Jan 29, 2022

"The Eternals": The First Gay Character in a Marvel Movie, Plus Conversations in Ancient Babylonian

 


I have seen The Eternals (2021), the first movie in the Marvel Universe to depict a gay character (although the comic books have been doing it for years).  It is a very plot-heavy movie, with characters not given enough time to distinguish and lots of unjustified squabbles.  Maybe a trilogy would have been more appropriate.

The premise: A Celestial (God) creates a group of Eternals (immortal superheroes) and gives them the task of saving humans from Deviants (monsters). I found the name Deviant disturbing, since it actually refers to someone who breaks a social norm, especially a sexual norm, and historically it has usually been applied to gay people.  


So the Eternals appear in Neolitic Mesopotamia and save villagers from some monsters by zapping and pushing them out of the way. I'm not sure who has what power, or if they all have everything.  When the monsters are all toast, an Eternal gives a Neolitic boy (Zain Al Rafeea)  an ornate knife, which one expects to become important, but the plotline is dropped.

Too bad -- 18-year old Zain Al Rafeea has an interesting biography.  A Syrian refugee, he was discovered on the streets of Beirut by director Nadine Labaki.  He was cast as the star of Capernaim (2018), for which he won five "best actor" or "breakout actor" awards. He and his family have since settled in Norway.  The Eterrnals is only his second movie role.

On through the centuries, with Eternals zapping monsters but not allowed to do anything else to help humanity.  Really, how many people could be killed by a handful of monsters, compared to drought, disease, earthquakes, wars, and general evil?  They chafe at their limitations, and finally, at the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521, they split up.  Or else their god tells them that the coast is clear, they've killed all the monsters.


Sersei (sounds like Circe) and Ikarus (the boy who flew too close to the sun)(Richard Maden, top photo) live as romantic partners for several generations, before Ikarus leaves the planet.  Sersei becomes a biologist working at the British Museum, and dates a mortal named Dane (Kit Harrington, left).  She also "adopts" Sprite, who is a perpetual child, but sometimes can appear in adult form or something.

I don't know what Ajak does.  (Sounds like Ajax, but a girl).

Kingo (Kumali Nanjiani, below right) becomes a Bollywood star.  So he was created as South Asian in 7000 BC, long before the Indo-Aryans settled in South Asia?  He is flamboyantly feminine, so I figured he was gay, and actually he doesn't display any heterosexual interest.


Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry) settles in America, where he gets married, buys a house, and starts a family, the whole heterosexist American dream, except that he has a husband. not a wife.  It's not hidden: they have two scenes together, and kiss.  Nothing like the extensive groping, grabbing, and tongue-swallowing of Ikarus and Sersei, but 100 times more than anything Marvel has shown on screen before.

Makkari, who is deaf, hangs out in a Dom in the ruins of a Babylonian city.  Why create a superhero with a disability?


Druig (Barry Keoghan, left) has a strong Irish accent, even though he was created thousands of years before there were Irish accents, or Druids.  He settles in the Amazon to help the descendants of the Aztecs.  Wait -- wrong continent.


Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok) settles in the Australian outback with another Eternal, maybe Thena (Athena, get it?), who suffers from an Eternal-only mental disorder.

In the present, things start to go terribly wrong.  Deviants return, only now they're sentient. Some of the Eternals go to the Dark Side.  Others have to be convinced to come out of retirement and join the team (this happens in virtually every Marvel movie).  Old rivalries that we didn't know about surface again.  Unrequited crushes that we didn't know about surface again.  Their God is not what he seems.  

And the writers keep confusing "millions" and "billions." 

It's all very confusing, but at least there are fun references to other Marvel characters and events.  

And there is an extended scene set in ancient Babylonia, where conversations take place in Babylonian (actually Akkadian, but why quibble?).  they hired an Akkadian expert to translate, which turned out to be problematic. We have many legal and religious documents in the dead language, but nothing colloquial.  They probably used a phrase similar to "May I help you?", but they never wrote it down.  See this interesting article in "The Conversation."

My Grade: A for the gay character and ancient Akkadian, D for the convoluted plot.

7 comments:

  1. I was going to avoid this one but you make it sound interesting.

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  2. Did you ever see the UK series Sirens where Richard Madden plays a gay character ?

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    1. No, the only Richard Madden I knew of before this movie played the dad on "Soap" in the 1970s. I found a "Sirens" about a Chicago-based EMT team, an adaption of a British series from 2011. And another "Sirens" in 2002, a British crime drama.

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  3. Chicago Sirens was based on the series with Richard Madden. Scott Vickers was in one episode with him. Later Scott played a gay character in Scottish series River City. Gary Lamont played his lover.

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  4. "And the writers keep confusing "millions" and "billions."
    Thanks, I shall not waste my time. Guess what, the terms "interplanetary" "interstellular" and "interglactic" are easier to throw around than to understand the differences and spell correctly.

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    1. I looked through the post, but those terms aren't used. Were you referring to another post? It was probably just a sticking key at 4:00 am. I know how to spell them, and I know what they mean: interplanetary=between planets; interstellar=between stars; intergalactic = between galaxies

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  5. deviants is the term kriby gave to his enemies of the eternals in the original comics. they were nothing like the stupid monster things in the movie.
    i started the movie but stopped it so i could read the original material jack kirby wrote in 1970's for marvel after his fourth world series died at DC and which his eternals series borrows many elements from.
    i'm not sure the authors of the screenplay did anything more but get the gist of the story he was trying to tell in his convoluted mish mashy way. a good writer kirby most certainly wasn't. the earth is a giant egg needing to be protected is one of the stupidest things kirby ever came up with.

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No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign. DO NOT use the extremely offensive, homophobic term "homosexual." Don't worry if a photo does not depict the person mentioned; beefcake is beefcake.

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