Caption: Marvel’s The Eternals opened nationwide on Nov. 5. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

With the division and trials arising from the COVID-19 pandemic such as the masks and vaccine battles, as well as the continued discrimination and systemic racism that plagues the United States, it sometimes hard to remember or appreciate the beauty in humanity.  Add on personal life crises and the natural challenges that come from human interactions and people suddenly don’t seem all that great. Nonetheless, despite the rudeness, selfishness and downright cruelty humanity can display, The Eternals tells a story that reminds us to appreciate the beauty in everyone’s unique nature.  Making history with the first Black, deaf superhero, Lauren Ridloff, as well as an all-star cast of diverse, barrier-breaking actors, The Eternals reminds audiences that humans can also be loving, caring and make wonderful memories.

The Eternals comes from the mind and direction of Chloe Zhao, who swept the past Oscars with Nomadland, and the convoluted storyline shows that of a seasoned filmmaker.  The script develops the backgrounds of each character, so much so that you end up investing in  them all.  All 11 Eternals are special in their own ways. 

With that said, this reporter attended the premiere of The Eternals at Angelika Pop-Up in the Union Market area of Northeast, D.C. The event was held in collaboration with nearby Gallaudet University, and a student, Angel Piñero, interviewed actress Ridloff, who plays Makarri, a speedy, sassy superhero who is deaf.  I’m admittedly a sucker for a good background, and I must admit Ridloff’s Q&A with Piña had me engaged in the movie before it ever started.

Having not been very exposed to watching interviews in sign language, I was intrigued and amazed watching the passion in conversation and taking in the  signs for various words as I read the subtitles and listened to the voiceover.  As Gallaudet President, , said, “Where else in the world can you have this experience?” 

Ridloff shared how she manifested the role of Makarri a while back when doing an interview while she was on Broadway.  The actress was in Children of a Lesser God, in 2018. She said she was asked about a role she’d like to play in the future and she said a superhero. 

“I said I’d like to play a superhero and here I am playing a superhero,” Ridloff said.

“You put it out there and you’re responsible for your words.”

Further the conversation made clear how important Ridloff’s appearance was to deaf communities of color. 

“Deaf, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, person of color) people- we need to have the right to claim space,” Ridloff said. She explained that while her appearance on screen is historic and monumental, Hollywood still needs more deaf people of color behind the scenes as well.

The actress also explained that from working on the film she learned all people have their own unique needs and that because of that, no one should ever be afraid to ask for things they need.

“Everybody has their own special needs,” she explained, whether from a specific kind of hair stylist, to a trailer for family members to help the actors’ mental health, to having two or more Sign Language interpreters on set.

Being the sucker for a good story that I am, I was already sucked into The Eternals before the film began having watched the heart-warming Q&A.  However, the story in The Eternals did not disappoint.

The film features Ridloff, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee and Brian Tyree Henry, who plays the first superhero to be depicted as gay in a Marvel film.

The all star cast reminds audiences that everyone is unique in their own ways, there’s strength in diversity and beauty in this beast of a planet we call Earth and in the creatures we call humans.

Marvel films aren’t known for nor really meant for their strong, believable acting, so audiences shouldn’t go expecting that.  But the storyline lends itself to audiences caring about each character and the performances are sincere, dedicated and interesting to watch on screen.

Admittedly, I’m not a Marvel aficionado, but the action scenes are throughout the film- from beginning to end- and remain engaging moment by moment.  The Eternals are sent by the Celestials to fight the Deviants and ultimately learn they have an even bigger battle.

The conflict makes sense and is realistic.  It’s not just watching superheroes with challenges- although with their special powers comes unique trials- but also how these gifted, strong individuals are inspired by life’s fragility and humanity.

Coming off of Zhao’s Nomadland reception, this reporter was expecting a well-directed, exciting narrative and that’s exactly what happened.

Having been excited by Ridloff and Henry’s historic roles, as the first deaf and gay superheroes, both of whom are Black, this reporter wished for more development of their characters- particularly that of Makarri’s (Ridloff).  Henry’s character, Phastos, gets more of a development towards the middle and end of the film, but I did contend their historic roles could have had more of a highlight, but their stories and gifts are still uplifted and become critical to the Eternals’ mission.

Overall, The Eternals is an engaging film with a strong storyline. For more information and tickets visit: https://www.marvel.com/movies/eternals.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor