Eternals Beats Other Marvel Movies in New Streaming Report
Eternals may not have been well-received in theaters, but the black sheep of the MCU family beat out others on Disney+ in 2022.
With Phase Four closed and the dawn of Phase Five just weeks away, people are beginning to look back at the past few years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The highlights of the phase are exactly what you expect, including fan-favorite Spider-Man: No Way Home and hit specials Werewolf by Night and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. And, of course, the more controversial picks like Black Widow and Eternals tend to linger near the bottom, despite their defenders.
And yet, when the Neilsen company released its streaming numbers for 2022, only one MCU entry cracked the top 15, and it’s not the one you’re expecting. Neilsen found that Eternals was the 13th most popular movie on streaming services last year, garnering 4.236 billion viewers on Disney+. This number is especially surprising given the relatively low box office numbers. According to Box Office Mojo, Eternals grossed only $164,870,234 (I did say “relatively” low), beating only dismal early franchise entry The Incredible Hulk (and, technically, Black Widow, which went straight to VOD during the COVID pandemic, as Scarlett Johansson is quick to point out).
In some ways, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Director Chloe Zhou took a big swing with her MCU debut, adapting some of the most complicated Jack Kirby creations in the MCU. Instead of following the usual Marvel model, Eternals introduced a whole host of new characters, making only passing references to the rest of the shared universe. On top of that, she crafted a movie more interested in wrestling with issues of faith, free will, and friendship than the usual beat ’em up, even making the shocking decision to have one of the most compelling characters in the film (Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo) choose to sit out of the climactic final battle.
If the movie’s low Rotten Tomatoes score is any indication, the approach didn’t work, but some have long contended that Eternals works much better on a second viewing. Central to their argument is the reveal that the titular characters are essentially robots, made to appear human to pursue that single goal. “They are just a means to an end; a quick revision of the Celestial plan to rid planets of apex predators using the savage Deviants,” wrote our own Kirsten Howard. “But because neither we nor the Eternals know how weird and messed up their whole deal is until so late in the game, their journey to personal and group agency doesn’t really feel that engaging until we revisit the story a second time.”
While it’s unclear at this point if Eternals high numbers speak to people coming around to its defenders’ position, or if they’re just catching up with a movie they missed, there’s no denying that the movie has staying power. Only time will tell if this streaming attention means we’ll see more Eternals in the future… or if someone will at least mention that giant Celestial sticking out of the Earth.