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Sunday, December 26, 2021 

Some film writers just won't admit why Eternals flopped

We're about 2 months or so already from the time the Eternals movie became the most notable Marvel film production to tank at the box office. As expected, some film sites just won't admit why. One of those is Film Daily:
Despite all of the hype surrounding the release of Marvel’s Eternals, the film has garnered mixed reviews from critics. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao, Eternals is an attempt by Disney to venture into new aesthetic territory for the MCU. Not only that, but the film tries to be more sociopolitically progressive than previous Marvel blockbusters.

Eternals features a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds. Additionally, the movie has the first openly gay superhero in a Marvel film, something that’s sparked controversy amongst fans. The biggest figures in the film are Salma Hayek & Angelina Jolie, accompanied by Game of Thrones stars Richard Madden & Kit Harrington.

You’d think that with such a highly-touted director, big names, and progressive ideology that Eternals would be a smash hit. However, critics have not fallen in love with the basic premise of the film. Why is the public so divided on Eternals? [...]
You'd think they might be willing to acknowledge the concept of "progressive" ideology can be very alienating, but no. Nor do they consider the wider audience doesn't want to see these movies for the sake of seeing 2 homosexual men engaging in the practice. I may not agree with everything entertainment writer John Nolte says, but he's got a point, that it's just so embarrassingly bad.

Earlier, even Clout News went a predictably fuzzy route, and wouldn't be very objective. What they say here is stunningly laughable:
Victoria Alonso, the producer of Eternals, has responded to criticism of the film’s LBGTQ depiction; with a passionate talk on the need of being inclusive and diverse. [...]

The film has garnered mixed reviews and low rotten tomatoes score for a Marvel picture. Part of the reason for the varied reviews is because Eternals is an extremely bold film. Eternals is one of the most diverse MCU films yet; featuring a deaf superhero and an openly gay character for the first time.
What's that? Because it's bold?!? Where have they been all these years? There have been LGBT characters in mainstream TV and films for years now. Why do they think that's anything new, if that's what they consider bold? If they were serious about boldness, they'd come up with a meaty metaphor for battling Islamic terrorism. They'd even put an emphasis on Ukranian culture. Or Armenian. Instead, we're told that homosexuality, if anything, is "bold". I'm sorry, but emphasizing gay characters who basically shun the opposite sex, along with marriage to the same, is hardly what one could call bold these days, so much as it's pathetically cheap.
One of The Eternals, Phastos, is an openly gay guy who is shown kissing his husband, Ben Stoss; which has sparked some controversy about the LGBTQ depiction. Kevin Feige has revealed that Eternal’s homosexual superhero is just the beginning of the MCU’s representation. While some have applauded the MCU’s progress, others have criticized the LGBTQ presence.

According to Variety, Alonso responded to the LGBTQ criticism with an emotional speech at the Outfest Legacy Awards. To begin, Alonso stated that critics are common and that it is acceptable to be one. She did, however, wish to emphasize to such critics that diversity and representation aren’t about a political objective or a “game.”
Yawn. This would be far more convincing if the producers stated clearly they were interested in ethnicities/nationalities as much as they are in LGBT ideology and skin color (and, as the Muslim Ms. Marvel TV show hints, the Religion of Peace). But they never seem to mention ethnicity/nationality, and that's the most telling hole in their defense, big enough for a fleet of 18-wheelers to drive through. Her response reads like this:
We have tried to stir it up and sometimes the critics are not with us. That’s OK. That’s OK. We thank you for being a critic. We thank you for writing about us. And the fans will decide. Diversity and inclusion is not a political game for us. It is 100 percent a responsibility because you don’t get to have the global success that we have given the Walt Disney Company without the support of people around the world of every kind of human there is.
Forget it. You've been shoving these ambiguous concepts down everyone's throats for over a decade now. It's nothing new, and the way they're doing this is alienating, to say nothing of oblivious to the vitality of story merit. Besides, the part about "every kind of human" is also pretty unclear. Oddly enough, Clout News actually brings up the details I did more clearly:
To those who continue to criticize representation, Alonso’s remark is a very elegant and succinct rebuttal. When a film contains representation and diversity, critics frequently assert that it is political in character. The truth is that Hollywood is now realizing that diversity and representation are both a serious obligation and a must for success.

Every person desires to see themselves on the big screen and to know that their ethnicity; history, and way of life are being honoured
. Critics of Marvel’s Eternals have a right to their opinions; but they must also acknowledge that diversity and representation will continue to improve in the future.
But the smart person also expects merit to the story. Do these apologists really think those who'd like to see ethnicity in exploration want the story to be boring, dull and badly acted/directed/scripted? All that aside, funny they don't point out the producer didn't seem to put any clear emphasis on nationality/ethnicity, let alone say, the food recipes you could find in any of these foreign countries, or the "folk outfits" they've worn past or present (I think Mexican women's folk dresses from Tabasco and Chiapas are some of the most wonderful clothes inventions in history, along with French bikinis). Instead, we have a film where the characters wear these absurdly modest costume designs that're actually rather dull, to say nothing short of PC. And does the Eternals movie even so much as honor Kirby's art and memories? Hardly. So what's their point? Isn't it the studios who must acknowledge whether improvements will be made?

