Originally Posted by The Postmaster General
It's just seems lame to presume shots were done only for the sake of showing off the expensive sets, and I think really doesn't make any sense even if it were accurate. It's actually quite ridiculous given that film is a collaborative effort and each part is meant to accentuate the next. Wouldn't a DP who didn't show off sets be as equally cited for a foul?
Not necessarily, it depends on what the cinematographer is trying to convey with each shot. The majority of shots in movies emphasize the actors over the sets. They mostly serve as background context to place the actors in whatever world they're supposed to be. Some directors like Tim Burton like to put a bit more focus on the set design, but for the most part it's not really meant to draw the attention.
I tend to prefer shallow focus shots that have a soft background so that the subject pops out more. Pfister must prefer this technique as well because a ton of shots in the Batman trilogy have a soft background that appears blurry.
Of course then you have Akira Kurosawa who preferred telephoto lenses, which allowed him to shoot from far away to enhance depth, yet keep much of the shot completely in focus. Still, the background serves as context, and is not meant to distract from the actor, which is almost always the main subject of a shot... unless you're Terrence Malick.
Lawrence of Arabia is an example of a film that is enhanced by an emphasis on the locations and environments. Some of the greatest moments in that film are shots that dwarf the actor in favor of highlighting the vastness of the desert around him. These shots are consistent with the themes of the film. I don't think the same type of thing is going on in the Avengers. There's nothing in there to match to iconic shot of Omar Sharif's character appearing out of a mirage on the horizon. Most of the Avengers comprised of New York City and generic lab environments, although I thought the aircraft carrier/hovercraft thing was pretty cool!
I think it's an issue of the cinematography serving the story. Yes film is a collaborative effort, but they are all small pieces of a puzzle that have to fit together to make something cohesive. Every element of a film has to be well done or it will pull a viewer out of the movie. The foley artist is a very important part of the crew but if sound of footsteps are completely overpowering the soundtrack, something is wrong, unless it somehow enhances the mood that the director is going for. If the main character is awaiting bad news from somebody across the hall, and all he hears are the footsteps echoing off the walls, that would be a good use of creative sound mixing; but there has to be a purpose to it. I think Wally is arguing that the shot selection in the Avengers did more to distract than enhance.