While audiences will have to wait a little longer for Spider-Man: No Way Home's digital home release, Marvel fans won't be going without content to enjoy until then. In fact, another MCU film - Marvel's Eternals - is only days away from its streaming debut on Disney+, with bonus features and commentary from the film's Academy Award-winning director, Chloé Zhao, coming with it.
Eternals introduced MCU audiences to an ensemble of ancient, immortal heroes tasked with protecting mankind from the Deviants. Unfortunately, the November film was met with lackluster reviews from critics and even earned the unfortunate title of being the first MCU movie to earn a 'rotten' score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Not one to shrink from criticism, Zhao has responded to the film's reception in the past; and now, as fans are about to revisit the film, Zhao is also revisiting her experience shooting the film and her experience working with Marvel Studios.
Chloe Zhao Praises Marvel Studios Following Eternals Release
In reflecting on her experience filming Eternals with Radio Times, director Chloe Zhao had only praise for Marvel Studios and the artistic freedom that she was afforded with the superhero studio system. While she acknowledged that "decisions happen a bit slower" with a big-budget production, there's also the benefit of "unlimited resources to make your imagination come true:"
“With smaller movies you may have freedom because in some ways you can do whatever you want, but when you wrap at three in the morning and then have to drive your cast home because they don’t have a form of transportation, there are limitations there, too. For a film this big, every movement you want to make, hundreds of people have to move with you. So decisions happen a bit slower. However, you also have unlimited resources to make your imagination come true, you can go to places, you have time, there are many other ways to have freedom.”
When asked what the highlight of Eternals was for her, Zhao was all about the film's character interactions saying, "There are a lot of sparks:"
"What I’m most proud of are the moments when the Eternals come together. There are a lot of sparks. They’re people who in regular walks of life don’t necessarily belong together, but they manage to find their place within this very dysfunctional family. That, I love most of all.”
While a number of MCU fans were thrown by the film's cosmic narrative and how it complements Marvel's Phase 4 timeline, much like Zhao, audiences seemed to enjoy the relationships between select members of the cast, including that of Angelina Jolie's Thena and Don Lee's Gilgamesh, as well as Lauren Ridloff's Makkari and Barry Keoghan's Druig.
How Eternals is a Long-Term Investment for the MCU
Since one of the hallmarks of the MCU is its interconnected storytelling, careful planning is necessary since every project essentially affects the other. Despite this fact, Marvel Studios is also known for taking risks and granting creative freedom.
One of the best examples of this is James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only was the story and its character relatively unknown, but the film's irreverent tone and colorful, cosmic style - courtesy of James Gunn - wasn't at all what fans were expecting from the MCU at the time. However, Gunn's trademarks and what made the film so different is also what made it so great.
Even though Eternals is an MCU film, it's also a Chloe Zhao film. Similar to Gunn and Guardians, Zhao's voice and unique style is present all throughout the film; and while it may not have succeeded with critics the way Marvel and Zhao wanted, that's not to say it won't improve with time and as Marvel's Phase 4 marches on.
In fact, releasing the film with a director's commentary may only help audiences better appreciate Zhao's addition.
While Eternals is unlikely to ever find itself ranking among the Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame, and now Spider-Man: No Way Home, the fact that Marvel allowed Zhao those "resources" and "ways to have freedom" proves that the studio is anything but "copy and paste" and actually nurtures creative vision.
If anything, Eternals was both an investment and statement to other high-caliber directors that a big-budget studio can also believe in art as well as the box office.
Eternals becomes available to stream on Disney+ on January 12, 2022.