On the other hand, the Indian Express is willing to discuss some of the issues more objectively, though even they shy away from challenging queries like whether it was truly such a big deal to emphasize LGBT issues:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has ruled Hollywood for more than a decade. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but it appears cracks are showing in the edifice. After being a no-show in 2020, it has had a mediocre (if you are being generous) year so far.

For me, at least, it is no longer a certainty that you will get your money’s worth if you take the trouble to watch an MCU movie or a show by going to a nearby theatre or log in to your Disney+ Hotstar account.

Earlier, even the worst MCU products — The Incredible Hulk and Thor: Dark World come to mind — had moments of fun despite messy plotting and dreadfully dull villains.

But this year, most of MCU’s releases were a chore to go through, and that’s something one does not normally say about this brand. In 2021, Marvel Studios, the company behind MCU, also forayed into television, with mixed to really bad results.
Including, in their view, WandaVision. Maybe because it looks like it's an excuse to continue Scarlet Witch's situation into the next Dr. Strange movie. But they don't get into serious questions of whether promoting identity politics damaged the entertainment value of the Marvel-based movies. How then do they expect them to improve? Without objective criticism and taking hard looks at their mistakes, nothing will improve. They do, however point to the latest Spider-Man movie:
Spider-Man: No Way Home, the last MCU film this year, may just bring back that lost goodwill. The film has all the required ingredients. It has a huge, Avengers-level scale thanks to the introduction of multiverse with multiple characters crossing over from other MCU films and even previous Spider-Man movie series. It also has a sense of finality with it like Endgame had, as with this film Marvel and Sony’s contract to share the character expires.
Surprisingly, it has, because as some critics point out, it avoids wokeness, putting a far more serious emphasis on entertainment value. (Though it's distributed more by Columbia/Sony, so it doesn't quite count as a MCU film proper.) But, even this has an unfortunate downside, if you consider Tom Holland's made pandering statements about the desperate need for a non-white Spidey, even as his suggestion there could be female variations on the role has a valid history:
Actor Tom Holland says he hopes the future of the Spider-Man franchise would include a more “diverse” background or sexuality, including “a Spider-Gwen or a Spider-Woman” version of the web-slinging super hero.

Tom Holland, the London-born Spider-Man: No Way Home star, 25, told People the time has come for a different face to don the Spider-Man persona, repeating his appeal for change that first came in June when he said he backed a “gay Spider-Man,” adding the Marvel universe needs more racially diverse characters besides “straight white guys.”
First, there was a plausibly created Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, in the late 1970s. There was even a later successor, Julia Carpenter. But the difference is that they weren't created out of political agendas. Unlike what the later Miles Morales became, when the mixed race character who was introduced as a survivor of the Ultimate universe went on to become an identity politics token (and in that time, who knows? They've probably established Miles as a LGBT token too). What Holland's telling was entirely unnecessary, and clouds the scene with yet more political pandering, emphasizing stuff that's already been apparent for decades on end. It's all just an excuse to obscure the importance of entertainment value, of course, which these actors remain very evasive on. Speaking of which, Henry Cavill, who played Superman in just one stand-alone movie nearly a decade ago, made similar statements too for Movieweb:
Man of Steel star Henry Cavill has given his blessing to the multitude of different Superman projects that are currently underway. Both Creed actor Michael B. Jordan and J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot are planning to bring a Black Superman to screens, and Cavill has the perfect answer as to why he is fully supportive of these ideas.

"It's exciting - Superman's far more than skin color. Superman is an ideal. Superman's an extraordinary thing that lives within our hearts. Why not have multiple Supermen going on? Joaquin Phoenix did a wonderful Joker movie; so what if it's not tied to the rest of [the franchise]? They have multiple Superman comic book storylines happening at the same time."

Despite the various critiques of Cavill's live action take on the DC icon in the likes of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the actor clearly has a great understanding of the inherent importance of the character as well as the comic book medium, and sounds just as excited as Superman fans are to see these various different versions of the superhero brought to life.
So Superman has no skin color or gender? That's what both actor and news site make it sound like. In any event, lest we forget what the real problem is:
J.J. Abrams will produce the Superman project, with Black Panther and Captain America comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' on board to write the script. The Superman reboot will center on a Black actor as the titular DC superhero, with Abrams having since said of the project that "There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn't be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we're beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity."
Any movie with such an anti-American ideologue as Coates on board only spells trouble and worry, as noted earlier this year. Skin color and even ideals alone do not guarantee the finished product will be engaging, let alone thoughtful, considering the highly probably chances Abrams' project will be more about agendas. Wow, if this is what an actor whose 2013 stand-alone film never led to any direct sequels, and only continued the character in 2 more films versus Batman and later teaming with the Justice League, thinks of the material, then maybe it's best not to miss him at all. Though I wonder if big-time fans of Zack Snyder are disappointed Cavill's basically dumping the role without much caring to show for it. As of now, Cavill and Holland have something in common: they've both made divisive statements without putting much emphasis on the importance of entertainment value. Something tells me they don't commonly read the old or new comics either. What a depressing situation it is when Hollywood makes a farce worse than need be.

And why must we be told the Joker film is such a big deal, now that I think of it? That's only putting another emphasis on villainous spotlights, something else that's dumbed down entertainment a long time ago.

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