Eternals (2021)


Eternals (2021)

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), an unexpected tragedy forces the Eternals, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years, out of the shadows to reunite against mankind's most ancient enemy, the Deviants.
IMDb   N/A
Metacritic   55 %
TheMovieDb    7.1 /10
FilmAffinity   6.2 /10
Release Date2021-10-28
GenreAction, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Content Rating
CompanyMarvel Studios

Eternals (film)

Eternals is a 2021 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics race of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Chloé Zhao, who wrote the screenplay with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo. It stars an ensemble cast including Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, and Harish Patel. In the film, the Eternals, an immortal alien race, emerge from hiding after thousands of years to protect Earth from their evil counterparts, the Deviants.

In April 2018, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that a film based on the Eternals had begun development, with Ryan and Kaz Firpo hired to write the script in May. Zhao was set to direct the film by late September, and was given significant creative freedom with the film, which resulted in filming on location more than previous MCU films. Zhao re-wrote the screenplay, which Burleigh was later reported to have also contributed to. Principal photography took place from July 2019 to February 2020, at Pinewood Studios as well as on location in London and Oxford, England, and in the Canary Islands.

Eternals premiered in Los Angeles on October 18, 2021, and was released theatrically in the United States on November 5, as part of Phase Four of the MCU. The film received mixed reviews, with critics praising it's themes and visuals, but criticizing its exposition, pacing, runtime, and lack of character development.


In 5000 B.C., ten superpowered Eternals are sent by the Celestial Arishem to Earth to fight the invasive Deviants. Over the millennia, they protect humanity from the Deviants but are not allowed to interfere in human affairs. They kill the last of the Deviants in the 1500s, and the group's opinions differ about their continued responsibilities and their relationship with humankind. They spend the next five hundred years mostly separated from each other, waiting for Arishem to send them home.

In the present day, Sersi and Sprite live together in London. After Sersi was left by her partner Ikaris over five hundred years earlier, she now has a relationship with Dane Whitman, who works at the Natural History Museum. When the trio is attacked by the Deviant Kro, Ikaris appears and chases the creature away. Realizing the Deviants have returned, they prepare to assemble the remaining Eternals. They travel to South Dakota only to find that their leader, Ajak, had been killed by Kro before he went to London, gaining her healing powers as a result.

Sersi learns that Ajak has given her the ability to communicate with Arishem, who reveals that the mission of the Eternals was not to fight the Deviants but to prepare Earth for the "Emergence". Arishem explains that for millions of years, the Celestials have planted their seeds in populated planets so a new Celestial can be born. The Celestials sent the Deviants to destroy the apex predators of the planet to ensure the development of life, but the Deviants evolved and hunted the planet's populations, resulting in the Eternals being sent to cull them. Arishem explains that Earth has reached the necessary population for the birth of the Celestial Tiamut, which will result in the Earth's destruction.

Having learned to love humanity, the Eternals reassemble and decide to prevent the Emergence. However, Kro and the Deviants attack them. Kro kills and feeds on Gilgamesh, gaining the ability to fully speak along with his powers, before fleeing. After cremating Gilgamesh, they visit Phastos, who reveals that through the Uni-Mind, a connection between all Eternals, they can allow Druig to put Tiamut to sleep using his mind control powers. However, Kingo leaves the group because he does not want to face Arishem and Ikaris reveals he was informed of the Emergence by Ajak centuries before and fed her to the Deviants to prevent her from stopping it. Sprite joins Ikaris because of her unrequited love for him.

After Makkari locates the place of Emergence at the foot of an active volcano in the Indian Ocean, the Eternals battle Ikaris and Sprite. Kro, who wants revenge on the Eternals, arrives and attacks them. Thena fights and kills him. Druig knocks out Sprite, and the Eternals work together to subdue Ikaris. Phastos activates the Uni-Mind, which Ikaris joins out of his love for Sersi. Druig is unable to stop Tiamut, so Sersi, who manipulates substances, turns Tiamut into ice. Plagued by feelings of guilt, Ikaris commits suicide, flying towards the sun. Sersi, who still has the Uni-Mind, uses the last of its energy to turn Sprite into a human to allow her to age.

