Chloé Zhao Responds to Audiences' Mixed Reception to 'Eternals' : 'Made a Lot of People Uncomfortable'

"I think we definitely felt it was coming," the Oscar-winning director said

Eternals World Premiere Red Carpet
Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Chloé Zhao isn't surprised by audiences' mixed reactions to her Marvel movie.

The Oscar-winning Nomadland director's superhero movie Eternals hit theaters in November, delivering a tonally and stylistically different installment in the massively popular Marvel Cinematic Universe. Speaking with Empire magazine, Zhao explained that the timing, after being delayed due to the pandemic, may have had an impact.

"Eternals was planned to be released soon after [2019's Avengers] Endgame, and not at a time when everyone is having an existential crisis. The film itself is about existential crisis, both for humanity and God. So I think we definitely felt it was coming," she said of the mixed response.

Zhao, 39, added of meshing her indie movie tendencies with the Marvel franchise's tastes: "In this case, we truly stepped out of the box that I think the world put us in, and met in the middle because of our shared interests. And by truly doing that, it made a lot of people uncomfortable on both sides."

"But," she continued, "there are also people who are more comfortable with the order of their world [being] disturbed. And then they look at our love-child and go, 'Oh! This touches different sides of me!' I like that."

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

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The filmmaker said she "completely understand[s] the divisiveness coming from critics and the fans" because "when you take this to extremes that are seen as opposition — the world I come from and the world of Marvel, that has been divided in a way that's so unfair and unfortunate — and to merge the way we did, I actually see the reaction as a testament to how much we had merged with each other; how uncomfortable that might make people feel."

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Eternals, now streaming on Disney+, stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Brian Tyree Henry.

At the end of the day, Zhao said every project is a learning opportunity and she doesn't venture out to please everyone in her creative process.

"I think the need for consensus is a hindrance for any authentic creative process. Just like it's a hindrance for living an authentic life as a person," she told Empire. "I have been on the receiving end of somewhat consensus and divisiveness about my work. Neither of them has any real influence on me as an artist, because every time I'm lucky enough to create, I learn from the process."

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