Update, October 28: After 93 reviews, it's only gotten worse for Marvel's Eternals on Rotten Tomatoes. The film now sits at 65% positive reviews, which is worse than any MCU movie to date – including The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World. There's a long way to go, though, with hundreds more reviews expected before the score levels out.
Original story: Marvel's Eternals hasn't drawn the same level of critical enthusiasm we usually see reserved for the Marvel movies so far. At the time of writing, after 41 reviews – meaning there's a big caveat that this score is still likely to change a lot, as more review pour in – Eternals sits at 71% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab). That's lower than Black Widow (79%), Avengers: Age of Ultron (76%) and Iron Man 2 (71%).
So far, it's only higher than The Incredible Hulk (67%) and Thor: The Dark World (66%) in the MCU.
To be fair to Marvel's newest film, this isn't a precise science, and like we say, this is a small sample size of what's likely to be the overall number of reviews for the film. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, for example, ended up with 313 reviews in total. So Eternals has a long way to go.
What's notable about the critical reception to Eternals, though, is that some outlets haven't gelled with the way Chloe Zhao's movie reframes the MCU at all. The Guardian, for example, calls it "magic hour meets PowerPoint", the former in reference to the movie's on-location sunset shots, and the latter in reference to just how much additional lore the film stuffs into the MCU. The Telegraph (opens in new tab) calls the film "insipid", while Polygon (opens in new tab) says it's a "very messy movie".
Still, as 71% positive reviews suggests, plenty of outlets like it, too. Our sister site GamesRadar (opens in new tab) says "Chloé Zhao gives the MCU just the kick in the pants it needs at this phase in its evolution." A nice notice on The Observer (opens in new tab) says "almost all the relationships between the many Eternals crackle with energy and history", and praises two characters for having sexual chemistry, which is something the MCU has always seemed afraid of.
So, why is Eternals proving divisive? Well, the epic scope of the film sounds like a blessing and a curse – it's set over thousands of years, and retroactively fits these god-type characters into an MCU that already has the nine realms seen in Thor and the ancient sorcerers of Doctor Strange. The film goes out of its way to provide a reason why the characters didn't intervene when Thanos snapped away half the universe, which is bound to be a tough sell. Some critics seemed to like the movies' vastness, praising its ambition, while others have found it unwieldy.
On TechRadar, we've seen the film, and we'll publish our review of Eternals the closer we get to release – and we'll update this page as the critic average around the film solidifies.
The thing is, Marvel needed to shake up the MCU on the big screen. Even if the numbers don't tell this story, Black Widow was such a rote film – a predictable solo flick that shed no real light on its lead and wasn't worth the pandemic-prolonged wait. The longer the MCU goes on, the more it's at risk of becoming formulaic.
It sounds like Marvel's Eternals is the opposite of that, with its own distinctive visual style and its own dimension of lore that's designed to give the MCU more of an extended life. There was always a danger it wasn't going to land, but for once, no one can really accuse Marvel Studios of being risk-averse.
Eternals releases on November 5 in the US and UK, and on November 4 in Australia.