‘Eternals’ director knew the response would be polarizing

Chloé Zhao remains a celebrated filmmaker, but while she has earned immense acclaim for her films, last year’s ensemble-led superhero film, Eternals, divided both fans and critics alike. While the film did perform well at the box office, raking in $400 million, critical reception was mixed. Zhao, however, remained unbothered. In fact, she admitted she expected the polarizing responses the film received. 

In an interview with Empire, the Oscar-winning director revealed that while she was aware of the reviews, she paid no mind to them. 

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.

The film was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Zhao believes the film’s themes may have coincided with how many viewers felt, considering many felt lost in time due to the changes brought about by the pandemic and lockdowns. 

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.

While the film might not have been the biggest hit critically, it became the tenth-highest grossing film of 2021, and received praise for its visuals. The star-studded film is also the third film of the fourth phase of the MCU, and will no doubt tie-in future stories, in true Marvel fashion.

Eternals is based on the Marvel comics of the same name, and Zhao was joined by Ryan and Kaz Firpo to write the screenplay. The film stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. The story revolves around the Deviants, an immortal alien race who come out of hiding to protect the planet Earth from enemies.