Eternals' sour score on Rotten Tomatoes was the kind of news that people did not exactly see coming. The award-winning Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) directed the film, and it's got a cast of well-liked names. But those critics lambasted it for 'placid' performances, a 'glacial pace' and an overall 'dull' vibe.
Yes, Eternals' score — currently 53% — falls below some of the least-liked Marvel movies of all time. This is a sharp pivot from the positive reviews that Shang-Chi (92% on RT and Certified Fresh) and even Black Widow (79%, also Certified Fresh).
It's also below the likes of Thor: The Dark World (66%), The Incredible Hulk (67%) and Iron Man 2 (72%). Yes, Eternals is 13 points lower than the worst Thor movie (one which is most by people who really really like them some Loki). But it appears that the need to see the next upcoming Marvel movie and see what happens in the Eternals post-credits scenes is stronger than scores.
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You would think that this could create something of a concern for prospective audience members. Do you really want to go see an epic-length (it will run over 2 hours and 30 minutes long) movie that isn't even all that good? One that's currently got a score that translates to an F in most schools?
It turns out, many people do.
Eternals looks Rotten Tomatoes-proof
Critics are only as powerful as the impact they can make on the public. And in this case, it looks like Marvel and Disney's grip on their audiences is winning.
The evidence piled up early.
As Deadline reported in mid-October, early demand for Eternals tickets outpaced everything so far this year. The first 24 hours of pre-sale tickets for Eternals was higher than those of Shang-Chi (by 86%) and Black Widow (by 30%). AMC confirmed that Eternals' day one pre-orders were its highest of the year.
And to put those numbers in comparison, Shang-Chi has the third-highest opening weekend domestic box office (more than $75 million), and is the overall leader for total domestic box office (over $223 million). Only Black Widow (more than $80 million in opening weekend, more than $183 million total) and Venom: Let There be Carnage (more than $90 million opening weekend, and more than $191 million total) sit near it atop the leaderboard.
Shang-Chi had beaten its $50 million tracking estimate, and also had more time to make that money, with a four-day Labor Day holiday weekend. So if Eternals also manages to beat its estimates? Things were looking good.
And then on November 3, Deadline showed even more success, with Eternals projected to a $75 million domestic box office on its opening weekend. And that's supposed to include $13 million already made in pre-orders — supposedly 25% ahead of Shang-Chi at this point. Fandango says it's behind only Black Widow for its advance ticket sales before opening, having shoved Shang-Chi out of the #2 slot.
Even in Google Trends — which isn't an arbiter for success, but can gauge interest — you can see Eternals outranking Shang-Chi. While Shang-Chi's blue needle rose above Eternals' red line during its opening box office weeks, the searches for Eternals have mostly soared above Shang-Chi's by a strong ratio when you look at the months of their release:
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All that said? I'm not exactly optimistic about if I will enjoy Eternals or not. That 53% score looms awfully large over my prospective purchase. But, admittedly, I'm a part of the problem: I still bought a ticket.
Marvel's current power lies in having created movies that dominate and control conversation in impressive ways. And there's also the whole thing where we already know that Eternals is supposed to have a huge impact on the future of the MCU.
So, to better understand all of that (I write about all of this for a living after all), I've bought a ticket. At least, I tell myself, I'm seeing it at a theater that has good table-service food and drinks, so my physical appetite can be sated even if my mental appetite is starved.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.