Chloé Zhao’s Marvel tentpole “Eternals” has received an apparent ban in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter: “The all-star superhero film, which was due for release across the Gulf region on November 11, is understood to have been met with a series of edit requests by the local censors, edits that THR has heard Disney were not willing to make. The news emerged on Thursday, with ‘Eternals’ having been quietly been removed from websites in each of those countries. In the United Arab Emirates, however, the film is still listed as among the titles coming soon.”
A regional cinema chain in the Gulf told THR that “Eternals” was “banned” from being released, but the reason why had not yet been disclosed. Sources said the film’s inclusion of an openly gay superhero is the reason for the apparent ban. Brian Tyree Henry’s character, Phastos, shares a kiss with his husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman). Homosexuality is still illegal across the Gulf. As THR notes: “Last year, the Pixar title ‘Onward’ was banned across Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia over a single line referencing a lesbian relationship.”
Zhao previously told IndieWire that discussions had taken place with Marvel and Disney about not cutting the film to appease censors around the world. The filmmaker said at the time, “I don’t know all the details, but I do believe discussions were had and there’s a big desire from Marvel and myself — we talked about this — to not change the cut of the movie. Fingers crossed.”
Introducing the MCU’s first openly gay superhero was already “written into the story” before Zhao signed on as director. In the film, Phastos learned to love humanity again once his family is threatened by the emergence of the villainous Deviants. That Zhao had the chance to tell this particular narrative thread of the movie with a gay character made it all the more special.
“The way Phastos’ story plays out in the film is that he’s someone who only sees humanity as a whole and believes that technology’s going to solve the problem,” Zhao told IndieWire. “Obviously, he lost faith in us for some very tough things that we’ve done. And then he had to stop looking at us as a whole and look at one person he falls in love with, and one child, to regain the face of humanity. It’s like us turning on the news and thinking it’s completely hopeless and then going home, looking at our lover and our child and going like, ‘Well, actually this is worth fighting for.’”
“Eternals” opens in U.S. theaters November 5.