Several Takeaways From ETERNALS and RED NOTICE

On a weekend that proved to have more ups than downs, the month of November has kickstarted the winter box office in an admirable direction. Eternals, Red Notice, Spencer, and more were released theatrically on November 5th, and it became pretty evident which would emerge out on top. If you guessed Marvel, you are 300% correct.

Any Marvel film is known to steal the thunder when it comes time for another release, and this time, Marvel Studios debuted their 26th film, a little over a month before the much-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home. Red Notice was released in a limited selection of theaters before its arrival on Netflix’s streaming service this coming Friday. And Spencer gave Kristen Stewart a legitimate shot to possibly win gold at next year’s Academy Awards. Let’s look at some takeaways from the two primary releases (Eternals and Red Notice) this weekend and concur on what their opening weekends/critical reception informed us.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead at point #5.)

#1 The streak of the MCU is over for Marvel Studios with Eternals release, coming to 25-1.

There will be those that suggest this is not the case, but in terms of looking at the whole picture, Marvel Studios’ magical streak looks like it has come to an end. Even with a “fine” 70+ million opening domestic weekend performance, the film has received widely mixed reviews and is currently the lowest-rated film of the entire MCU Universe.

Our review explains that this ambitious, visually engaging work became a methodical addition to the ever-expanding (and progressing) superhero genre. Unlike the standard Marvel fare, it became buried with a comatose level of exposition and not enough character development behind it to secure total interest. Coupled with the 156-minute runtime, a bunch of trailers beforehand, and two post-credits scenes, and folks were begging to leave the theater. That is not the same feeling that once permeated audiences when they saw a heartbreaking cliffhanger at the end of Avengers: Infinity War or a poetic, beautiful sendoff to the mega cast in Avengers: Endgame. The purpose of a film is to give that emotional reaction once we exit the theater, not for several of us to run to the bathroom.  

Academy Award winner Chloe Zhao had her name stamped on this film, and many of us were excited after her elegiac work on Nomadland, The Rider, and Songs My Brothers Taught Me. It didn’t translate well enough in the Marvel atmosphere, leaving behind a middling taste that stays commonly reserved for DC films. Suicide Squad and Joss Whedon’s Justice League fell to the same issues of pacing and characters thrown in for the sake of it. Unquestionably, Eternals feels very anti-MCU, but it doesn’t justify the convoluted and structural flaws of the 26th addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Now, if the film was to leg out spectacularly in the coming weeks to break even, maybe this statement could be retracted. But other news sources agree that a 161+ million worldwide opening in today’s climate would need absurd luck to leg out, along with the inevitable competition in coming weeks (plus, it will not be playing in China). The reviews will keep coming and probably harm this film’s status more than ever. It is not a bad film, but it’s not a great one either.

Unfortunately, Marvel Studios, the MCU film streak is over.

#2 But, the MCU showing signs of vulnerability after nearly fourteen years isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Now, let’s be fair. Having one “flop” in a gigantic universe with 25 other respectable films is not bad at all. I mean, Marvel Studio’s streak lasted longer than The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak in WWE (which was 21-1). They have amassed more than 23 billion dollars and are still planning to go the distance with more ambitious sequels, reboots, and completely fresh movies in the future. Any other franchises we hear of doing that?

Over thirteen years of winning worldwide and making money ensure that the MCU branding can take a minor hit and still recover nicely. Some could even still argue that Eternals is not as bad as critics are making it out to be (which we’ll get to at the end), and they would have strong points.

Richard Newby from The Hollywood Reporter stated, “Eternals shares the divisive response to Snyder’s superhero works [Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice], which similarly took a deconstructive approach to superheroes and forced them to question their purpose in the world.” Even Zhao cited Snyder as an inspiration for his depiction of Superman and the mythology surrounding the character’s arc.

Some may be being too harsh, but conventional superhero storytelling is something we have seen much of already. Zhao’s latest work embodies that, even with the meditative flair of her style and aspirations. Thankfully, there are some positive elements to enjoy, and many of us will eat that up here. The Marvel Universe is allowed to show signs of vulnerability thanks to its longevity and reliability. The same can not be said for DC, though.

Photo Courtesy of Deadline

#3 Opening a Netflix release, even in limited theaters, alongside a Marvel Studios film is not only a dangerous gamble but a bad idea.

If someone can explain why this was a good idea in the slightest, many would love to hear the explanation.

Red Notice debuts this weekend on Netflix, which would’ve been mightily appealing already since many are subscribed to the popular streaming service and boasts an incredible star power with Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds.

Then, someone decided to release the film a weekend before in 750 theaters in the hopes of it mounting momentum for its Netflix arrival. It made not even 1.5 million dollars this weekend alongside Eternal’s admirable debut. This feature costs nearly the same amount as the Eternals feature and arguably boasts more star power. Why was this released in the theaters beforehand?

