Why The Batman Performed Better Than the MCU’s Eternals | #oscars | #academywards


Prior to their respective releases, Warner Bros.’ The Batman and Marvel Studio’s Eternals were said to be the best of the best in director-driven genre filmmaking. However, The Batman got released to critical acclaim and over $760 million worldwide — the highest ever for a Batman origin story — while Eternals became the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first-ever “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, let’s explore the circumstances of their releases and subsequent legacies.


Both The Batman and Eternals were said to be fresh starts on an artistic level for their respective studios. Warner Bros. got frequently criticized for interfering with the work of their directors to help make the DC Extended Universe a success. That resulted in many projects disappointing fans and critics alike, such as Batman V Superman, 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2017’s Justice League. And while Marvel has been much more successful with the critical and financial success of the MCU, a common criticism of its films is the lack of a unique director’s vision behind their pictures. That often resulted in projects feeling the same, even if it was far from the truth, and was why both studios put a lot of faith in Matt Reeves and Chloé Zhao with these films.


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The pre-release hype for Eternals was interesting, to say the least. It became indicative of the public perception behind Marvel movies that the two big talking points were that many scenes got shot on location and that it was shot on film. However, one aspect remained clear — Eternals was Chloé Zhao’s film more than a Marvel film, and Marvel wanted people to know it. The marketing campaign for Eternals didn’t kick off until after the 93rd Academy Awards, which meant that they could plaster “Academy Award Winner Chloé Zhao” on every poster and trailer. Eternals was something special, with rumors from test screenings mentioning standing ovations and Marvel executives believing the film to be Oscar-worthy. So, one has to wonder how it all went a bit wrong.


It’s important to point out that Eternals was hardly a flop — it made over $400 million worldwide and, despite its mixed critical reaction, has a following of dedicated fans. The movie only fell against its lofty expectations. It was chasing Oscar glory before many people had even seen it, and when it finally came out, most people found it ranged from okay to pretty good. It wasn’t that Eternals was a bad film, but it just couldn’t live up to the promise of being the greatest thing ever. It wasn’t funny or light-hearted enough for general audiences, and it wasn’t different enough from the Marvel formula to appeal to the most ardent of critics.


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And that is where The Batman succeeded, as expectations remained in check. It might be because DC has not had the same level of success with its films as Marvel, but the excitement for The Batman got generated by the film itself. Like Eternals, The Batman received positive reactions from its test screening, but DC wasn’t hunting for Oscar glory. DC sold it as a solid Batman flick, with its own unique identity crafted by Matt Reeves. And that’s why the response surrounding The Batman has been so positive, as no one was expecting the world from it.


A lesson is clear from the story of these two films — one about the dangers of expectation. While Eternals could hardly be labeled a failure, there’s a reason why, despite grossing a similar amount as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a sequel has yet to be confirmed. Eternals will remain a curious blip in the story of the MCU, while The Batman has spawned a whole sub-franchise under the DC umbrella at Warner Bros. Both got pitched as director-driven genre pieces, yet one soared while the other stumbled.


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