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Eternals | Soma

There's something in the water.


MOVIE REVIEW /// Eternals

Movie summary: The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations. (IMDb)

It's been funny seeing the reaction to Eternals online, with what feels like a significant majority of people wondering exactly why the critics were so harsh with their reviews - a reaction I share thanks to enjoying the movie quite a bit. It's nowhere close to perfect or even being in my top ten MCU movies as it does have multiple issues holding it back, but there's a hell of a lot of good here to more than balance things out.

Let's get the biggest issue out of the way: there's a lot of groundwork to be done with the characters thanks to there being ten Eternals being introduced, in addition to their 7,000 years of history. I have seen some criticisms of excessive exposition, but I don't think that's quite accurate, as the information being delivered is essential not just to the audience, but to the characters also.

I can't help but compare Eternals to Inception - the former having about 20% as much expository dialogue as the latter. Don't get me wrong, I still think Christopher Nolan's movie is definitely better than this one, but you can hardly criticise this movie for having so much exposition due to the size of the cast and history of the characters when a more praised movie is still explaining it's core plot in the finale.

Another problem is that, thanks to the cast size again, not everyone gets to shine as much as you'd hope - Chloe Zhao does her best and I would say everyone has at least one or two moments, but it definitely feels like some of the characters are a little under-written and are only there to help flesh out other characters. Considering the movie makes clear there Eternals on other worlds, I can't help but wonder if it might've been better to hold a couple back for later movies.

As far as 'characters' go, the Deviants - the Eternals' nemeses - are little more than excuses for action scenes and is a plot thread that doesn't have a particularly satisfying payoff. It's a shame the movie deviated (hah) so far from the comic book versions only to end up creating CGI monsters resembling less fearsome versions of the Mimics from Edge of Tomorrow.

Then there's the pacing and length of Eternals, which I can understand being an issue for some, but it just clicked perfectly for me. There was one point where I checked to see how long was left - not because I was bored, but because the movie had covered so much ground that I was worried that the ending the story seemed to be headed to would be rushed. There was actually still forty minutes remaining.

I loved that, and was actually thrilled that I would be getting to spend more time with these characters. I also consider it pretty impressive that so much information had been conveyed so efficiently, which is why I can't understand the claims of the movie being slow. To be fair, it certainly helps that I enjoyed the finale so much, both in terms of action and spectacle, as well as what it meant for the characters.

A slight spoiler: there are ten Eternals at the start of the movie, but they're down to six by the end - yes, this is a movie unafraid of killing off big name actors and main characters in service to both the story and the characterisations established earlier in the movie. Another spoiler: I'm glad that my two favourites - Lauren Ridloff's very fun Makkari, and Barry Keoghan's complicated Druig - survived to see another day.

Speaking of Makkari, it was mainly her involvement that made me enjoy the final battle so much - which involves a 'Justice League vs Evil Superman' showdown that was better and more creative to watch than anything DC have managed so far, with characters that didn't feel like they had just escaped the worst comics from Nineties. Let's just say that I'd really like to see a Flash vs Superman fight now.

But it's not just the final battle that I enjoyed so much, with most of the action being at least fun to watch, which helps with a 'superhero movie' that doesn't feature as much fighting as you'd expect from the genre. The design of the Deviants again drags things down a little, but the variety of abilities the Eternals possess at least makes each sequence feel distinct from each other.

The humour works too, although there's also fewer comedic moments than you'd expect from a Marvel Studios movie - I wonder if that and the reduced amount of action are also reasons why Eternals hasn't been as positively received? The MCU has set certain tonal expectations and this movie doesn't really live up to them, which I found refreshing, but I could certainly see why it might put off others.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the sheer scale of events, including the amount of time covered. It reminded me a little of Cloud Atlas (which I also enjoyed) with characters and a story being told across multiple time periods, albeit with less back and forth here. Again though, I can understand why some might be put off dealing with something so big and less focus on the smaller moments that are usually what connect Marvel Studios movies with audiences.

I do think that if you go to watch Eternals expecting just another MCU movie, then you might well end up disappointed, as this movie isn't like that at all. So much of this movie worked for me that didn't for critics that I'm not sure how to recommend it - if you want an epic, sprawling monster of a tale with nearly a dozen main characters that doesn't follow most comic book movie conventions, then this might be the movie for you.

