NEW YORK - Eternals, the latest movie from the Marvel universe, has received mixed reviews, with critics calling it over-ambitious yet progressive.

The film’s ensemble cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. It is the first major studio film by Chloé Zhao, who won the best director Oscar earlier this year for Nomadland.

The Guardian gave Eternals two stars, calling it “magic hour meets PowerPoint”. The paper’s critic Steve Rose said Zhao “manages to get some nice-looking shots and personal drama in her superhero debut, but there’s just too much mythology to explain”.

‘Bigger isn’t always better’

The problem, he added, is that “there’s just too much going on: it’s all headed towards yet another ‘race against time to stop the really bad thing happening’ climax”.

He continued: “It’s 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.” Eternals is about the titular group of 10 demigods who join forces to protect the Earth from the “Deviants”. In his review, The Times’ Kevin Maher also plumped for two-stars, declaring the movie to be a tale of “navel-gazing superheroes in quest for a decent script”.

He wrote: “There’s a strange self-sabotaging energy at the heart of this landmark blockbuster.”

Maher did note, though, how the movie had made efforts to show a more diverse mix of superheroes on screen. Eternals offers two major firsts for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Brian Tyree Henry plays Phastos, its first openly gay superhero; while Lauren Ridloff plays Makkari, its first deaf superhero, who is also gender-swapped from the comic books.

“Eternals is two steps forwards for representation but three steps backwards for dramatic ingenuity,” added Maher. The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin also gave it two stars, stressing that Marvel had attempted to “push boundaries” but with “insipid” results. “This gallumphing new offering is a white elephant,” he wrote. He felt that Zhao’s “compassionate eye and poetic feel for landscape”, which helped her also win best film for Nomadland at this year’s Academy Awards, was “nigh-on undetectable”.

“Perhaps the hope was that Marvel’s 26th film might rattle the franchise out of its comfort zone,” he concluded. “But the franchise is nothing but comfort zone, which renders its latest entry an instant white elephant.”