What’s worse is the film is a major disappointment (review here), gutting out plotlines we’ve seen already and referencing films that are way better than this one. Reynolds, Johnson, and Gadot can only salvage so much, but almost everyone can tell how this movie will end (even if it’s silly and fun).

#4 Dwayne Johnson’s shtick is getting a bit repetitive, and hopefully, he can start evolving in his following slate of films.

Before anyone claims this writer is calling out Dwayne Johnson, hear me out. Dwayne Johnson is a hard-working, charming, and unique individual. He has won over people worldwide with his muscles and charisma, and he focuses on bringing a product that everyone can enjoy. And some of his films are very sleek and enjoyable, with onscreen chemistry with Kevin Hart and Jason Statham becoming a winning formula.

The one major gripe is that his habit of acting nowadays becomes almost relegated to the same role. Look like a hulking, badass hero, kick-ass, and spew some insults or quips to get chuckles out of the audience (or enrage the onscreen opponents). And it has become a commonality for several years straight now. He could play the same role across multiple franchises, and no one would care in the slightest.

Some might be fine with that, but it leaves room to evolve and change. Like Johnson did with his surprising singing capabilities in Moana, Johnson has the potential to start altering the details of his characters to refresh them. He could see how former WWE peers Dave Bautista and John Cena have gone above and beyond the “muscular, silly big hero” moniker.

Who knows, maybe Black Adam will prove us wrong as Johnson plays the titular antihero/villain.

Photo Courtesy of Movieweb

#5 The post-credits of Eternals are eye-grabbers, especially for the future of the MCU.

Last chance, spoilers ahead.

So, at the end of Eternals, half of the remaining team heads to space to find more of their kind and inform them of their true purpose. The other half left on Earth is dragged away from the planet from the Celestial they work under, Arishem. Two people visit the ones in space: Pip and his master, Eros. Both are willing to help the three Eternals rescue their other teammates.

It turns out Eros is the brother of Thanos and played by none other than Harry Styles. Wow, what a magnificent entry and a significant statement for Styles. The singer will embrace a new future in the Marvel canon and one day will shine on the big screen when it’s his time.

The ending post-credits scene has Dane Whitman (Kit Harington) open a chest that reveals an Ebony Blade. When he touches it, an unknown individual (off-camera) asks if he’s ready to use it, and the screen turns black.

And for the voice? None other than two-time Academy Award winner, Mahershala Ali, will play the role of Blade in a future film within the MCU.

Hallelujah, the future of the MCU looks astoundingly promising. Mr. Ali will play the role that Wesley Snipes once committed himself to years ago, and Harry Styles will play the brother of one of Marvel’s most formidable antagonists. Plus, Will Poulter became cast as Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3. If this leads to some engaging encounters, bring it on once Avengers 5 (or something related) comes to theaters in the future.

#6 If studios give something that the audience wants or enjoys, then critics’ choice of words (almost) becomes irrelevant.

Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, IMDb, CinemaScore, and the Internet stand as the ones who tell us whether a film product is deemed good or bad. And for most of us, we can align our perspectives to understand why a critic praises or condemns a movie upon witnessing.

For some cases, though, there are times where the audience can slam a critic’s choice of words about a particular feature. Batman v. Superman, Joker, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Venom, Indiana Jones 4, and more can attest to this magnitude. And this weekend, Eternals and Red Notice join that club. Both have received highly mixed reviews from critics, yet audiences are enjoying them very much.

Suppose a studio recognizes a consumer’s willingness to pay for a ticket (or subscription) to witness a selection of films. In that case, that studio will make its money and bring the consumer back for more in the future. People in the world generally enjoy action, horror, comedies, science fiction, and superheroes in today’s time. Therefore, upon offering that product, it’s guaranteed folks will see it.

When a critic offers their opinion, it could bolster or ruin the movie’s potential. Sometimes, that doesn’t always work, as people will still find the beauty of works despite negatory words. Critics were not fond of Joker, yet it made over one billion dollars. Star Wars Episode 9 may have ended the series on a sour note, yet it made money back. Small elements like the endings, nostalgia or casting of characters add to the excitement for diehard fans.

People like Marvel, so they will pay for it. People enjoy Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds hurling jokes or involving themselves in wacky action.

At the end of the day, audiences will give their final thoughts on the movie, not the critic. The critic advises what should (or shouldn’t) become viewed. Sometimes the opinions correlate; sometimes, they don’t. And in the war of critics vs. audience, the former evaluates while the latter settles if it’s true or not. The box office, thus, reciprocates the success or failure.

And that informs studios of what folks will pay to see. Capitalizing on that, regardless of feedback, is the success story.