On the other hand, if you want the 'normal' superhero-action-with-a-large-dose-of-comedy that constitutes a major chunk of the MCU, then Eternals probably won't fit. Uniquely for Marvel Studios, this movie is a break from the norm that I'm glad to see happen. It does have issues that I don't think can be overlooked to proclaim it as anything special, but most have been blown way out of proportion and I think plenty of people will enjoy this if they give it a chance.

Eternals isn't among Marvel Studio's best efforts, but neither is it anywhere near as bad as some would have you believe. It does have flaws that hold it back from being something special, but not one of them is any worse than what you'd find in other, more highly-praised movies. Despite the problems, I really enjoyed the movie and can't wait to see where the surviving characters show up next.

[7/10 - Good]



Game summary: Simon Jarrett finds himself in a mysterious, ravaged facility after seemingly losing consciousness during a new, experimental brain scan which was suggested to him for his brain damage after his car accident. (IMDb)

There was a news piece not too long ago about Samsung possibly copying a brain to a memory chip - everyone involved in that project and anyone who thinks that sounds like a good idea should be forced to play Soma so they can see why that would be the worst idea possible. If you still think it sounds like something cool to do after that... sure, go for it - you're not the sort of person who'll care about being stuck in a robot at the bottom of the ocean.

Now, for the game itself, this was the second time I'd played Soma and this time I only really wanted a refresher of how it controlled and to remind myself of the general atmosphere of the underwater locations where you spend the vast majority of the time, so thought I'd pick Safe Mode to make it easier to do so. 'Safe', huh? If anything, it was more nerve-wracking than my original time through the game.

One of the reasons that Jaws and Alien are so good at building up tension is because you never see the thing hunting people apart from certain key moments used to maximum effect. Soma does a pretty good job of spacing out the creatures you'll come across as it is, but it feels even weirder when they don't attack you - I kept expecting them to attack, but they never did.

I don't know how it would feel for someone playing through Safe Mode as their first time through the game, but it's just bizarre when you know how things normally work. Especially thanks to the various entities otherwise behaving as they normally would - make a noise and you'll have any 'enemy' sensitive to sound racing over to inspect and... do nothing. It just freaked me the hell out every time.

Normally, encountering an enemy means having to hide from it and take care how you proceed, which can be a little frustrating at times when playing the game normally as the AI isn't perfect, so the Safe Mode shortening these sections can be seen as a positive. On the other hand, after the initial shock of a creature racing towards you wears off, it can also make some sections feel far less threatening than usual.

This makes for an interesting trade-off between the modes, but I would still say it's best to play through Soma on Normal first, so you get the originally-intended experience - if you ever want to play through it again at some point in the future after that is when you should pick Safe Mode. Assuming your mind works the same way as most people, it'll fill in the blanks with far worse than the game could do.

One thing that doesn't change regardless of which mode you pick is the audio-visual aesthetic of the game, which is just fantastic. This game is six years old now and, while it may have been surpassed in visual fidelity and graphical wizardry, the art design remains exceptional. The sound is still excellent too and I would suggest playing on headphones for the best audio experience.

The biggest problem - or least good aspect to be more accurate - is the controls. Soma can occasionally be a little temperamental in how you interact with the world and the many items that fill it. I played through this second time with a gamepad thanks to motion sickness kicking in and needing to sit further back than would be comfortable with a mouse, but it remains fiddly however you control your character.

That's really it for issues though, along with the stealth sections that can take away from the atmosphere a little because of trying to anticipate the sometimes-wonky AI of the creatures. This is a really well-made game that I've enjoyed playing through twice, even if the reasons for enjoying it each time have varied a little thanks to the difference between the Normal and Safe modes.

Soma's story is really what elevates it, taking advantage of the fact that you're playing as someone who isn't the quickest on the uptake, often allowing the player to figure things out before he can and leading to plenty of "oh no" moments as dramatic irony kicks in and you wait for Simon to come to the same realisation you have. It's executed to near-perfection and a definite recommend for anyone who feels up for a fantastic sci-fi horror experience.

Soma is a great game, not just for brilliant atmosphere that'll have you peering carefully around corners and double-checking every shadow, but also for the fantastic science-fiction story that lets you discover first-hand why having copies of human brains stored in computers might not be the human race's best idea. Occasionally fiddly controls and pace-slowing stealth sections aside, this is otherwise a must-play title.

[9/10 - Great]



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