“The Eternals”: A Lesson in Rotten Tomatoes


Mason Glod, Beat Reporter

Fan-favorite Marvel heroes have a new, terrifying villain: RottenTomatoes.com.

“The Eternals” is the newest entry in the hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, set to premiere on November 5th. Expectations are high; audience polls indicated that this film is the most anticipated movie of 2021. To helm the film, Marvel hired director Chloé Zhao, who just won the Best Director Oscar at the 2021 Oscars Ceremony for her film “Nomadland.” Marvel decided to premiere the film weeks early at the New York Film festival, likely positioning it for an Oscar campaign in an act of extreme confidence. Everything was perfectly set up for this film to be great and a success.

So it was likely quite a shock when the review embargo for the film lifted on October 23rd, with the movie receiving a 57% on the infamous critic website Rotten Tomatoes (as of the time of publication). It is the lowest score any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie has ever received, and it is the only movie in the franchise to be deemed “rotten” on the website. So there clearly is a significant issue, and the score has sent Twitter and the rest of the internet ablaze.

This score raises many questions and exposes some significant truths about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the industry as a whole. But, first, to understand the situation, an understanding of the functions of Rotten Tomatoes is needed.

Rotten Tomatoes was started in 2000 and is currently owned by movie ticket company Fandango. Every movie on the website gets a rating on the Tomatometer, a percentage rating. To get this percentage, Rotten Tomatoes has over 3,000 critics that have been approved. When these critics review movies on the site, they must determine if the movie is generally good or generally bad, giving the movie either a tomato or a splat. The Tomatometer score represents the percentage of critics who gave the movie a tomato. A movie with a 60% or over is considered “fresh,” and any movie lower is considered “rotten.”

It has long been discussed that a Tomatometer score does not equate to the overall quality of a film. As a result, many movies rated high on the websites are commercial flops, and many movies rated low are fan favorites. Rotten Tomatoes acknowledges this too. In fact, the website recently published their first book titled “Rotten Movies We Love,” where editors of the website defend movies rated low on the Tomatometer.

But what does all this mean for “The Eternals”? First, even with a rotten score, it is way too soon to call the movie a failure. The success of the movie will depend on its box office results and audience reaction. If fans of the franchise love the movie, it can still be considered successful. While the score is not positive, it should not cement the audience’s opinions before seeing it.

Still, the score has to hurt Kevin Feige (Chief Creative Officer at Marvel Entertainment) and the company. This is essentially the first Marvel movie not adored by critics. In many ways, this was bound to happen eventually. Especially as Marvel produces content at a much faster rate (especially with all the series on Disney+), not every Marvel production can be loved by critics and audiences. “The Eternals” was and is supposed to represent a new direction for Marvel in the post- “Avengers: Endgame” era. The movie is recognized as a massive experiment for Marvel, and maybe this time, the experiment was unsuccessful. The truth will be revealed once audiences see the film for themselves this weekend.