The team parts ways, with Thena, Druig, and Makkari departing on their spaceship Domo to find other Eternals. Sersi, Phastos, Kingo, and Sprite remain on Earth. As Dane professes his love for Sersi and is about to reveal a secret about his family history, she, along with Phastos and Kingo, are remotely dragged into space by Arishem, who is displeased that they chose to sacrifice a Celestial for the people of the planet, but elects to spare them if their memories show that they are worthy of living. He vows to return for judgment before he disappears into a singularity, taking them with him.

In a mid-credits scene, Thena, Makkari, and Druig are visited by the Eternal Eros, the brother of Thanos, and his assistant Pip, who offer their help. In a post-credits scene, Whitman opens an old chest inherited from his ancestors that contains the legendary Ebony Blade, while an off-screen voice questions him if he is ready for it.


  • Gemma Chan as Sersi:An empathetic Eternal with a strong connection to humans and the Earth, who can manipulate inanimate matter through physical contact. Sersi has been in love with Ikaris for centuries and has a strong connection with Sprite. She poses as a museum curator on Earth while dating Dane Whitman. Producer Kevin Feige described Sersi as the lead of the film. Director Chloé Zhao said she and Chan were interested in creating "a nuanced female superhero that is rarely seen in this genre". Zhao added that Chan "brought a beautiful sense of gentleness, compassion and vulnerability" to the character that would "invite viewers to rethink what it means to be heroic". Chan called Sersi "grounded... a little bit of a free spirit". Chan previously portrayed Minn-Erva in the MCU film Captain Marvel (2019).
  • Richard Madden as Ikaris:A heretic Eternal who can fly and project cosmic energy beams from his eyes, determined to fulfill his purpose. Speaking to the relationship between Ikaris and Sersi, Madden said that they have "a deep level of romance", and "are two opposing sides of how they connect with the world", since Sersi has compassion for humans while Ikaris is more disconnected given the Eternals' long life span. Madden worked to find a way to portray Ikaris in a way that he would not come across as "bored of everything". Zhao's take on Ikaris was influenced by Superman, specifically director Zack Snyder's interpretation of the character in Man of Steel (2013).
  • Angelina Jolie as Thena: An elite warrior Eternal who can form any weapon out of cosmic energy, and develops a close bond with Gilgamesh over the centuries. Jolie trained with various swords, spears, and staffs for the role, as well as taking ballet.
  • Salma Hayek as Ajak:The wise and spiritual leader of the Eternals, who has the ability to heal and is the "bridge" between the Eternals and the Celestials. Changing the character from a man in the comics allowed Hayek to lean into Ajak's femininity and make her the "mother figure" of the Eternals. Hayek was initially hesitant to work with Marvel, assuming she would have a supporting or "grandmother" role.
  • Kit Harington as Dane Whitman: A human who works at the Natural History Museum in London and is dating Sersi.
  • Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo:An Eternal who can project cosmic energy projectiles from his hands. Enamored with fame, Kingo becomes a popular Bollywood film star to blend in on Earth. Nanjiani wanted his performance to combine the wisecracking attitude of John McClane from the Die Hard film series with the look of Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan. He studied Errol Flynn films and some of the original Zorro films to prepare for the role. Nanjiani, who is not a dancer, found learning the Bollywood dances challenging.
  • Lia McHugh as Sprite: An Eternal who can project life-like illusions. Sprite has the physical appearance of a 12-year-old child, with McHugh calling her an "old soul".
  • Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos:An Eternal and an intelligent weapons and technology inventor. He is the first superhero to be depicted as gay in an MCU film.
  • Lauren Ridloff as Makkari:An Eternal who possesses the power of super-speed. The character is the first deaf superhero in the MCU. After starting to run more in anticipation of the role, she shifted to muscle building in order to have "the symmetry of somebody who looks like a sprinter".
  • Barry Keoghan as Druig: An aloof Eternal who can manipulate the minds of others.
  • Don Lee as Gilgamesh: The strongest Eternal, with a deep connection to Thena. Lee pursued the role in order to be an inspiration to the younger generation as the first Korean superhero, and was able to utilize his boxing training for the role.
  • Harish Patel as Karun: Kingo's manager.

