The battle between the year's two biggest moneymakers rages on today as comments from Dark Knight Rises cinematographer Wally Pfister have ignited a bit of a firestorm online. In an interview with Arts Sarasota, Pfister was asked what's most important in shooting a film, and his answer started off in the right direction before taking a slight detour toward slamming The Avengers.
He says, "What’s really important is storytelling. None of it matters if it doesn’t support the story. I thought The Avengers was an appalling film. They’d shoot from some odd angle and I’d think, why is the camera there? Oh, I see, because they spent half a million on the set and they have to show it off. It took me completely out of the movie. I was driven bonkers by that illogical form of storytelling."
Now before you freak out and begin sending disfigured Batman action figures to Pfister's house, let's take a step back and really look at his comments. What Pfister is saying makes sense. Yes, technically, every shot in a movie should go toward servicing the story. Unfortunately that's not always the case with really big films that attempt to sandwich in product placement while fulfilling talent requests from A-list actors, not to mention the hundreds of notes a director might receive from the studio and producers. It's a difficult process, and on a movie like The Avengers -- which attempted to pull off a concept in live action that had never been done before on this scale -- it was almost impossible not to mess it up.
But to our surprise, Joss Whedon -- along with his excellent cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, We Need to Talk About Kevin), actually did pull it off, delivering one of the most entertaining superhero movies ever made. Is it the most beautifully shot? No. Does every shot service the story? Probably not. Pfister even admits in the interview that he likes "the realistic stuff because it's just that much less formulaic."
Well The Avengers isn't realistic; it's fantasy. It's a fantasy movie that relies on big, sweeping money shots. And that's okay. Whereas Nolan and Pfister went to great lengths to ground their Batman trilogy in reality, The Avengers is pure popcorn entertainment that does exactly what we had all hoped it would do: pop. Is it an appalling film? No, not at all. Maybe to a cinematographer who adheres to a strict set of rules and cinematic laws, but to a moviegoer out looking for a fun time, The Avengers delivers in a huge way.
Wally Pfister isn't a hater, he's just serious about his craft. That's a good thing. His next movie (the first he's directing) won't be about Batman (he claims the only way he'd ever make another Batman movie is if he had to sell his house), but it will be "a present-day science-fiction film, a fairly big concept."
We look forward to it, though expect a lot of Avengers fans to be paying real close attention to Pfister's shot selection.
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