Eternals Divides Audiences with Marvel’s Lowest Rotten Tomatoes Score

The Marvel Cinematic Universe rocked this weekend starring Chloé Zhao the eternal. Based on Jack Kirby’s epic 19-issue series The Eternals (1976), the film explores the relationship of a group of immortal aliens with the people of Earth and with each other over the millennia. Zhao, just won the Oscars for best director and best picture for Nomadland (2020), presented her concept for the film to Marvel Studios in 2018, and the film was developed as a dedicated project by the filmmaker, who had previous features. Song My Brothers Teach Me (2015) and Driver (2017) are well-received independent dramas. So it was a surprise when the eternal unleashed a divisive response, as evidenced by the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score for any entry in the MCU (48 percent) along with the lowest CinemaScore (B) in that same category. While the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is significantly higher (84 percent), the eternal Obviously not for everyone, which makes the movie more appealing within the MCU and the growing number of comic book adaptations.

For what it’s worth, I think the eternal is one of the MCU’s best works to date, and an ambitious love letter to superheroes like modern mythology, something the innate Jack Kirby was eager to explore later in his career. mine. Inspired by Erich von Däniken’s Chariot of the Godsmade bold claims about alien influence on early civilizations, Kirby’s the eternal is a stark change for the creator of the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, and most of the Marvel Universe. the eternal was Kirby’s chance to do something different, separate from the larger and more familiar Marvel Universe. In those 19 issues, Kirby not only explains the origin of life on the planet, but also attributes all human legends about gods and monsters to two cousin races, the Eternals and Deviants. Zeus and Athena, Gilgamesh, Satan, vampires – all stories form around the existence of these strange creatures, born from a cosmic experiment. The seed of Kirby’s work here will go on to better define Marvel and DC, but also influence sci-fi films like Matrix The trilogy of works.

But we can love looking at Kirby’s the eternal working today, this was not the case at the time. Soon after the series came out, fan letters poured in demonstrating the split among comic book readers. Much of the opposition came from readers who wanted the Eternals to be part of the Marvel Universe or separate from it. Kirby is not interested in referencing other ongoing Marvel titles in his book, although due to editorial requirements he compromises and introduces several SHIELD agents which he quickly send away and the Hulk, albeit a composite version with cosmic powers.

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“On top of that, Jack Kirby’s new series, The Eternals, insult me. … The vanity in it The Eternals written is what I’m complaining about. … Don’t debunk the controversy for the sake of fun,” wrote one reader. “I’m voting for the world of Eternals outside of the Marvel Universe. To soften such a radical break with Marvel tradition, it could be set up as one of many dimensions exposed to the Marvel Universe,” another said. And there are photos taken as Kirby describes the character of The Eternal, some of which are synonymous with criticisms of Zhao’s film, “Jack Kirby lives in a world that is almost completely empty.” have those characteristics [as Stan Lee]. His stories have no villains. Oh sure, there are people who are against the heroes but they never villain. … Kro [who decades later would be voiced by Bill Skarsgård in the film] not a villain. He was more than a little brave. Even then, readers still demanded simple dividing lines between good and evil, not finding Kirby’s purported descriptions of the Fallen and Eternals alike except for physical attributes. their nature, a theme that Zhao repeats and that would probably benefit from a larger exploration.

There were also positive letters, with some readers calling Kirby’s work his “masterpiece,” his “best work,” and one reader capturing the change Kirby sought to recruit. into the comics,”the eternal It’s different from anything I’ve read in the comics. In this book, events happen at a much slower pace, because there is so much activity on so many levels.” Again, this estimate would be consistent with the evaluation of Zhao’s films. For 19 issues and one annual number, the longest of any the eternal comics have run so far, the letter pages continue in that fashion. Masterpiece or chaos? That was the question until the series was cancelled. If anything, the takeaway from those pages is that consumers are always the same, caught between a love of the familiar and the defiance of the new.

It is ironic that much criticism of Kirby’s work followed Zhao in her adaptation. As a manga and a movie, The Eternals and the eternal are works that, even with their flaws, cover a lot about what both creators think existentialism, great design, and individualism. Zhao has joined the ranks of Richard Donner and Zack Snyder as one of the few filmmakers to fully capture the mythological side of these characters. The Snyder comparison is particularly relevant to the filmmakers’ approach to the general history of the characters explored. And the eternal met with a divisive response like that of Snyder Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which similarly takes a deconstructing approach to superheroes and forces them to question their purpose in the world, through contemplative and melancholy narrative rhythms, and has a tragic but hopeful ending. In a recent interview with the French site Movie ActuZhao cited Snyder as the inspiration for the film, particularly her portrayal of Ikaris (Richard Madden), saying, “Of all the modern interpretations of Superman, Zack Snyder Man of Steel inspired me the most because he approached this legend in an authentic and very realistic way. … This movie left a strong impression on me. “

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Gemma Chan and director Chloé Zhao on the set of Marvel Studios’ the eternal
Sophie Mutevelian / Marvel Studios

Being mythological, these characters can be very flawed, and what we consider attributes of most other superhero attributes – responsibility, love, immortality – is explored with great vigor. serious consequences. Like Snyder’s DC movies, Zhao approaches superheroes differently with the black-and-white, good and evil morals we’ve come to expect from these films. By treating superheroes as myths, they are more than just wishful entertainment; they become humanistic experiences, representing the full meaning of living as a human being, ups and downs in authentic Icarian fashion. Zhao goes one step further than the norm in that the eternal There are no real villains. The characters have dark turns, betraying and abandoning each other, but this comes from the position of their identities, who they are rather than what they have become. Zhao imagines how difficult it would be for creatures that have been around for millennia to really change, even when subjected to new information. Finding a purpose and not being able to change course once that purpose has been found are elements in all of Zhao’s films, and I suppose despite the superpowers and action sequences , Zhao hasn’t gotten off the hook yet, but rather plays the events of her previous films on a larger mat.

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Even if the eternal not quite suitable for all audiences, I reject the idea that it is a bad or poor movie. I’d be happy to take a movie that picks an adult swing, including flaws, playing too safe. There is growing criticism of the film about critics feeling that it is their duty to let the directors know where they are and to stay within the bounds of expectations. We saw this with Ava DuVernay’s A wrinkle in time (2018), where negative exaggerations allow critics to dismiss the work and its ambitions. This is a problem that I believe happens all too often with women of color who want to do large-scale filming. Whether openly or implicitly, there are some harsh reviews for the eternal looks at the film as if Zhao is trying to make an Oscar-winning drama, and isn’t happy to put her own sensibilities into a blockbuster. So much of the criticism for the film isn’t present in other reviews of Marvel movies that share the same inherent flaws of the genre. Why does one person receive praise and another does not? Because Trieu Vy has an Oscar? Because Zhao is a woman of color? Because the eternal Isn’t it a familiar to extraordinary story? Is it because the movie takes itself seriously and doesn’t wink and invite you to laugh at what many still consider and will exist only as purely children’s content? If you will, but there are implicit biases as to how these movies are viewed depending on who made them and what they want to add to the discussion.

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For many critics and some viewers who complained that “all Marvel movies are the same”, the response to the eternal is a testament to how many of those complaints are merely catering to those who covet the familiar and are not interested in interrogating objects of popular culture and being asked to participate. engages in an uneasy view of what heroism means and what we really value. I am not disappointed because the eternal. I’m disappointed that even though superhero movies are still the most popular form of entertainment in the world, we still don’t understand and appreciate how vast these films fit into their source material. . the eternal is an achievement, and I fear it will be too long until we see another like it.

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