Originally Posted by DaveyJoeG
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.
Great point and actually just last night after The Master I was praising how, during the processing scene, alternating shots of Dodd (Hoffman) were deep focus and Freddie were ridiculously shallow for reasons that are obvious to anyone who sees the movie or even just the scene as a standalone.
David Lynch once commented on saving money with sets by just not showing them, also about liking doing TV because he could cut corners in the same arena via aspect ratio.
The thing is that Pfister wasn't targeting the depth of field, he was targeting camera position. He was pointing at the angles. And the Avenger's DP did say specifically that the sets were already mostly in place and his biggest problem was that there were too many shots to choose from. To me, all of these things scream out that it wasn't just about showing off the sets. There was no reason for the Avenger's guy to choose a shot solely for the sake of showing off the background, by this account. Maybe he just isn't that good or Pfister's style, but I think it has more to do with Whedon's vision vs. Nolans (touch on that more in my response below).
As I theorized earlier, I think there's a bigger conversation Pfister wants to have about this and that the quote on it's own might not be a big enough outlet for him to give his complete critique. It seems to be mostly used as eFuel to relaunch to Dark Knight vs. Avengers tirade and I'm not sure we need to be jumping on every angle of criticism that comes out, especially in the realm of having retroactive criticisms that might not make sense in their short form context.
Originally Posted by Bourne101
I agree with this. I don't think showing off sets was necessarily my issue. It's a rather blandly shot movie with some jarring shots (which I think include more than just Dutch angles) and cuts. Not just the action either. Some of the scenes where they are just standing around sending zingers back and forth are awkwardly cut.
You also mentioned that they added the "awe" in after the fact. I know what you meant, but I personally didn't see a lot of awe. It didn't look like the $225 million movie that it was. Maybe a lot of that was just cast pay, but I honestly thought some of the pre-Avengers movies were more visually interesting.
Well, you know I mean. The movie was far more fx heavy than Dark Knight, or at least it looked that way. Aside from establishing shots, I don't know how often people paid attention to the scenery. Whether or not you felt the fx were awe inspiring or not, clearly this wasn't a Terrence Malick flick where attention is being called to the scenery. Even establishing shots were cut fairly short. I mean, about the "awe", you know… the idea that we see Banner transforming into the Hulk and are thinking, "Wow, look at all those cool pipes!" I'm not seeing any shots in the film where focus is being called to "expensive sets."
I think Avengers was shot the way it was shot because it was meant to look more cartoonish, whereas The Dark Knight was meant to look more realistic. That also goes along with the shallow/deep focus thing Davey brought up, assuming there wasn't any thought of just having Hulk in front a three-tone geometric patterned background a la 60-s era Batman or the Creepshow film.
About the cuts and editing, I agree thinking mainly of the scene in the aircraft carrier fortress thing just before Loki attacks. There also seemed to be some awkwardness in the shot compositions between cuts, the way I remember it. My thing is, that none of that had anything to do with expensive backgrounds.