Additionally, the Deviant Kro is voiced by Bill Skarsgård, while David Kaye voices the Celestial Arishem the Judge. Haaz Sleiman and Esai Daniel Cross portray Ben and Jack, Phastos' husband and son, respectively; and Zain Al Rafeea portrays a villager who came across the Eternals upon their arrival on Earth. Harry Styles appears in the film's mid-credits scene as Eros / Starfox, the brother of Thanos, along with Patton Oswalt voicing his assistant Pip the Troll; Oswalt previously portrayed the Koenig brothers in the Marvel Television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–2020). Mahershala Ali has an uncredited voice-only cameo role as Eric Brooks / Blade in the post-credits scene, ahead of starring in his own film.



Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said in April 2018 that the studio was actively developing a film based on the Marvel Comics series Eternals, created by Jack Kirby, to release as part of their Phase Four slate of films. Marvel Studios had met with multiple screenwriters, and was believed to be focusing on the character Sersi in the film. Marvel set Ryan and Kaz Firpo to write the script a month later, with their outline including a love story between the characters Sersi and Ikaris. In June, Feige said Marvel was interested in exploring the "ancient aliens kind of sci-fi trope" by having the Eternals be the inspiration for myths and legends throughout the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

During late August, Marvel's director search for Eternals narrowed to a shortlist that included Chloé Zhao—who had also been in the running to direct Marvel's Black Widow (2021)—Nicole Kassell, Travis Knight, and the pair of Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. Zhao approached Marvel Studios about making the film as she had been a fan of the MCU. She wanted to work with the studio to bring her own take and world-building to the franchise, and impressed them with a presentation that Feige described as fascinating, with "reams of visuals". Zhao worked with producer Nate Moore to develop her pitch. The presentation left Marvel concerned that she might take on a different big-studio project instead of Eternals, forcing them to move quickly to secure her, and Zhao was hired as director in September. Zhao hoped to push the scope of the film further than Marvel's Avengers: Endgame (2019), but also wanted it to have intimacy. Zhao described the film as a melting pot of influences, from Kirby's original work, previous MCU projects, Zhao's fandom of the MCU, and her love of science fiction and fantasy films and manga. Speaking specifically to her love of manga, she hoped those influences would create a "marriage of East and West". Zhao cited the TV series Ancient Aliens, the Final Fantasy video game series, the concepts from Yuval Noah Harari's book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and the films of Terrence Malick as her inspirations for the film.

Marvel considered Eternals to be a perfect transition into its next phase of films along with projects such as Captain Marvel (2019), allowing the studio to cast a diverse group of actors to portray the various Eternals. Moore's initial planning documents for the project including the swapping of genders, sexualities, and ethnicities of some characters from the comic books, with Zhao further advocating for this approach. In February 2019, Feige reiterated that Marvel was interested in the Eternals due to Kirby's epic, century-spanning story, with the film version spanning 7,000 years and exploring humanity's place in the cosmos. Zhao noted that the Eternals "have lived among us for so long, the same struggles like identity, purpose, faith, personal freedom versus greater good — all the duality and flaws that make us human". When trying to develop a story that spanned so many years, Marvel realized that the characters would likely be a family unit, with friendship that would "turn into frenemies, and then turn into enemies, and then come back to friendship". Zhao also looked to the Earth as an eleventh character in the film, chronicling its journey alongside the Eternal characters. Marvel also wanted to create more ensemble films that were not crossover films, like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), while introducing relatively unknown characters to audiences as they did with that film's title characters and the Avengers.


"I wanted it to reflect the world we live in. But also I wanted to put a cast together that feels like a group of misfits. I didn't want the jocks. I want you to walk away at the end of the movie not thinking, 'This person is this ethnicity, that person is that nationality.' No. I want you to walk away thinking, 'That's a family.' You don't think about what they represent."

