships made it easy for me to get invested in what was happening. Additionally, Chloe Zhao’s direction also really made it one of the most unique MCU entries. It would be a shame if Eternals doesn’t get a follow up because its genuinely showing signs of the franchise somewhat changing, even if it makes them at odds with the formula it unfortunately still needs to somewhat follow. I would not put it in my top 10 favourite movies in the franchise, but I do think it’s at least worth checking out.

Game of Thrones Season 8 (2019) Spoiler Review

Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Kit Harington as Jon Snow
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth
Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei
Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
John Bradley as Samwell Tarly
Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
Conleth Hill as Varys
Rory McCann as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane
Jerome Flynn as Bronn
Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane
Joe Dempsie as Gendry
Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm
Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont
Hannah Murray as Gilly
Carice van Houten as Melisandre
Creator: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss

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I’m aware that my review of this season is quite late, but I wanted to post my thoughts about it, because it’s become quite the source of controversy and debate. Game of Thrones Season 8 was one of the most highly anticipated pieces of media to come out this year, I’m a fan of the show and so I was definitely looking forward to it. However, this season has divided its audience to say the least, particularly the back half of the season has caused a lot of conflicts and outrage. The season is disappointing for sure, and I get a lot of the criticisms, but I don’t dislike it.

This is the first time I’m doing a spoiler review for a TV show, I just don’t think I can go into much depth with how I felt without doing so, especially with it being the final season. HBO offered D&D (Game of Thrones showrunners and writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss) 10 episodes but they turned them down and settled on having 6 episodes instead, and I think everyone can agree that this was the biggest problem with the season. I’m not going to get very pointy and accusatory about it, but it is worth pointing out that after this show, their next project will be a Star Wars movie, and it did feel like they wanted to get this season over with pretty quickly. The biggest example of the rushed feeling is after the White Walkers are dealt with in the first half of the season. While I would’ve liked the direct conflict with the Walkers to be more than just one episode (the first two episodes of setup before the third don’t count), this shortage of episodes is evidence in Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”. It’s a good episode on the whole, but it’s wrapping up the aftermath of the battle at Winterfell before suddenly going into Daenerys getting ready to take King’s Landing. Not to mention halfway through it cuts to them sailing to King’s Landing the same episode they started out at Winterfell. We are used to characters having to take more than an episode to get from one place to the other even when the recent seasons started reducing their episode numbers, so it was really jarring. Then there’s that buildup to Daenerys’s controversial turn, or lack thereof. I’m not going to be on that side of people who said that her rampage was completely out of character, nor will I be one of the people who says that it was foreshadowed and already set up perfectly. I’m in the middle on this and really I see both sides. It makes somewhat sense that she’d be going down that path, and I’m pretty sure that she’s always going to end up going there. However, it feels like there was some development missing before the massacre at King’s Landing. Granted Tyrion’s explanation to Jon in the cell in the finale does sort of put things in perspective. Nonetheless I really would’ve liked to see the development of it all, and an episode before Episode 5 “The Bells” at the very least would’ve at least somewhat set it up better.

Generally, the acting has been good in the show but this season really everyone brings their A game to their performances, no matter the handling of their characters. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is as usual great and one of the standouts. His character ever since season 5 really hasn’t been as smart as he once was, yet this change in character is made work by Dinklage. He’s particularly great in the last two episodes of the season. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister is also really good as usual, he’s really gone on such a long journey and changes these past 8 seasons. With that said, much has been said about his choice in episode 4 to return back to Cersei, and yeah, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some mixed feelings about that, even if it seems to makes some sense. Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister unfortunately only appears in a few episodes, and I really would’ve liked to have seen her serve as more as a direct threat to Daenerys, instead of just waiting for half the season and being killed off a couple episodes later. Still, with the little that she’s given she does a lot. The character that was mistreated the most this season though was Jon Snow. Kit Harington tries his hardest and is good in a few moments, but he’s really let down by the writing. Almost half his dialogue is “You are my queen”, “She is my/our queen”, “The Night King is coming”. I get that he’s in love with Daenerys and all that, but with the exception of the last episode he really has no motivation outside of just doing what she wants. He basically has no drive throughout and much of who we saw in the previous 7 seasons aren’t here. He has two in character decisions this season, the first being to tell everyone about his heritage, the second being making the final decision to kill Daenerys, outside of that he just felt like a glorified extra. If we are talking about the character that really needed this season to work better though, it was of Bran Stark, especially considering the final episode. Actor Isaac Hempstead Wright definitely plays the role exactly as it was written, but again, it’s really the writing that’s the problem. Bran really just doesn’t come across as human. I get that he’s the Three Eyed Raven now but it would’ve worked better if we could even see a semblance of the old Bran, even if he was changed. I mean even Max von Sydow’s Three Eyed Raven seemed more human. It made Bran unlikable and no doubt made it very difficult to accept him becoming king at the end.

Characters I didn’t really have problems with included Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Rory McCain as Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, and Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth, and they played their roles well. Turner especially has come a long way since the first season. However, the standout performance of the entire season was Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. When it comes to her acting the past seasons, some people have been a little mixed on her performances (even though I thought she was already pretty good). However, she really gave it her all here. Then the last half of the season when Daenerys seems to take that dramatic turn, Emilia genuinely sells that side to her, and without it I’m not entirely sure I’d be on board with her change without her work. It’s made even better considering how Emilia wasn’t exactly on board with how Daenerys would be acting, yet she brought everything into her performance.

