‘Eternals’ may have no chance for Chinese mainland release due to its poor word-of-mouth: film observers
Published: Nov 09, 2021 07:00 PM
Promotional material of The Eternals Photo: Sina Weibo

Promotional material of The Eternals Photo: Sina Weibo

Days after Marvel's Eternals debuted in North America, Chinese film observers are predicting that the film is highly likely to become the third Marvel superhero film that has no chance to be released in the Chinese mainland, following Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, most likely due to its poor word-of-mouth.

Premiering in North America on Friday, the film battled its way to a $71 million debut from 4,090 theaters.

Some Chinese film insiders estimate that the budget for Eternals could be as high as $200 million, so it will need to take in at least $600 million to earn a profit. This means if its box office in North America can reach an optimistic $200 million, it will still need to earn $400 million overseas. 

However, Eternals' falling word-of-mouth means reaching its goal of turning a profit is far more impossible.

The Hollywood Reporter said that the movie has been saddled with the worst reviews ever for a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) at a 53 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and a B CinemaScore by audiences, the lowest of any of the 26 titles in the MCU.

On Chinese media review platform Douban, some Chinese netizens who saw the film overseas commented that the film is really not "Marvel."

"It is very challenging to introduce about 10 new characters within two hours and 37 minutes, and director Chloe Zhao did a poor job with these background narratives, which made people sleepy and lacked the entertainment taste that Marvel movies should have," one netizen commented on Douban. 

"She [Zhao] worked hard to avoid any Chinese elements, but I still feel the movie is like a variation on [China's well-known classic novel] Journey to the West filmed in the Marvel Universe. I also feel that she is trying to get close to American culture, but some plots are very abrupt," another reviewer wrote. 

Meanwhile, Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, said that as time goes on it becomes less and less likely the Marvel film will debut in the Chinese mainland.

"Looking at past Hollywood films like F9: The Fast Saga and Godzilla vs. Kong's releases in the Chinese mainland, they arrived at least one week ahead of their North American releases. But now that it has been nearly a week since Eternals' debut in that market, it can be deduced that the film has missed its market here," Xiao told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Some insiders thing the gay scene in the film may also be a factor.

"The same-sex kiss between gay couple Phastos and Ben in Eternals is a bold step for Marvel films when it comes to LGBTQ content. But I think the scene might be a bit of sensitive to appear in the theaters in many countries and regions [such as the Chinese mainland]," Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, this might not be the main reason as Chinese audiences were actually low-key tolerant about the gay content in Disney's Beauty and the Beast which released in the mainland in 2017. It wouldn't even be the first same-sex kiss in a Disney film either, as there was a similar kiss, albeit rather short, in the 2019 Star Wars film The Rise of Skywalker