—Zhao on the diverse cast of the film

Angelina Jolie joined the cast in March 2019, reportedly as Sersi, with Kumail Nanjiani and Don Lee cast in undisclosed roles the next month. At that time, the film was expected to feature Marvel Studios' first gay superhero. In May, Richard Madden entered negotiations for the role of Ikaris, and Salma Hayek had entered early negotiations for an undisclosed role the following month. In July, Variety reported that the cast included Jolie, Madden, and Millie Bobby Brown, but Brown denied that she had been cast.

At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Feige officially announced The Eternals with a release date of November 6, 2020. He officially announced the casting of Jolie as Thena, Nanjiani as Kingo, Lee as Gilgamesh, Madden as Ikaris, and Hayek as Ajak, along with Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, and Lia McHugh as Sprite. Zhao looked for actors for each role that could "find a bit of themselves in their character". Feige added that one of these actors was portraying an LGBTQ character, with actor Haaz Sleiman later revealing that Phastos is depicted as gay in the film. Sleiman portrays the character's husband, and the pair have a child in the film. Sleiman felt it was important to depict "how loving and beautiful a queer family can be" rather than the "sexual or rebellious" depiction in some previous media. Feige said the relationship was "always sort of inherent in the story" and he felt it was "extremely well done" in the film, while Sleiman said it was a "thoughtful" depiction.

Eternals is set around eight months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and addresses why the Eternals did not interfere in any past conflicts in the MCU. Both Feige and Moore said the film would have "major ripple effects" on the future of the MCU, and at times, it was "a challenge" to balance the grounded nature of the MCU with the "mythic grandeur" of the Eternals property.


By the film's official announcement in July 2019, principal photography had begun at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Ben Davis served as director of photography, after doing so on several previous MCU films. Zhao said Marvel Studios allowed her creative freedom to shoot the film on location, "exactly the way wanted to shoot" it. She was able to use a similar style to her previous films, including 360° shots and working with the same camera and rigs as was used for her film Nomadland (2020), which Zhao was set to complete back-to-back with The Eternals. Zhao felt that she "got lucky in that Marvel wants to take risks and do something different." Zhao cited The Revenant (2015) as a primary influence when composing the film's action sequences.

Gemma Chan and Barry Keoghan were in talks to join the cast in August 2019. Chan previously portrayed Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel, but reports noted that she was potentially being looked at by Marvel to play a separate character in this film. Since Minn-Erva dies in that film, Chan had felt that it was unlikely she would return to the MCU, but after working on the film she was told by Feige that the studio wanted to "make better use" of her in a future project. This led to Chan auditioning for Sersi, one of the last actresses to be considered for the role. Chan later described Sersi as the most difficult role for the film to cast. Chan and Keoghan were confirmed to be cast in the film at the D23 Expo in August, in the roles of Sersi and Druig, respectively, along with Kit Harington as Dane Whitman. Chan said she and Marvel Studios were surprised by how soon after Captain Marvel her new MCU role came, with both assuming that it would have been a project further in the future. Harish Patel was cast at the end of August as Karun, Kingo's manager, and filmed his role from September 2019 until January 2020.

By early November, filming took place in the Canary Islands. The filming cast and crew, including Jolie and Madden, had to be evacuated from a shooting location on the island of Fuerteventura when an explosive device was found there. The device was thought to be a remnant armament from a Nazi base. Later that month, Zain Al Rafeea joined the cast. In early January 2020, filming took place outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in Oxford, England, as well as Hampstead Heath and in Camden in London, under the working title Sack Lunch. Chan said the filming process felt very different from what she experienced on Captain Marvel, explaining that Eternals shot more on location and utilized natural light while Captain Marvel had more studio work and bluescreen. Filming wrapped on February 4, 2020.


In March 2020, Scanline VFX, one of the companies working on the film's visual effects, confirmed that they would be working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, Disney shifted much of their Phase Four slate of films due to the pandemic, moving The Eternals' release date to February 12, 2021. In August, the film's title was officially shortened from The Eternals to Eternals, and the next month, the release date was pushed back to November 5, 2021. Reshoots had taken place by mid-November 2020.

