"If this is what the end of the world looks like, at least we have front row seats," says one of the immortal beings introduced in Eternals, the next film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While not the end of the world for Marvel Studios, the studio headed by Kevin Feige, Eternals ends a critically-acclaimed streak started with 2008's Iron Man: Marvel's arthouse superhero movie has received a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by Chloe Zhao, Eternals debuted to a 71% fresh before falling to 65% and then 60%, dropping below the 66% fresh of Thor: The Dark World — now the second-worst rated Marvel movie.
Eternals is the lone "rotten" with a 59% approval from 114 counted critics reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus reads, "An ambitious superhero epic that soars slightly more often than it strains, Eternals takes the MCU in intriguing — and occasionally confounding — new directions."
A visual powerhouse with a messy plot lacking punch, Eternals "will likely be one of the more divisive films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe," writes ComicBook's Jamie Jirak in a spoiler-free, four-star review. "The strong characters and visuals will be enough for some fans to consider it one of the best of the franchise while others will find its messy plot and extended runtime a hard pill to swallow."
Telling a story spanning thousands of years and exploring the origins of the MCU, Eternals reunites the race of ancient aliens created by the cosmic Celestials to protect humankind from The Deviants. Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the new movie assembles the humankind-loving Sersi (Gemma Chan), the all-powerful Ikaris (Richard Madden), the cosmic-powered Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), the super-fast Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), the intelligent inventor Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), the eternally young but old-soul Sprite (Lia McHugh), the powerful Gilgamesh (Don Lee), aloof loner Druig (Barry Keoghan), and fierce warrior Thena (Angelina Jolie), who must work together to stop The Emergence.
During a visit to the Marvel movie's set in early 2020, producer Nate Moore compared Eternals' Academy Award-winning director to Black Panther filmmaker Ryan Coogler as a "true storyteller" who "very early on had a vision of what the movie could be."
"[Zhao] directed a film called The Rider. She also directed a Sundance movie called Songs my Brother Taught Me. So she doesn't seem to be the kind of filmmaker who necessarily wants to tackle this giant sort of visual flex blockbuster," said the Captain America: Civil War and Falcon and Winter Soldier producer. "But a couple of things we learned when we met her, one, she grew up reading Manga. She grew up in Beijing, China, so sort of comic book storytelling is kind of in her blood. Two, she's a huge MCU fan. She's seen our movies countless times. She loves them. She loves Captain America, especially, and she sort of blew us away with her infectious energy."
Marvel's Eternals opens only in theaters on November 5.