Eternals- A Different Kind of Superhero Movie?

With 26 movies and counting now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is constantly looking for new ways to have their movies feel fresh. This time around, Chloé Zhao comes in and tries to inject the franchise with a new sense of direction.

Movie Description

The immortal Eternals are sent to Earth to protect it from the Deviant creatures. They’ve been here for thousands of years, blending in and living among humans. Now that the threat of Deviants is back however, they must once again reunite and fight together to save the planet. 

With a budget of $200 million, Eternals is full of action set pieces that look incredible on the big screen. It is also worth noting that with a runtime of 157 minutes, this is also one of the longest films in the MCU so far. 

Additionally, the movie relies a lot on its stars to shine through, including Gemma Chan in the lead as Sersi, Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridlof as Makkari, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Barry Keoghan as Druig, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Salma Hayek as Ajak, and Angelina Jolie as Thena. 

The movie’s present story is set eight months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. The story also makes a clear attempt at explaining why the Eternals did NOT interfere with the events with Thanos. 

 

Success and Failure

Eternals is quite clearly the most inclusive MCU movie to date. Phastos is the first openly gay character the MCU has ever had. He has a husband and kids in the film as well, which is a huge step forward. This is unfortunately also one of the reasons why Eternals did not play in certain countries due to their homophobic censorship laws. Moreover due to certain comments made by director Zhao in 2013 about the Chinese government, the movie did not play in China either. 

Eternals has grosses well over $300 million so far at the box office as well, which especially comparing it to other post-covid movie releases, makes it a huge success in this regard. In only its opening weekend, Eternals earned $162 million from worldwide showings. That is the second biggest opening weekend of any movie since covid hit. 

While the last film by director Zhao, Nomadland, won Best Picture at the Oscars, Eternals did not receive nearly as good of a reception by critics. It currently holds a 47% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is by far the lowest ever within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There were all kinds of reviews that ranged from calling it an ambitious film with great promise, to a lot of people referring to it as the worst MCU film to date. 

The huge divide and the mixed response was referred by Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter as somewhat surprising, but expected due to the nature of the film’s story. Considering that it is darker than what most films set in the same universe are, and also due to the fact that the story itself poses some existential questions that perhaps caught the audiences off guard. The humor is still very much there, but it is more subdued than usual and the more quiet scenes of pondering human existence are more present than ever. 

 

Perception Matters

Perhaps the best comparison for the way Eternals has been perceived since its release, are the first two DC Universe movies; Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). They were both directed by visionary director Zack Snyder, and they both were somewhat of a different nature than the typical comic-book movie. By exploring dark themes within what some think are supposed to be purely popcorn fun flicks, dir. Snyder also received a lot of backlash at the time. 

If audiences weren’t already so nulled with comic book movies, Eternals could have undoubtedly been receive differently. But with 3-4 MCU movies every single year, who knows maybe the audiences are developing some sort of fatigue to superhero movies by now. Even the attempts from certain superhero flicks to “stand-out” have become worn out by late 2021. Each movie seems to end with a huge CGI fight, some sort of sky beam threatening to destroy the planet, and some generic bad guy whom no one will remember after leaving the cinema. 

Looking at Eternals through this context, then the negative reaction might not come as such a shock after all. A 157 minute movie about character you may have never heard of before might not be that enticing to go watch. However, the Marvel studio name still holds a lot of power. Missing out on one film causes people huge fear of missing out (FOMO) about what may have happened and how all the stories connect.

As a stand-alone movie though, at the very least, Eternals does a great job of standing out a bit and introducing new interesting characters, that along with the amazing directing of Zhao result in a fun, exciting, and thoughtful ride. 

Picture: nikkimeel / Shutterstock.com


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