In January 2021, Zhao revealed that she was also a writer on the film, with Patrick Burleigh soon revealed to have worked on the script as well. Additional filming occurred in Los Angeles in early February, also under the working title Sack Lunch. Dylan Tichenor and Craig Wood serve as co-editors of the film. Tichenor said Zhao usually edits her own films and has "strong opinions", but on Eternals she was relying on Tichenor and Wood due to the size of the production and the ongoing awards season for Nomadland. Tichenor added that Zhao respected the pair's editing experience and point of view, and they made their first cut of the film without much input from her. They began adjusting the film based on Zhao's feedback, and were still working on the editing in April 2021. At the end of the month, Zhao said editing for the film was in its "final stretch", and Jashaun St. John was revealed to appear in the film, after previously starring in Zhao's film Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015).

At the end of May 2021, with the release of the first teaser trailer and poster for the film, the official writing credits were revealed: Zhao was credited as the screenwriter, both as a solo contributor and as part of a writing team with Burleigh, while Ryan and Kaz Firpo received story credit. Additionally, Gil Birmingham was revealed to have been cast in the film. In July 2021, Writers Guild of America West presented the film's final writing credits, awarding Ryan and Kaz Firpo screenplay credit along with Zhao and the team of Zhao and Burleigh, in addition to their story credit. Moore believed the studio had "bit off as much as we could chew" with the film, creating one that "felt urgent and present and had pace, but also took time to reflect back over the centuries".

At the film's world premiere, Matt Donnelly of Variety tweeted that Harry Styles made an appearance in a post-credits scene as Eros, Thanos' brother in the comics, which was not shown in early press screenings of the film. Zhao later revealed that she "kept tabs on" since his appearance in Christopher Nolan's 2017 film Dunkirk, believing that he "makes me think of Eros as a character".


Ramin Djawadi composed the score for the film, after previously doing so for Marvel's Iron Man (2008). Two songs from the film's soundtrack, "Across the Oceans of Time" and "Eternals Theme", were released as singles on October 22, 2021, while the full album was released on November 3.


The first footage of the film was released in May 2021 as part of a promotional video from Marvel Studios celebrating their films and a return to movie theaters. Though the footage was limited and "vague", Hoai-Tran Bui at /Film still felt it was "very exciting". Chaim Gartenberg of The Verge felt one of the biggest moments of the footage was seeing Jolie wielding a sword made of light. He was also encouraged that Eternals appeared to be one of Marvel's first films to "deliver on years-long promise of creating films with more diverse casts". Nerdist's Michael Arbeiter said the footage was quick, but felt that it "manages an air of wonderment".

The first teaser for the film was released on May 24, 2021. Gartenberg felt the teaser was light on plot elements, with it instead focusing on the "civilization-spanning scope of the superhero team and its members throughout human history". He also believed the film was "a big swing" from Marvel Studios to entice audiences with a lesser-known comics property, but believed that it would succeed due to its diverse cast of well-known actors and Zhao's status as "one of the most exciting directors around". io9's Charlies Pulliam-Moore felt the trailer was a "multiple millennia-spanning recap of Earth's history", and said it was unclear how much the larger MCU would impact on the film outside of a brief reference to the Avengers at the end of the trailer. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Nick Romano felt the teaser was a combination of "thrilling, goosebump-inducing moments" and some jokes. Erik Adams of The A.V. Club felt the spot teased some fresh angles for the MCU in a similar way to Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and he enjoyed the images of Kingo's Bollywood dance, Sprite performing karaoke, and the end scene of the Eternals eating together and joking about the Avengers. After seeing the teaser, Variety's Adam B. Vary described the film as "unquestionably a Chloé Zhao movie", but wished more action set pieces were featured in the teaser to see how Zhao would approach them in the film. Adele Ankers of IGN discussed the poster that was released at the same time as the trailer, highlighting how the Eternals appear in silhouette against a sunlit background which she described as "another taste of Chloé Zhao's signature filming style and the use of natural light to illuminate a frame" that would be seen in the film. Upon release, the teaser quickly became the number one trending video on YouTube and amassed 77 million global views in its first 24 hours. Disney's president of marketing Asad Ayaz said the teaser was designed to just be an introduction to the characters and tone and not give much of the film away, adding the marketing team would be "very judicious" on when more material would be revealed, while also using the releases of Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings before Eternals to help expose audiences to the characters.

