The Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Eternals introduces a whole new batch of heroes to an Earth that already feels overrun with superpowered types, but it also gives these new additions a very specific agenda that explains why they haven’t showed up in the last 20-odd Marvel movies. The 10 Eternals have been on Earth since the dawn of humanity, with an agenda that’s kept them out of the way of the Avengers and their various allies and enemies. The Celestial Arashem put the Eternals on Earth and ordered them to stay out of humanity’s beeswax, apart from fighting Deviants, the shape-changing monstrosities that might otherwise take over the planet. All the Eternals have different abilities related to the manipulation of cosmic energy, and these powers help them in their ongoing war.
Watching the scenes where the Eternals fight the Deviants, though, it’s hard to escape the thought that some of their cosmic abilities are strictly better than others. A lot of their powers are pretty redundant — they fight well as a team, but in the big combat scenes, it’s pretty clear that some of these beautiful, immortal gods are second-stringers. Maybe they’d all kick ass on an X-Men team, but some Eternals abilities are simply more powerful, flexible, useful, or fun than others. So here’s a rundown of who’s really god-tier, and who’s just filling out the ranks.
10. Ajak (Salma Hayek)
Powers: Healing, Celestial communication
To be clear, all the Eternals seem to be blessed with enhanced strength, durability, reflexes, and fighting skills, to the point where they all average out with each other. Even Ajak, the party leader, seems to rank as a Black Widow-level hand-to-hand fighter, if she wants to mix it up with Deviants.
But her cosmic powers are pretty mundane. Yes, it’s great to have a cleric in the party, especially when you’re immortal and don’t want to spend eternity with a badly set broken leg or a permanently missing eye. But in the movie, at least, the Eternals seem to be tough and practiced enough to not get hurt that badly in combat, which leaves Ajak to hang back and patch up the occasional flesh wound. If she got more involved in mortal affairs, her healing skills might be more exciting. (Can the cinematic version of the character cure diseases, for instance?) Instead, she’s mostly the Eternals’ low-grade magical field medic and comm link with their big red robot god — an important role, but not likely to be high on anyone’s fantasy hero draft.
9. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani)
Power: literally finger-guns
Here’s where you could argue that some of the Eternals have unbilled special powers that make them cooler than they look — given Kingo’s joyful dealings with humanity, he might well have some kind of enhanced charisma or manipulation powers that make him especially enjoyable to be around. (Just having Kumail Nanjiani in the role practically counts as giving Kingo an extra superpower.) But in terms of the golden-god special-effects abilities they all have, Kingo’s big thing is shooting pew-pew lasers out of his fingers. It’s a smaller, more limited and specific version of powers some of his other teammates have, and it looks kinda silly. Also, Eternals never really lets him do anything cool with his finger-guns. He’s just there in the battles, sniping on monsters while other people do the heavy lifting.
8. Gilgamesh (Don Lee)
Power: Super-punching, apparently
Gilgamesh is definitely stronger and more enduring than the other Eternals, but like Kingo, he has a pretty limited cosmic power: he can make a shiny gold gauntlet around his punchin’ fist, and then punch things. Pretty badass when he’s jumping into melee with a huge writhing monster, but he’s a one-trick pony in combat, where he has two moves: Hit the thing, and hit the thing again, harder. His cooking skills, loyalty to his troubled friend Thena, and overall philosophical affability all seem more useful for getting through life.
7. Druig (Barry Keoghan)
Power: Mind control
It’s hard to rate Druig’s powers without getting into the morality of mind control. Can something be a cool power if it’s fundamentally unethical? There’s a reason the comics version of Druig has been pretty consistently evil, from the 1970s through Neil Gaiman’s 2007 reimagining of Jack Kirby’s characters. The movie version is more troubled and bitter than sadistic and monstrous, and he’s a great big open moral question that the film doesn’t resolve: Is he doing humanity any good by controlling people to keep them from killing each other?
Regardless, in terms of fighting Deviants, his power is well-nigh useless, since it doesn’t seem to work on them at all. About the best he can do is force humans to do the fighting for him, support the front-line fighters on his team by getting civilians out of the way faster, or make people forget about the Eternals after they move on. His power has a lot more applications outside combat than his peers’ abilities, but those applications are all pretty squicky.
