While DC and Marvel fans debate about pretty much everything in their films, there’s one area where the Marvel Studios films have been commonly criticised – aesthetics.
As the fourteen films of the MCU share the same cinematic universe, there’s not only something of a consistency of tone but also a consistency of look – a baseline which had led to the arguments that all their films look the same. Colors are muted, black levels washed out and framing rarely experimental.
Contrast two sequences of polar opposite looks. On the one hand you’ve got the Hong Kong banker snatch scene in “The Dark Knight” with its rich colors, inky blacks and wide framing which gives an epic scope. On the other the “Captain America: Civil War” big cast fight which takes place in a generic airport and is mostly a lot of grey with very little dynamic range and a lot of middle ground shots.
Marvel has begun changing things up – James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” have been rightly applauded for their visuals trying something different. You could also argue Kenneth Branagh doesn’t get enough credit for doing the same with those on the first “Thor”.
Today, a new video essay is out by YouTuber Patrick Willems which tackles the problem of the MCU’s color grading and how it prevents the films from feeling as luscious as the comic books they are derived from. He shows how some of them could look with refereshed color grading and says the blame is not the equipment as lusciously cinematic films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Jupiter Ascending” are shot on the same equipment (and by the same cinematographers) as the MCU films.
Aesthetics though are a matter of personal taste and so this will only be an issue for some – it’s the same reason why some are perfectly happy with LCD TVs that can only render black as grey whereas others will only buy Plasmas and OLED TVs because only they can provide pure blacks (and thus richer colors). For those who like the darker and more saturated palette, the ‘Guardians’ sequel trailer last month showed Marvel looks to be making efforts in this area with a wonderful lusher visual palette which seems to be a mix of a more aware color grading and use of the new Red Weapon 8k camera. Check out the video essay below and sound off in the comments below.