The final trailer was released in August 2021, with Ethan Shanfeld and Manori Ravindran of Variety feeling it was "more serious in tone" than the teaser with the Eternals "grappling with the prospect of emerging after centuries living apart in order to help humans". Entertainment Weekly's Devan Coggan felt that the trailer was the "best glimpse yet" of the film and gave a "sense of the vast scale and scope of the film", while answering "one important question" about the absence of the Eternals during the conflict against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Aaron Couch at The Hollywood Reporter said the trailer "reveals much of plot as well as its characters' powers, teasing the answers to key questions about who the Eternals answer to, their relationship to Earth and why they ultimately didn't intervene" in the conflict against Thanos.

In October 2021, Lexus released a commercial promoting the film and its Lexus IS 500 sports sedan starring Nanjiani as Kingo, with frequent MCU directors Joe and Anthony Russo guiding its development and Framestore working on the visual effects. Lexus created ten concept cars based on the ten Eternals characters from the film. The IS 500 and Lexus NX are featured in the film.


Eternals had its world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on October 18, 2021, and was screened at the Rome Film Festival on October 24. The film was released theatrically in many European countries on November 3, and in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 5. In September 2021, Disney announced that the film would have an exclusive theatrical release for a minimum of 45 days. Eternals was previously set for release on November 6, 2020, before it was shifted to February 12, 2021, and then to the November 2021 date, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is part of Phase Four of the MCU.

In May 2021, a Chinese state media report excluded Eternals, as well as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, from its list of upcoming MCU films releasing, which Variety noted "added to rumors" that the films would not be released in China, especially since Zhao had become "an unexpected persona non grata" in the country after she was scrutinized by Chinese netizens over her remarks in a 2013 interview for Filmmaker magazine, in which she described China as "a place where there are lies everywhere". By September 2021, Deadline Hollywood reported it remained "an open question" if the Chinese government or Zhao would attempt to "rehabilitate" the situation, but it "seems likely" the film would not release in China following the country's response to Nomadland as well as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings likely not releasing in the country either following backlash from comments made by star Simu Liu in 2017. The film was not released in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman due to the depiction of Phastos and his husband.


Box office

As of November 5, 2021, Eternals has grossed $30.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $38.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $69.1 million.

Advanced ticket sales for Eternals were estimated to be $2.6 million in its first 24 hours, surpassing those for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($1.4 million) and Black Widow ($2 million) during the same time frame, while AMC Theatres had the largest first day sales of 2021 for the film. In November, Fandango reported that pre-sales for Eternals were second-largest of 2021, behind Black Widow.

In October, Boxoffice Pro initially projected that the film would earn $82–102 million within its opening weekend, and around $210–280 million in total domestic box office. At the end of the month, BoxofficePro modified their projections to $67–92 million for the film's opening weekend, and around $165–215 million in total domestic box office, due to mixed early critical reception. According to Deadline Hollywood, Eternals is currently expected to earn $75 million within its domestic opening weekend, and around $150 million globally.

Critical response

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 48%, with an average rating of 5.6/10, based on 289 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "An ambitious superhero epic that soars as often as it strains, Eternals takes the MCU in intriguing—and occasionally confounding—new directions." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100, based on 57 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". It is the lowest-rated MCU film on both websites, and the first installment to be classified as "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, the lowest grade for an MCU film, while PostTrak reported 77% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 57% saying they would definitely recommend it.

