Like many of you, I have not had a chance to see “Eternals” early. I too will have to wait until the film hits theaters to actually see it and develop my own opinion. This is typically the argument that people apply to films they want to like but can’t reconcile their own biases with what the critics are saying.
This often results in comments like “critics don’t matter anyway” and “no one trusts Rotten Tomatoes” or “they all have it wrong, they haven’t seen it yet and I love it so everyone else is wrong.” We continually see this attitude and response with things like the Snyderverse, where critics and naysayers poke countless holes in the plot and execution, but all critiques fall on deaf ears. Suddenly, the critic community is null and void, and their opinions of film mean nothing.
We should be able to apply this across the board, to all films even ones we don’t like. It’s completely fine to disagree with critics, and I say that as an actual film critic and reviewer. My reviews are my opinion based on my own personal bias and enjoyment, and regardless of how objective I try to be, how I feel about a film will not always be how you feel about it. This is the ebb and flow between audiences and critics, and will forever be the disconnect between them. This is the natural order of things, that is until “Eternals” emerged as a polarizing film among critics and early screening fans. Suddenly, the entire conversation has changed from “Rotten Tomatoes shouldn’t be trusted” to only discussing the film through the eyes of early critic consensus. I’m sorry, but this is bullshit and completely unfair to the merits of the film. The simple fact that outlets insist on leading with how bad the film is doing critically weeks before its actually released is hypocritical at BEST, and trashing the film seems to be the only way we have chosen to discuss it.
Here’s the thing, “Eternals” may very well be an ok film. It may even be a bad film and a majority of the critics and audience’ scores may very well be accurate. [Editor’s note- we did have a reviewer see it, who didn’t hate it, but had some thoughts on what could’ve made it better.]
The difference is, most of us haven’t seen the film yet. And even further, the majority of us rarely make our judgements based on these very critiques that seem to be the only way we’re willing to frame the film. If we’re not willing to do it for say, “Venom,” why the hell are we so quick to do it for “Eternals?” We seem to be obsessed with not only tearing the film down based on reviews we seldom regard as meaningful, as well as letting the media run with these scores as fact. They aren’t facts; they’re opinions that we go out of our way to not take into account but have somehow made them the standard for how we talk about “Eternals.” Again, without even seeing it.
One could argue that because of the hype surrounding the film- and that it’s a MCU release- is why we’re choosing to backpedal on our harsh stances against critic scores. So sure, I can give you the element of surprise at how many critics seem to not have enjoyed the film. However, like EVERYTHING else, we have to look at what is actually being said about the film instead of just running with the low Rotten Tomato score. We’ve all fought hard to point out that the actual scores on Rotten Tomatoes seldom represent actual reviews, as it is an aggregated total that rounds up and down depending on how the site chooses to apply it to a film. For example, a reviewer can rate a film 3 out of 5 stars, but if the content of their review SEEMS to be more critical, then it will count as a rotten review. However, if it’s generally positive despite some flaws, that exact same score could also be considered fresh.
We are constantly pointing this out for films we loved that critics don’t, but for some reason are refusing to apply this same kind of due diligence to “Eternals.” The discussion has moved away from whether or not the film is good or bad and more about tracking how high or low the arbitrary score is and what it means. We’ve have collectively boiled down the entire film to whether or not its Rotten Tomatoes score is high or low and where it falls in the long list of MCU scores. Listen, I’m a huge marvel fan and recognize that it can be significant when a Marvel film is anything less than dazzling. But we simply can’t disregard the scoring for everything else and then suddenly make it the only way we frame THIS film. It is simply unfair to a film that isn’t even in theaters yet, and for me is an example of how we are having the wrong discussions about the new, bold film.
Like I said before, “Eternals” may actually end up earning its scoring. It could very well be a rare occasion where both critics and audiences agree, good or bad. What I can’t stand for is holding the film to a score we tend to disregard regularly, consistently leading with this scoring as the only way to discuss the film, and purposefully trashing the film because you’re uncomfortable with its diversity and inclusion of things that make you uncomfortable. First of all, grow up. Second, this kind of framing sets the film up for ONLY failure rather than failing or succeeding on its own merits. “Eternals” deserves all the same passes we give to other films (Yes, I’m still talking about you Snyderbros) and if we’re not careful in how we talk about movies, we may end up setting it up for failure.
Lastly, this framework will inevitably exacerbate the problem these same people have been complaining about for years when it comes to the MCU. We want them take risks and try something different, and have gotten a little tired of the same old third act CGI battle formula that the MCU has refused to deviate from. If we continue to only talk about “Eternals” is this negative light, anything that is a risk or different with end up being done away with altogether. We’ll then be stuck with same movie repeated over and over again, and we’ll end up going back to the same old song and dance. I don’t know if “Eternals” succeeds in the risks it purportedly takes, but we have to be willing to give it a try and judge it on its own execution. NOT what fanboys who don’t like diversity think of it. I’m not saying we have to like this film to force the hand of Marvel Studios to continue to take risks. Simply that, if we keep this trash talk slander up we may never get the chance to watch the MCU perfect these broadened horizons.
We can talk about the film’s flaws and successes, and I might watch it this weekend and decide that everything that has been said about the film is 100% correct. But I’m going to watch “Eternals” before I give my opinion. You know, how we do for just about every other high profile, blockbuster? We simply need to change how we’re talking about this film, and move away from only framing it as failure before any of us even get a chance to see it. It opens in theaters on November 5th, 2021.
And that’s what really grinds my gears.