Chloe Zhao’s Eternals has the dubious distinction of being the only film in the Marvel Cinematic with a ‘rotten’ score at review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. And yet, many swear by it, praising performances, action, philosophy, and themes.
Zhao sat down with Empire recently to have a detailed discussion about the film, the theme of faith and the original, bleaker ending she had in mind.
Eternals is about the titular superhuman, quasi-immortal beings who have lived secretly among humans since 5000 BC, about 7000 years before the Avengers initiative came to be.
They were told by their Celestial overlord called Arishem that they were earth’s protectors, and were tasked to destroy the Deviants, their destructive counterparts. While Deviants seemingly died, the good guys ostensibly received no further communication from the Celestial, stranding them indefinitely (so they thought) on the earth.
The movie’s theatrical ending that we saw was also fairly sombre when most of the Eternals were whisked away by the Arishem to find out whether their decision to save humanity and letting a Celestial die was the right decision. The Eternals, most of them anyway, had decided to protect the people of the earth over the Celestial who was taking birth from the planet’s core. It is for this crime, Arishem summoned the Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry).
But in the original draft, the ending was even worse for our heroes than what we got.
Zhao told Empire, “I don’t think I’ve made a single film where the opening and ending stay the same as the script, just because the scenes are fluid as we shoot. And we actually had another ending that is really bleak. Bleak. I didn’t hate it, because I’m used to films that are more melancholy. But I don’t think it went down well with audiences.”
She elaborated, “It [the ending] used to end with everybody back on the ship, minds erased and just going on to another planet, like The Twilight Zone. I remember when it goes to black, everyone was like, “I don’t know what to do.” And also, it’s the MCU, and you want to be excited for what’s next.”
While Zhao wanted this ending, she is right that it would not have gone down well with MCU fans who want things to continue in some way.