Charlotte O'Sullivan of the Evening Standard gave the film four out of five stars, describing it as "lavish", "ambitious", and "more divisive". She praised the fight sequences as "astounding, beautifully paced and crammed with detail", and the whole cast as "fabulous" but felt Chan was a "bit wooden". Robert Abele of TheWrap praised the film's cinematography and felt that "there’s an earnestness to the operatic stakes in Eternals that somehow helps fuse what’s physically spectacular and philosophical about it". Oliver Jones of the Observer stated that the film was "full of wonder and romance and fueled by an agenda and audacity all its own", and felt that "one of the most impressive aspects of the Eternals is how the culturally representative team's identities play into the theme and story in powerful and essential ways". Owen Gleiberman of Variety was disappointed over Zhao's missing filmmaking style that shaped her films The Rider (2017) and Nomadland (2020) to "embrace the straight-up expository conventionality of Marvel filmmaking", but he felt that the film was a "squarely fun and gratifying watch" despite its long runtime, and a "very standard" superhero film. He found the Eternals a "winning prototype of a more dynamically inclusive superhero world". Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three out of four stars, feeling that it "has its flaws; in a nutshell, it's too long... it's got some pretty slow spots midfilm and it's desperately in need of a bit more wit", but adding that "it does have is a palpable, artful mood; this is a movie full of superheroes who spend time thinking and feeling, and of special effects that aren't just zippy but often delicately elegant". She described Eternals as "a different kind of superhero movie; not to everyone's taste, but made for us all".

Three critics gave the film three out of five stars: Linda Marric of The Jewish Chronicle described it as "a mishmash of well-meaning, yet jarringly verbose and bafflingly incoherent nonsense which is only just about saved by some half decent performances"; Nicholas Barber of BBC Culture felt that Zhao's direction of the film "would have been reasonable to expect it to prompt slack-jawed wonder rather than the grudging appreciation of an efficient, workmanlike job"; and Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent said that it "strives for the same expansive soulfulness" as Nomadland "but discovers there's room enough only for the occasional burst of it". Brian Truitt of USA Today gave the film 2.5/4 stars; he felt that "Eternals looks unlike any other Marvel movie and is perhaps the most welcoming for MCU neophytes in forever" due to the utilization of Zhao's "penchant for naturalistic environments", but wrote that the narrative "struggles to juggle its many subplots and tries to do too much in its hefty two hours and 37 minutes". Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press gave the film a similar rating, criticizing its dialogue and fight scenes, but praising its visual effects and Nanjiani's performance that he felt would had "a lot of superheroes standing around in cool suits squinting a lot" without him. Shirley Li of The Atlantic criticized the film's use of exposition but felt that "Zhao's delicate examination of her characters outshines Eternals' duller and more convoluted moments".

Three critics gave the film two out of five stars: Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph felt that it was "constantly engaged in a kind of grit-toothed authenticity theatre, going out of its way to show you it's doing all the things proper cinema does, even though none of them bring any discernible benefit whatsoever to the film at hand"; Kevin Maher of The Times felt that it had "a strange self-sabotaging energy at the heart of this landmark blockbuster"; and Steve Rose of The Guardian felt that it was "not exactly boring—there's always something new to behold—but nor it is particularly exciting, and it lacks the breezy wit of Marvel's best movies", further describing it as being "like coming into Avengers: Endgame cold without having seen any of the preceding installments". K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone felt that the film was "good at telling us where to look, at impressing us with its manufactured sense of grandeur", but added that it lacked "any credible sense of what's actually worth seeing". Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times compared the film to The Tree of Life (2011) and The Old Guard (2020), feeling a "depressing realization that you've just seen one of the more interesting movies Marvel will ever make, and hopefully the least interesting one Chloé Zhao will ever make". Brian Lowry of CNN felt that "hether this millennia-spanning tale of immortals hiding in plain sight on Earth can repeat history will serve as a referendum on the studio's muscle, especially because the movie's structural flaws offset its stunning visuals and strong performances". Kyle Smith of National Review was more critical in his review of the film, describing it as "one of the dumbest, cheesiest, most trite, and least human of the 26 MCU movies".