Nigerians have finally joined the rest of the world in watching Eternals, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but it’s heavily censored.
The film was initially billed to start screening in Nigeria on November 5, 2021, but was removed from schedules of all the cinemas early that day with no explanations.
Reports soon emerged that Nigeria had decided to join a group of conservative countries in the Arab world who mainly objected to a five-second onscreen kiss between two men in the film.
Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, has been praised as the MCU’s first openly-gay superhero, but the kiss he shared with his onscreen husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman), was considered provocative by officials in the affected countries, many of whom have active homophobic laws.
Nigeria has a similar anti-homosexuality law that prohibits same-sex relationships and condemns anyone convicted to 14 years in prison.
No official explanation was given for why Eternals was pulled on November 5, but the pressure on cinemas reportedly came from the National Film Video and Censors Board (NFVCB).
Film distribution company, Filmone Entertainment, announced days later that the film was only ‘temporarily suspended’, but didn’t elaborate on why.
The film finally debuted in local cinemas on November 12, with Nigerians allowed to join the rest of the world to experience the latest of MCU’s expansive world.
But the version of the film Nigerians are watching has undergone numerous cuts and completely eliminated any appearance of intimacy, with obviously jarring execution.
Not only was the gay kiss scene expectedly cut, numerous other scenes that involved heterosexual characters kissing were also dumped on the cutting room floor, leaving viewers confused.
Some of the other countries that raised a stink over the film, like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, usually censor all scenes of intimacy in their cinemas, but this is not a known practice in Nigeria.
A sex scene between two of the film’s top superheroes, Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi (Gemma Chan), also did not make the version of Eternals Nigerians have started to watch.
Pulse made requests for comments from the NFVCB and Filmhouse but got no responses at the time of this report.
Disney, Marvel Studios’ parent company, had initially refused requests for significant censoring of the film as a condition to enable screening in the adversarial markets, but reports last week said the company changed its mind.
The heavy-handed censoring is expected to somewhat affect the film’s box office performance in Nigeria as many have protested against the cuttings, and are content with waiting for it to be available on a streaming service, or on illegal download sites.
Eternals is still expected to perform well in the global box office despite already becoming the least critically-acclaimed MCU film with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 47%.