Why Do Marvel Movies Look Kind of Bad?

Even if there is growing fatigue when it comes to superhero movies, there’s no doubt that movies from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe are the best of the bunch. Heck, some Marvel movies are legitimately great films and even the not so good ones still have great actors playing fantastic characters. Basically, they’re all very fun to watch. So why then, do Marvel movies look so blah, drab, and just plain bad?


It’s the color grading. There’s no pure black value in the Marvel universe and that turns a lot of scenes that should pop, like the epic fight sequence in Captain America: Civil War, into what Patrick (H) Willems calls, “a giant parking lot”. And it’s true, looking back at Marvel movies through this video, you’ll see how ugly and strangely bland they all are. There are some other reasons why this is (shooting on digital vs film, an Arri Alexa vs a Red Weapon 8K) but it essentially boils down to Marvel’s black being more like a very dark gray. Having a darker black value in a shot makes all the other colors stand out more. Without a true black, you get bleh. And that’s what we get in Marvel movies.

In the GIF above, the sequence in the bottom right has been color corrected for a darker black while the sequence in the top left is the original footage seen in theaters.


Icarus Rex

This a Bad Video Essay.

I work in movies, I keep in contact with some very experienced color graders, and this video has been met with a combination of laughs and annoyance by professionals.

In other words, the people that have spent most of their lives training their eyes, understanding color science, working in multiple color spaces and deliverable formats, for very large budget movies and TV shows that cater to the most scrupulous of clients, say that this video has so much wrong with it that it isn’t even redeemable.

It should not be shared. It misses so many of the basics of color grading [what is the source of his clips? How is his monitor calibrated? What is the intent of the cinematographer and of the director and of the studio?] that it should really, really be ignored.