Marvel Studios is coming off of one of its most successful films in all of the MCU, both critically and financially, thanks to Tom Holland's Spider-Man: No Way Home. Ironically, the movie that released just before it, Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, became the lowest-rated film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Rotten Tomatoes. But does it deserve it?
That’s the million-dollar question amongst audiences who have watched it, and thanks to its recent debut on Disney+, discourse on the topic still rages on. Even the movie’s director encouraged fans to add to the discussion as it became available to stream all over the world.
With how hyped up the project was prior to its release, it was certainly a letdown for the project to land as flatly as it did. Now, Zhao has once again spoken out about the divisive reception to the film and spoke candidly about the whole situation.
Chloé Zhao Gets Candid on Eternals
The director noted how she believes “the need for consensus is a hindrance for any authentic creative process:”
“I think the need for consensus is a hindrance for any authentic creative process… just like it’s a hindrance for living an authentic life as a person. I have been on the receiving end of somewhat consensus and divisiveness about my work. Neither of them has any real influence on me as an artist because every time I’m lucky enough to create, I learn from the process. From what I’ve succeeded [at], and what I’ve failed [at]. But that learning process is a very intimate affair. Anything beyond that, for me, it’s just a part of the ecosystem that exists because of the nature of the industry we’re in. Like a flower or a rock, I acknowledge and appreciate their presence. But that’s as far as it goes.”
Zhao attributed when it was released as another reason it may have landed as it did, with the film unintentionally landing “at a time when everyone is having an existential crisis:”
“Eternals was planned to be released soon after Endgame, and not at a time when everyone is having an existential crisis… the film itself is about existential crisis, both for humanity and God. So I think we definitely felt it was coming.”
Many audiences have come to the assumption that major parts of her MCU endeavor (aspects that critics had problems with) were there simply due to the "Marvel Process," something the director responded to by saying how “[people feel] like they need to put order into things, they need to understand it by putting it into boxes:”
“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.”
Zhao concluded by saying that “nobody is on layer,” and how in this case, the two parties met in the middle thanks to shared interests:
“The truth is that nobody is one layer. In this case, we truly stepped out of the box that I think the world put us in, and met in the middle because of our shared interests. And by truly doing that, it made a lot of people uncomfortable on both sides. But there are also people who are more comfortable with the order of their world [being] disturbed. And then they look at our love-child and go, ‘Oh! This touches different sides of me!’ I like that. 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.”
The Eternal Negative Reactions
It’s understandable how Chloé Zhao feels this way about the many reactions to her film. With the director being such a prominent figure in the entertainment industry, she’s the target of an endless tirade of comments from audiences—on top of any good stuff that pops up.
So to rationalize and filter all of those the way she does is likely a necessity given the sheer amount of attention she receives. She’s not entirely wrong either.
However, these rationalizations can be a little unhealthy sometimes—especially when it comes to being a creative individual. To become a better artist and fine-tune one’s crafts, one has to be open to criticism and fully willing to listen and evaluate those statements. If that can’t happen, then personal growth in one’s art and creations may never evolve or become better.
Of course, as mentioned above, it can be difficult to manage all of the feedback given the sheer amount of comments that are directed at filmmakers every day. Chunks of that feedback even come from trolls or places someone such as Zhao may find difficult to trust.
Zhao also mentions how there can be a misunderstanding of how everything works behind the scenes—and this can be entirely true. Fans, and audiences in general, tend to make wide-sweeping assumptions on how discussions may have gone down behind company walls. But the truth is, only the people involved actually know what happened, and those in the same industry; not general audiences sitting at home watching the movie.
Now is the movie worth all the negative fuss? Well, fans can find out by watching Eternals, now streaming exclusively on Disney+.