Eternals was quite the departure for Marvel Studios, as indie darling Chloé Zhao spearheaded a project that tried to explore a very different part of the MCU. What seemed like a sure hit ended up becoming a surprisingly divisive film among its critical reception as it ended on 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience reception has overall been more positive, but it definitely left its mark on the market as a curious experiment of Marvel Studios trying to break away from its usual fare.
In an interview with Empire, the indie director looks back at the overall reception and offers her takeaway from what the melding of these two worlds may have ended up leading to its reception. She highlights generally how a general “level of comfort” has set itself within the industry for Marvel films just as well as for indie films.
When people have that feeling, like they need to put order into things, they need to understand it by putting it into boxes… It is not about us, it is about them. And I say that lovingly, because they have a level of comfort [with] how their entertainment and their world – their beloved Marvel, or their beloved indie filmmaker – functions. That’s the order of the logic of their world that’s being disturbed. So I appreciate their passion, to try to make sense of it.Chloé Zhao
She then goes on to highlight that the melding of these two worlds has just ended up adding different perspectives that may take away something or not. She highlights those that look for that conflict, while also discussing that making people “uncomfortable” pushes their project forward.
So I completely understand the divisiveness coming from critics and the fans. Because when you take this to extremes that are seen as opposition – the world I come from and the world of Marvel, that has been divided in a way that’s so unfair and unfortunate – and to merge the way we did, I actually see the reaction as a testament to how much we had merged with each other; how uncomfortable that might make people feel.Chloé Zhao
Overall, the viewer reception has been stronger than the critical one, but you can definitely see that some have taken away different things from this film. I’ve personally tended to call it an indie film with a Marvel coating due to the way it focuses more on character moments rather than the usual bombastic fair–the final being the exception to that rule. One could also argue that some actors didn’t fully sell their characters as much as they could’ve due to an enlarged cast on top of a very exposition-heavy film. It’s still interesting to hear the director’s thoughts and we’ll see if the film might get a second life later down the line.