“Eternals,” the 26th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, conquered multiplexes over the weekend, grossing $71 million at the North American box office.
The superhero epic also earned $90.7 million in international markets for a $161.7 million global debut, according to estimates from Disney, which owns Marvel Studios.
The movie scored the fourth-best domestic debut of the pandemic era, just behind Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which nabbed $75.3 million over Labor Day weekend.
“Eternals,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) and starring a sprawling ensemble, introduces a new team of Marvel film heroes.
The eponymous characters are aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. The cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie.
“Eternals” has drawn tepid reviews from professional critics, notching a 47 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sunday.
Slate film critic Dana Stevens, for example, called it “one of the weakest Marvel movies I’ve seen, meandering and wan,” in an Oct.27 review characteristic of the general critical response.
However, “Eternals” has drawn attention for breaking with the Marvel formula in some respects, featuring a gay male relationship, a sex scene and the saga’s first deaf hero, played by Lauren Ridloff.
“It’s a different kind of superhero movie; not to everyone’s taste, but made for us all,” Seattle Times critic Moira Macdonald wrote in a more enthusiastic review.
Marvel titles might be immune to reviews because the core fan base is so devoted to the franchise, said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, which tracks box office data.
“We’ll find out. The proof will be in the coming days and weeks as to how review-proof an MCU movie really is, but it seems the fan passion may outweigh the critical perspective,” he said.