Marvel’s “Eternals,” which just officially became the worst reviewed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has seen a shift in the marketing for the movie, demonstrated by the mainstream entertainment press breathlessly publicizing it as the film with the first MCU gay superhero, has now been banned from playing Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries ahead of its planned November 11 rollout across the Gulf region.
Variety’s sources have confirmed that despite the film being publicized across the region on the websites of local multiplex chains, such as top local exhibitor Vox Cinemas, “Eternals” won’t be playing in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, tickets for the movie are currently available for purchase at Vox cinemas in the UAE.
In the Arab world, movies concerning or containing sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut to comply with censorship rules. But in this case, it appears that Disney was either unwilling or unable make edits requested by censors. That will apparently hurt the film.
Director Chloé Zhao has said in several interviews that she expressed to Marvel her desire not to alter the film, which marks the first time a Marvel Studios movie has showcased a same-sex couple — and one of the only times any superhero movie has included a title LGBTQ character.
While most long time comic book fans are likely unfamiliar with the character in question, Zhao has said that gay superhero Phastos (played by Brian Tyree Henry), who is married with a child in the movie, was already an integral part of Marvel Studios’ conception of the character when she first began discussing the film with the studio.
Since many in Hollywood, particularly Disney, regularly push back on regions that don’t align with them politically, will any of the MCU actors boycott the Arab countries, or even China, since that country also bans open displays of homosexuality in films?
According to the Wall Street Journal , Eternals is set to continue the trend of Marvel Studios films that have shaky release prospects in China that was begun by Shang Chi, which also has not seen a China release. Comments that director Chloé Zhao made back in 2013 in regards to the country have recently come back up and caused major backlash from China, which added to the issues already being faced with releasing movies there, hasn’t helped the situation.
With abysmal reviews, no Chinese box office, and now being banned in Arab countries, there’s little chance this is going to be anything but a box office failure for Marvel Studios. Could it be that this is their “diversity & inclusion” loss leader? Will they get back to unabashedly releasing purely entertaining content again like they did in Phase 1, or is this the future of the MCU?
So far, neither Disney, nor any cast members have commented on these embarrassing developments.