Eternals hasn’t even hit the big screen and it could already be facing a bit of controversy. What should be a welcome and new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to tell a much different story than what we’ve seen from the franchise before. But fans in China might not be able to see the film because the director, Chloe Zhao, is facing some scrutiny from that country over quotes she had in the past criticizing the government. This dustup is around her most recent film, Nomadland but could extend to future works as well.
Chloe Zhao was born and raised in China but left that country for the United States when she started studying filmmaking. Some quotes from the Eternals director recently surfaced. In one she says in response to time growing up, “It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere.” An in another she says about the United States, “The U.S. is now my country.”. This led to some backlash in China toward her recent award-winning film Nomadland. In multiple instances, the promotion from the film was removed from government-run websites as well as other places where movies are featured. While not an explicit banning of the film, it does appear the government is trying to distance itself from the filmmaker. This would then call into question what happens with her next film, Eternals.
On a couple of search engines in China, when one tried to find information on Nomadland, previous landing pages for the film now read, “According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the page is not found.” Other art for the film has also been taken down. Technically, Nomadland isn’t set to release in China until April 23rd so there is time for this to sort itself out. Though if the Chinese government sees Zhao’s comments as part of the issue, there’s a chance that this film doesn’t see the light of day there. If that was the case, there’s almost no chance Eternals would hit theater screens either.
Eternals was supposed to be released in late-2020 as part of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four. Pandemic-related regulations and closures delayed the film until November of 2021. It will be about the titular group of characters, an almost god-like race of superhumans who operate on a slightly different plane than what we’ve already seen in the MCU. Think a crew more like what Thanos would run with, considering that’s where he came from.
The film features an amazing cast with a ton of new faces to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumal Nanjiani, and Kit Harrington are just some of the names coming to this new story. No doubt Marvel and Disney want the Chinese market as part of their box office and release strategy so it will be interesting to see news around Eternals and Zhao’s relationship with the country going forward.
We are still many months and many Marvel projects away from Eternals hitting the screen. But we could have some trouble brewing in the next few months especially if there continues to be a hard line against Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland in the short-term.