Chloe Zhao's Eternals receives a surprising amount of 'worst movie' reviews despite her exceptional work in the Marvel film
by Jaskiran Kaur | Mon, 08 Nov 2021 13:17:52 GMT
Eternals score mixed results during the opening week of the film; Credits: Giant Freakin Robot

All that shines is not gold, and looks like the star-studded entourage of Marvel's Eternals is proof to just that. The film does shine bright with its immaculate suits, high-profile cast, stunning direction, but in the end, the collective overbearing expanse of the film has managed to make Eternals the worst-rated Marvel movie of all time. 

The film first came into focus with a promise of a Marvel movie, unlike any other, expanding over a universe so alike to our own. The film teased scenes realistic enough as the shot panned over jungles, springs, and cozy sunsets. But it also didn't lack much of the luster associated with the artificial scenarios of Marvel movies. Disappointingly, regardless of it all, natural or otherwise, the movie could only be described as luck-luster, as some put it. 

But why is it such a common trend for women-directed movies to be instantly labeled the 'worst of all time?'

First and foremost, filmmaker Chloe Zhao pulls off the gigantic scale of the movie without breaking a sweat. Though the film is on the longer side and runs through 2 hours and 36 minutes, the story runs rich and deep, binding so much of the world through thousands of years into a single thread of a Marvel movie.

From long lost ancient civilizations to space travel, the film is still easy enough to grasp without losing grip on the viewers' attention. Zhao successfully brought out the humanness of her superhero characters, managed to squeeze in a Bollywood song, and actually worked with diversity to portray the best of our world. So, in the end, what is lacking? 

While the director did all that was necessary and expected from a Marvel film, it can not be ignored that it is so much easier for viewers to pin the failure of a film on the director for being a woman rather than so many other aspects that go into play. Clayton Davis from Variety, when talking on The Take, said, "Anytime a woman takes on the action genre, which has been made typically for men to helm, people come down harder on that filmmaker."

But another factor also in play could have been that Chloe Zhao wanted so badly to impress her audience that she played right into the trap of doing what an average viewer would want from a Marvel action flick. Hence, that can strongly justify the more than the decent opening of the film and a considerably good amount of box office collections. Though the numbers did not reach anywhere near the initially predicted response for the movie, still Marvel did great for a film released in the post-pandemic era. 

However, on the other hand, early critics and people with an eye for detail just could not help but be disappointed with Zhao where her uniqueness of direction is concerned. Of course, she did great with her caliber and the cast that she could reign over, but the stuffy plot and a super long run time encompassing a world over a millennium failed to make an impact that it could have made otherwise. 

And yet, a complete disregard for her exceptional filmmaking would be a direct insult to her genius of genera and style. Zhao made it possible to make a race of immortal beings look so much nearer to humans despite being Eternals. Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek achieved amazing tenderness and deep insight of portrayal rather than an all-consuming poshness and might of Marvel superheroes. Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, and Kumail Nanjiani were seriously magnificent in their own right.

Chloe Zhao in the middle of directing Richard Madden through his scenes in Eternals; Credits: LA Times

The film beautifully touched on topics of God, questions about life, the need of humans or humanity, and everything that would make it a little more than just an action flick. The film also managed the end-of-the-world trope with a lot of maturities, utilized 10 superheroes in the equality of their caliber, and now has given rise to a movie franchise that would continue to carry on the torch for MCU after the end of Avengers. 

The story follows a race of eternal beings known as Eternals from planet Olympia who made their way to planet Earth. Ordered by Arishem to fight off the Deviants that had been killing humans on Earth, the Eternals made quick work of their enemies but are still stuck on the blue planet. While they had ascended on the planet nearly 7,000 years ago, they can not go back to Olympia, unless they are called back. 

Though they saved humanity, the Eternals are forbidden to take part in any human conflicts and let humanity evolve as it was designated for them. They can also not provide their advanced scientific knowledge to humans but have to let them do their own inventions as time passes. But as some of them have traversed with humans, the race of human beings started acknowledging these powerful beings as gods.  

But as the years progressed, Deviants resurface on Earth, and Eternals who had learned to blend in and live eerily mortal lives, are once again thrown into chaos. The heroes are Sersi, Ikris, Sprite, Thena, Gilgamesh, Kingo, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, and Ajak, their spiritual leader. The Eternals of Earth, who have been living complex human-like lives with feelings of love, companionship, and even fear, now have to once again descend as heroes as they are meant to do.

Here, Zhao poses the question of the usefulness of humanity, why they need to be saved, and if the greater good is worth it all. Her tasteful direction effortlessly makes the superheroes something to be revered. As a viewer, it is, in fact, sometimes overwhelming to see humans through the lens of truly powerful beings that would see us and realize how insignificant humanity is when considered in parallel to the vast expanse of the universe.   

The superheroes battle with enemies seen and unseen. They are led by the grace of Chan onscreen, followed by an on-point comedy of Nanjiani, and surprisingly downplays Angelina Jolie as Thena. But all in all, it was only for the better as the film was not about Jolie but the Eternals race as a whole. 

The film scored a shocking 48% rotten reviews and yet did great in its opening week. As explained by Robbins, "The film has a number of advantages in its favor - not the least of which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's unprecedented level of goodwill among a wide variety of audiences from die-hard fans to casual viewers." 

Chloe Zhao with the cast of Eternals; Credits: Marvel

The film only scored about as much critical acclaim as Ant-Man. But ardent fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can still find reasons to appreciate the latest Marvel installment and its remarkable change of tone than its predecessors.