Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Eternals Could Get Banned In China

Trouble could be brewing for Marvel's planned November release of The Eternals in China. The upcoming MCU film is directed by ChloƩ Zhao, who recently became the first Asian woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes. Zhao, who was born in Beijing, received widespread praise in China shortly after her win for Nomadland, but since then, quotes featuring the director reportedly speaking ill of her teen years spent in China have seemingly led the country's government to censor mentions of Zhao and Nomadland in the press.

As reported by Variety, the controversy stems from the director's 2013 interview with Filmmaker, in which she reportedly made critical remarks about growing up in China as a teen. The comments have since been removed from the website, but the original interview has been preserved via archives. "It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere," she reportedly said. "You felt like you were never going to be able to get out. A lot of info I received when I was younger was not true, and I became very rebellious toward my family and my background."

Since her comments surfaced, the articles praising Zhao for her Golden Globes win have disappeared from Chinese media sites. Additionally, Variety further reported that two of China's most popular online movie ticket selling sites have removed Nomadland's planned April 23 release date from the list of upcoming releases. As of right now, no official announcement has been made about the indie film's release being scrapped in China, but as censorship surrounding Zhao grows, it seems increasingly possible that The Eternals could be banned in the country.

The Eternals is in a tricky situation thanks to China's censorship bodies

Every film shown in China has to be approved by the government and the China Film Administration, and the process is tricky for a number of reasons. Everything from excessive violence to negative depictions of the country can leave a movie banned from Chinese theaters. However, since the country's box office is second only to the United States', Hollywood has found creative ways to appease the censors.

Marvel is particularly good at getting its movies into Chinese theaters. In the past, the studio has added additional scenes to Iron Man 3 featuring Chinese surgeons for the Chinese market, as well as shown Captain America using a Vivo phone (via CNET). However, Zhao's interview will be trickier to navigate as the studio works to ensure The Eternals makes it to theaters in China.

Ultimately, Nomadland is a small movie, and its box office totals aren't nearly as important to its long term success as a Marvel film's. In an interview with Deadline, USC professor and China expert Stanley Rosen said Zhao will likely need to issue some sort of statement clarifying her comments prior to the film's November release, but he also noted China's pride in having a Chinese artist achieve international acclaim may ultimately work in Nomadland and The Eternals' favor, regardless of the director's 2013 interview.

"I think they definitely want to release the film, and they're of course expecting Chloe Zhao Ting to meet them at least part of the way by clarifying her reported remarks," Rosen said. "She can't avoid commenting if she continues to do interviews with the media. She and her representatives can craft something that should be enough to make this a win-win situation for her, for China, and for the forthcoming Marvel entry."

For now, Marvel fans in China will just have to hope the controversy clears up before The Eternals' November release date.