6. Thena (Angelina Jolie)
Powers: Makes weapons, fights real good
Is Thena’s acrobatic grace and skill with weapons in the movie meant to be a cosmic power, or just the result of endless practice and monomaniacal obsession with warfare? Either way, she’s the group’s flashiest fighter, which does count for something, and her ability to spin elaborate golden arms and armor out of thin air comes in handy for fighting things that constantly change form. This ability would rank higher if there were any sense that she could create something other than weapons, but again, it’s unclear whether that’s a limit to her cosmic powers, or to her imagination.
5. Ikaris (Richard Madden)
Power: Eye-lasers, flight
Why are eye-lasers the asshole power? The X-Men’s Cyclops is a moody jerk, The Boys’ Homelander is a murderous tyrant, Red Eye is an outright supervillain, Thanos and Darkseid both get eye-rays in the comics, and even Superman has his obnoxious side. (Yes yes, “heat vision,” “energy rays,” and “omega beams” are not technically “lasers,” but it all amounts to the same eye-blasting thing.) Point is, comics writers don’t seem fond of people who shoot stuff from their eyes.
Ikaris’ cosmic-energy-stare is pretty intimidating, though it seems to limit him a little in battles, since he has to keep looking directly at whatever he’s fighting, and that isn’t always practical when he’s trying to lead an adversary away from a fight. (Or fleeing.) And it might be more impressive if it left more of a visible mark on Deviants, or had any use besides drilling holes in things. But as the only Eternal who can outright fly, he’s above average in the ranking department.
4. Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry)
Phastos wins the “one of these things is not like the other” award for Eternals cosmic powers, because it’s so unclear what exactly his technological powers are in the movie, and whether they have any limitations. Can he make anything he can envision? Sometimes he uses his cosmic powers to create technological objects, like his floating stepping stones in the movie’s opening act, or the electrical tether-weapons he uses in the final conflict. Sometimes he just creates glowing golden blueprints (goldprints?) for the mechanisms he’s imagined.
He seems to be super-intelligent and super-imaginative compared to some of the other Eternals, but is that a power, or a personality? (Could Thena do what he does if she wasn’t obsessively focused on slashity and stabbity things?) Really, it doesn’t matter — he’s one of the most useful and variable Eternals, and while his powers don’t come into play during Deviant combat as much as the others, he can contribute more to the team than most in terms of widening their options and solving their problems. He also has more to contribute to humanity, if Ajak’s rules and humanity’s inherent destructiveness weren’t both holding him back.
3. Makkari (Lauren Ridloff)
Who doesn’t love a good super-speedster? The only thing wrong with Makkari’s powers is that like most speed-oriented heroes, she seems a bit bored with the way the rest of the world operates at such a slow pace. Eternals takes a beat to show that her cosmic speed doesn’t just let her hit an opponent a thousand times while he’s still figuring out that he’s in a fight, and doesn’t just let her run across the globe in a heartbeat. It also lets her read at a blistering pace, which explains her relentless hunt for new knowledge. Super-speed is a reliable power fantasy, but finally having time to read everything just makes it even better.
2. Sprite (Lia McHugh)
Sprite doesn’t get much joy out of her ability to create thoroughly convincing simulations of seemingly anything she can imagine, and it’s a shame, because it’s a great power to have. Where her teammates have to focus on pretty much the same Deviant slugging, pew-pewing, or eye-bolting every single time, Sprite gets to engage her creativity in every combat, with one of the Eternals’ most flexible powers. Her intangible illusions can’t directly hurt her enemies, but she has an endless array of ways to confuse, distract, and disable them. And in a pinch, she can just disappear entirely — essentially giving Sprite the coveted power of invisibility as a free bonus.
On top of that, her abilities have more potential than anyone else’s in terms of letting her live an interesting life, whether she wants to mesmerize crowds with storytelling that comes with a 3D lightshow, or hit a bar in disguise. It isn’t her powers’ fault that she’s stuck in a child’s body — her situation is unenviable, but her ability is still baller.
1. Sersi (Gemma Chan)
Power: Matter transformation
The ability to change anything non-living into anything else seems ridiculously overpowered for a team where one person’s whole deal is hitting things really hard. And when Sersi gets an upgrade and loses that “non-living” limitation, she basically becomes Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, but without his creativity or confidence. Most people watching Eternals will be able to come up with more exciting uses for this power than Sersi does, given its nearly infinite possibilities. At least she finds a way to make it count in the final battle. But c’mon, Sersi. You’ve got an incredible ability. Have some fun!