tony stark civil war

It’s hard to argue that Marvel Studios hasn’t created a pretty staggering achievement in the interconnected cinematic universe. Not only did they kick-off (not counting the Universal Monster features of the 30’s and 40’s) a trend that every other major movie studio is now trying to copy, but every film has a baseline of quality that keeps their output within critical and audience favor.

But, these films aren’t flawless. There’s the ongoing third act complaints – though this year counterbalanced that a bit – and there haven’t been a lot of sterling roles for women. But Filmmaker and Youtuber Patrick (H) Willems presents another issue that has indeed plagued the MCU for some time, Marvel’s color palette. In the video below, Willems discusses color grading, what it is, and why it’s the glaring issue that has adversely affected the look of Marvel’s cinematography since they switched over to digital from film. He makes a heck of an argument:

Here’s hoping Willems is correct in that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, with its new hardware, will be a step in the right direction! Doctor Strange also foretold a bit of a shift as well, between its multiversal odyssey and a very appealing looking Hong Kong section.


  1. Huh! I never even noticed this. The footage with more color in it really does look way better. I hope Guardians 2 helps force Marvel to actually consider making the films pop.

    I do wonder, though, why they’re so committed to a standard, flat color palette.

  2. “Huh! I never even noticed this.”

    Believe me, fans of Zack Snyder’s DC films have noticed this. It’s why we have so much trouble understanding why the unrelenting mediocrity of the MCU continues to be so popular while the aesthetically, narratively, and thematically challenged DC films (minus Suicide Squad which was garbage) are repeatedly dismissed out of hand.

  3. Just checked a some bits of Civil War. What he’s saying here is correct for some scenes, but not for others. Quite a few scenes do have true blacks in them. The Peter Parker scene in Queens, for example, the opening scene with Bucky. And glancing through the film, it’s clear there are many other scenes with true blacks.

    There are also a number of scenes with true blacks in Winter Solder and The First Avenger.

    In Civil War, at least, it seems more accurate to say they’re not using true blacks in day exterior fight scenes (like the airport battle, as mentioned in the video.) I think it’s the same in Winter Soldier.

    So the question may not be, why isn’t Marvel using true blacks, but, why are they using them in some scenes and not in others. Possibly as a nod to a sort of realism?

    At any rate, this has nothing to do with whether it’s shot on film or not. It’s a creative choice by Marvel.

  4. I always thought it was a conscious decision to unify the brand visually with the first Iron Man as template. Not for the best, agreed. I would like it if they try different gradients for each genre.

  5. This was really well-researched and well-done. I didn’t notice the difference in the look of the movies until now, but I bet it has an effect on whether people really enjoy watching the movies or not…

  6. Like Carma, I also thought the drab colors were part of the house style. But it is ridiculous for every Marvel movie to look alike. The vivid colors in DOCTOR STRANGE (which also had a distinctive music score, a first for a MCU movie) really made it stand out.

  7. I’ve heard the complaint about the sameness of Marvel movies before, and I’ve one question–

    To what group of commercial films are they being compared? To what standard are they falling short?

    Note: Since they aren’t all made by one auteur, I don’t think it fair to compare all the Marvelflicks to all the films of Hitchcock, or even Budd Boetticher.

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