Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or the far corners of the universe, you’ve probably seen Eternals by now. Directed by Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao, the film from last November presented us with things that we had not seen in any Marvel films before — stunning locations, a diverse 10-character main cast, a (very mild) sex scene, and a queer couple. Sounds great, right? What more could you ask for from a movie? Well, as far as reviews (written mainly by white cis-het males) go, the movie was considered a train wreck.
The reviews and “review-bombing”
As told by The Direct, hundreds of now-deleted one-star reviews for Eternals were logged on IMDb, prior to the film’s wide release. This tactic is known as “review-bombing,” and has been used against many movies in recent years—by bitter viewers attempting to tarnish the reputation of projects they don’t want to succeed.
In the case of Eternals, some people took a stance against the decision to introduce gay superheroes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actor Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Kingo in the film, weighed in on the subject by tweeting, “Looks like we’re upsetting the right people. Eternals opens November 5th.” However, Nanjiani’s Twitter post has since been removed.
As for what the critics were saying, The Globe and Mail‘s Barry Hertz argued that “[director Chloé] Zhao is a baffling choice: a filmmaker who is ill-equipped and out of her element, with her discomfort visible across nearly every frame of the film.” San Francisco Chronicle‘s Mick LaSalle added that “It takes a special kind of movie anti-magic to make an entire audience indifferent to the potential destruction of the planet and the elimination of all life and Earth. Eternals manages it.”
What did Kevin Feige have to say about it?
Marvel Studios President/Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige addressed this matter during an Eternals press conference. “As [producer and Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development] Nate [Moore] was advocating for this project, [we realized] you can’t do the history of humanity without the heroes looking like a cross-section of humanity. And [that’s] really what the goal was,” said Feige.
The Marvel head also explained the studio intentionally sought out a diverse cast in hopes of reflecting what humanity has really looked like across time. Specifically, Feige said, “As Nate [Moore] was advocating for this project, [we realized] you can’t do the history of humanity without the heroes looking like a cross-section of humanity. And [that’s] really what the goal was.”
When speaking about how Zhao seamlessly integrated such a diverse cast in a disturbingly white franchise, Nanjiani said, “In the way that [Eternals co-writer and director] Chloé [Zhao] directed all of us, obviously [the] diversity of the cast and this team is something we talk about a lot,” Nanjiani added. “But the way she approached it was so interesting. It wasn’t as if to make a point, it’s as if to say this is how things should always have been.”
The hate pattern
While the reviews didn’t explicitly mention issues with diversity and inclusion, you can’t help but recognize patterns. We have seen not only reviewers, but members of the Marvel fandoms themselves, take huge issue with any project revolving around diversity and inclusion. Marvel films such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and now Eternals are at the top of some people’s “worst Marvel movies” list.
If you don’t see the pattern, let me break down the specifics. A movie addressing the Black diaspora; a movie centering around a highly independent woman who breaks out of the mental prison she was placed in by her white male handler (“mentor”); another movie that centers around women who take back their free will after being kidnapped and trained to be mercenaries at a young age under a program run by—you guessed it—a white man; a movie spoken in roughly 25% Mandarin Chinese, and features our very first Asian-American superhero with an exclusively Asian supporting cast; and again — a movie that has a door busting 10-character main cast that boasts inclusion both on the race/ethnicity front and LGBTQ+ front.
To the dismay of rigid reviewers and dense Marvel fandom members, Marvel Studios has only just started with their introduction of inclusive characters. With more diverse characters being involved and centered in the comic books, there’s no stopping this train from going full steam ahead.
Photos via Marvel