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Chloe Zhao Has The Perfect Response To Eternals Blowback

More than a few people were surprised at the announcement that Chloé Zhao would be directing "Eternals" and becoming a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the process. "Eternals" has often been seen as an obscure and esoteric part of the MCU, and Zhao reportedly pitched the film by showing studio execs pictures of sand and reciting poetry. While Marvel Studios has chosen some unique filmmakers in the past, Zhao is known for her quietly intense indie projects and her singular directorial sensibilities. By the time "Eternals" released, she had already won the Academy Award for best director for her previous film, the haunting drama "Nomadland." Was it possible, some wondered, that the MCU was about to have its own auteur film?

When "Eternals" finally released in November 2021, it did receive a great deal of praise. But not everybody was so impressed. At the time of writing, the film has a disappointing 47% on Rotten Tomatoes. Detractors complained about the long runtime, the large cast of new characters, and the complicated plot, among other things. As it turns out, Zhao has seen the blowback, and she has the perfect response to it.

Zhao says she's comfortable with the divisive Eternals reception

Speaking with Empire, Chloé Zhao discussed the split reaction to "Eternals" among fans and critics, saying she's seen the reviews but isn't bothered by them. "I think the need for consensus is a hindrance for any authentic creative process, just like it's a hindrance for living an authentic life as a person," Zhao said. She explained that she tries to learn from both her broad successes and failures, saying, "I have been on the receiving end of somewhat consensus, and divisiveness about my work. Neither of them has any real influence on me as an artist because every time I'm lucky enough to create, I learn from the process." 

This echoes what Zhao told Variety in a 2021 interview shortly after she won the Oscar for best director. When asked to speak about the fact that "Eternals" was delayed and "Nomadland" got pushed forward thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhao responded, "I have gone through ups and downs in my relatively short career. And one thing I've learned is a bit of a cliché, but everything does happen for a reason."

In her Empire interview, Zhao also spoke about the impact she believes the COVID-19 pandemic had on the reception to "Eternals." "The film itself is about an existential crisis, both for humanity and God," Zhao pointed out. "So, I think we definitely felt it was coming."

Additionally, Zhao thinks a certain amount of the "Eternals" reaction boils down to perceptions, saying the world of Marvel and the realm of indie film "has been divided in a way that's so unfair and unfortunate." Zhao says combining the aesthetics of the two with "Eternals" was bound to make people upset. She noted, "I actually see the reaction as a testament to how much we had merged with each other; how uncomfortable that might make people feel."