The direction of the show has generally really good, and that still applies this season. Highlights were episodes 3 and 5. The Battle of Winterfell was big and bloody and among the best battle episodes in the series. However, I’ll be one of those people and say that they definitely needed to turn up the brightness (though it wasn’t that bad). As for episode 5, I’ll admit that I heard about what Daenerys does before I even got a chance to watch the episode. However, I didn’t know that it would be an utter massacre. It really places you right there as everything it happening, especially when it places you from the perspective from Arya, ‘Plot Armor’ (or whatever it is now) aside, it’s like a Children of Men esque scene where you see the horror of everything from someone right in the carnage. The score by Ramin Djawadi is the most consistently great thing in the show, it’s always been good but he’s really delivered here, with some of the best songs in the entire series being from this season.

As this is the last season, I’ll talk about the last episode of the whole show and my thoughts on it. I did read the ‘leaks’ about the last episode and I wasn’t even that surprised by what I saw. However I do like that The Iron Throne was destroyed, one of the things not in the leaks. The first half of the episode was great and fitting, slow building and showing the aftermath of the destruction. I know some people didn’t like it wasn’t bold and dramatic, with a bunch of conflict, but I loved that everything felt much more lowkey and personal. After Daenerys is killed by Jon however, it does a time jump and things felt weird. They wrap everything up really quickly, but it feels drawn out, like they are aware of the runtime and so try to make scenes longer than they have to be. Not sure how it’s possible to make a choosing of someone to be King to be a little drawn out and almost boring but this episode achieved it. Which brings me to another thing, Bran becomes King. Now the idea didn’t seem absurd (and it seems like it was George RR. Martin’s plan anyway), however it’s how Bran was shown these past episodes that made it really hard to accept. As I previously said, the problem is that he’s barely human, so I’m not even sure what the point was, even if he was intended to be just a figurehead while Tyrion and the council actually run the kingdom. I mean Bran seemed much more interested in finding the final dragon than actually being King. In the end, most of the plot decisions makes sense, and many of the characters were at fitting places in the end. Even Jon’s ending, which although presented as rejoining the Night’s Watch, seemed much more like him becoming The King Beyond the Wall. It just felt like something was missing. With that said, with every ‘improved fan ending’ that I come across, I just appreciate the ending we actually got. It’s underwhelming for sure, but it actually feels like an ending for the show and not just fanservice.

So yes, I will say that Season 8 of Game of Thrones is a bit of a disappointment for me. The fact that everything was rushed was the largest contributing factor to it. Both this and season 5 are probably the worst seasons (at least season 8 didn’t have that subplot in Dorne). Despite all of the problems in this season (and there are many), I can’t say that I’m entirely unhappy about how the show ended. There are some great parts, performances are great (Emilia Clarke the MVP), the direction and particularly the large scale battles are great, and while the execution and the lead up to it was rocky, I wasn’t against the direction the show went in at the end. If you haven’t watched the show and are still reading this review, I still say that the show is worth checking out. Even though the show has been slowly declining, the first 4 seasons are fantastic and even the ones following them are still pretty good as well. I don’t regret getting invested in this show and I’m looking forward to seeing the planned spin offs.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Jay Baruchel as Hiccup
Cate Blanchett as Valka
Craig Ferguson as Gobber the Belch
America Ferrera as Astrid
Jonah Hill as Snotlout Jorgenson
Kit Harington as Eret
Justin Rupple and Kristen Wiig as Tuffnut and Ruffnut Thorston
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs Ingerman
F. Murray Abraham as Grimmel
Gerard Butler as Stoick the Vast (in flashbacks)
Director: Dean DeBlois

When Toothless gets drawn away by the sudden and inexplicable appearance of female Lightfury and a new threat finds their way into Hiccup’s crowded dragon utopia, both human and dragon alike are prompted to begin a search for the mythical ancestral home of dragons: a hidden world thought to exist only in myth. A tale of friendship, fate, and ultimately letting go.

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I really like the How to Train Your Dragon movies. The first movie, while not accurate to the books, was pretty good, very well animated and had a good story. I also remember How to Train Your Dragon 2 being my favourite animated movie of 2014, surprisingly really great and way deeper than I thought it would be. So naturally I was interested in the third movie, which would end up being the first 2019 movie I’ve seen so far. While it’s not as good as the second movie, The Hidden World is a satisfying end to the trilogy.

Something about the second movie that surprised to me was that it was darker and took on more serious themes. The Hidden World on the other hand is a much more lighthearted movie. With that, it’s good but doesn’t quite achieve the same levels of complexity as the second movie. There isn’t much character development beyond Hiccup’s arc, really there’s nothing special to say about the characters outside of Hiccup. Plotwise, it is the weakest of the 3 and is more simple in comparison. While the second movie stuck with me more, the third movie still worked for what it is. It does go for more cutesy moments, especially with the moments with Toothless and Light Fury (the female white Night Fury that Toothless forms a romance with), but is genuinely sweet and heartfelt throughout. Many moments are probably appealing to kids but it doesn’t feel forced at all. Really I liked this movie throughout. The Hidden World also ends the series on a good note, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be doing any more movies after this and I don’t think it should, it’s the perfect ending for all these stories.

The surviving characters from the second movie all return and while not all of them worked greatly, they all still had their part in the story, even if Hiccup is really the only character who gets a ton of development. The returning voice cast with Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are all good once again. The villain of the movie (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) is a pretty standard villain honestly and could be substituted by any regular villain but he’s alright enough at being a threat to the main characters.

The level of the animation is the most consistent part with all 3 movies. The Hidden World is just as well animated as the other two, if not more. It, just like the previous two, is directed by Dean DeBlois. It’s a very colourful and visually stunning movie, and it particularly shines when it involves the dragons flying. Everything from the characters, dragons, backgrounds and everything else were animated perfectly.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is not at the level of the second movie, but its good. It’s entertaining, light hearted and fun throughout. If you liked the previous How to Train Your Dragon movies, you’ll definitely like this movie, and was a solid conclusion to a really good animation trilogy.