(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Part of the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is due to the studio’s ability to tweak its moviemaking formula just enough to offer something fresh for fans even as they continue to utilize all the familiar trademarks those fans have come to know and love. One element of that tweaking process has involved folding unique, capable filmmakers — people like Kenneth Branagh, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi — into Marvel’s overarching vision. These efforts have, by and large, born critically acclaimed, incredibly profitable fruit.
Then Eternals happened.
The prospect of introducing nearly a dozen new superheroes all at once was daunting enough, never mind the fact that these particular heroes were powerful immortals who had presumably lived through the events of the Infinity Saga without so much as lifting a finger to fight Thanos. But the folks at Marvel had the good sense to hire a young, up-and-coming director by the name of Chloé Zhao to helm the film after Zhao, an MCU fan, presented them with a pitch they couldn’t refuse.
At the time, Zhao had just come off of her second feature film, 2017’s acclaimed The Rider, and by the time Eternals was released in late 2021, she had become a Best Picture and Best Director winner at the Oscars for her third, Nomadland. In other words, expectations were sky high, and when the film landed with a 47% on the Tomatometer — the lowest of any film in the MCU and the only Rotten one of the franchise — it baffled a lot of folks.
So what went wrong? Not only did Eternals have an Academy Award-winning director, it featured an impressive cast that included Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, and Brian Tyree Henry, just to name a few. The film boasted an epic, centuries-spanning story and expansive, sweeping cinematography, and juggled multiple characters while it delivered the requisite superhero action.
According to some critics, particularly those who were hoping Eternals would be the MCU’s first “arthouse” superhero movie, there simply weren’t enough of Zhao’s fingerprints on the film. But hold on, still others complained that Zhao’s influence was far too strong. With all of that in mind, regular co-hosts Mark Ellis and Jacqueline Coley invite returning guest Coy Jandreau — talk show host, pop culture commentator, and all-around comic book expert — to rehash the film and figure out how and why the critics are so at odds with the fans, who rewarded Zhao’s efforts with a 78% Audience Score.
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
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Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.