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Wally Pfister Says 'The Avengers' Is "Appalling," Teases His Directorial Debut Is A Sci-Fi Film

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by Kevin Jagernauth
October 17, 2012 9:05 AM
63 Comments
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The Avengers Wally Pfister

There are certain corners of the internet (or IMDB message boards) -- ones we usually dare not venture to -- where nerds battle it out over which comic book movie this summer was better: Joss Whedon's record breaking "The Avengers" or Christopher Nolan's epic finale "The Dark Knight Rises." And now, Nolan's regular director of photography, Wally Pfister, has thrown another provocative statement into the ring with his own unbridled assessment of the smash-hit Marvel movie.

Sitting down the Sarasota Herald Tribune, he was asked about what the most important element was when shooting a movie. "What’s really important is storytelling. None of it matters if it doesn’t support the story," he said. "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."

Oh, burn. We suppose Seamus McGarvey ("We Need To Talk About Kevin," "Anna Karenina"), the very accomplished, Oscar-nominated cinematographer on "The Avengers," won't be exchanging holiday greetings with Pfister. But when he wasn't taking down the biggest movie of the year, Pfister teased what we might expect from his directorial debut. The hush-hush movie is being produced by his buddy Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas, and of course, details have been kept strictly under wraps. "It’s a present-day science fiction film, a fairly big concept. It’s bigger budget — not as big as 'Batman,' but not independent," he offered about the untitled film that will shoot early next year.

Finally, what's the movie that was his favorite to shoot? "I think probably the most artistically fulfilling was 'The Prestige.' It was fun to shoot a period piece, to create a world," he said. "But I also enjoyed the scope of 'Inception.' I was able to capture things the way I saw them in my head and I felt like I’d matured as a cinematographer. Of the Batman films I liked my work best in the last one, of course, because anything I felt I’d done wrong on each one, I’d right on the next one."

So there you have it, but we reckon that Pfister is about the feel the very heavy online wrath of some devoted Marvel fans.

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63 Comments

  • Don't listen | January 12, 2013 4:44 AMReply

    Don't listen to the people who say The Avengers is "AWESOME". They have no idea what they're talking about. Their understanding of cinema is infantile, at best.

  • The Truth | January 10, 2013 3:25 PMReply

    Avengers is the stankiest ass movie I've seen in a while. Completely predictable: The Avengers overcome their differences in order to get together and kick Loki's face in. There you go, one sentence stretched across 150 minutes. Sheesh.

    The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, no one could predict before seeing it what was going to go down.

  • AN HONEST APPRAISAL | January 8, 2013 4:26 PMReply

    The Dark Knight Rises is a flawed film. It has many faults. The Avengers is a flawed movie, also with many faults. But you see, The Dark Knight Rises is a film while The Avengers is only a movie. Whether it succeeds or not, The Dark Knight Rises caters to an emotionally mature audience, with expectations beyond impossible action sequences. The Avengers is, to be frank, the kind of movie enjoyed by children or by adults who simply prefer "fun" over content.

    I am afraid that once all the euphoria dissipates, a clearer consensus will be achieved. In maybe 10 or 20 years, the praise for The Dark Knight Rises will be more universal than it is now, in spite of the film's flaws. I think it will especially appreciated for the risks that it takes: not everyone wanted to see an aged, less capable Batman, but it's an idea that will be better appreciated in time. The Dark Knight trilogy will be seen as a pivotal moment in comic book films, as something that redefined the possibilities of the genre. While The Avengers is slick and fun, it has a conventional (perhaps even predictable) plot, has not contributed anything new to the genre, and takes no risks. The Avengers will be remembered as a solid comic movie that tied together a slew of reasonable Marvel adaptations, and which gave fans the expensive set pieces and frenzied action sequences that they wanted at the time.

  • Shocked | January 7, 2013 10:51 PMReply

    I can't understand people praising The Avengers as if it is the best film ever made. Really? The plot is completely trivial and the characters are plastic. The dialogue is a disjointed sequence of bad one-liners. It seems that very few people of moviegoing age these days have experienced *actual* cinema.

  • Joe Mahma | January 6, 2013 2:12 PMReply

    Geezus H. Christe, who the flip cares where or how or who he said it to because - he said it. What is wrong with you people?

  • Brian | October 26, 2012 4:23 AMReply

    The Dark Knight chase scene. Talk about it taking you out of the movie.

  • Ryan Robert Minford | October 21, 2012 8:58 PMReply

    Wally Pfister's words were taken out of context in this quote because I was there. He was not doing an interview, he was teaching a class at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota FL, and was misquoted in this. He's not a superhero fan in general, and the two films, "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises", are very different films. He just prefers the style of "The Dark Knight Rises" more than "The Avengers". He was in, what he thought, was a sacred forum teaching college students his view on filmmaking and educating us on his experiences. How many Academy Award winning cinematographers do you know that take a week out of their schedule to come and teach, give live demos, and screen films with students to educate them on their experiences? This infuriates me that people don't know the full story and they are just bashing him, especially when he was taking time out of his busy schedule to teach the future filmmakers of the world. That's is why I have no problems with him making comments about "The Avengers", because what he does out of the film world makes him the best cinematographer in the world!

  • BlackDrPhil | October 21, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    Exactly. He is a veteran cinematographer. I doubt he was interested in starting a Marvel vs DC fan war. I went that Q & A at Ringling and it was just taken out of context. I love the Avengers, Marvel and etc. But i can see from a cinematographers view that you can definitely critique some stuff.

  • MO | October 21, 2012 3:14 PMReply

    I also attend RCAD and Mr. Pfister was simply trying to teach us about accurate use of shot and lighting, his comment has been taken completely out of context.

  • Makary | October 21, 2012 12:35 PMReply

    I was there, I've heard him saying those words. They were not told to the reporter, but to students who had a master-class with him. The reporter must have been hiding behind their backs. I don't see why people make such a big deal out of it (other than the fact that people like bashing each other in escape from their disrespect for themselves). Anyway, Wally Pfister merely told his personal preference, (you can't blame a guy for not liking a particular movie), and he brought an example of how, in his opinion, things shouldn't be done in movies. He is a great, honest and very open guy, ready to share his experience with everyone. Can you bash him for that?
    PS Can't see what's the connection with his directorial debut either. Shouldn't we wait till it comes out, then see it, and then decide what we think about it? I'm looking forward to seeing it

  • Knot | October 21, 2012 8:12 AMReply

    Neither "The Avengers" nor "The Dark Knight Rises" was a good movie. So there you have it.

  • hyfruy | November 5, 2012 8:20 PM

    you're right they were both great.

  • NL | October 20, 2012 8:56 PMReply

    I also attend Ringling. People need to get their facts straight, this was incorrect. The Wally Pfister who came to our school had great respect for all of his fellow filmmakers and this was so blown out of proportion. What he said was taken out of context from a question asked by a student. It was meant to be an example for educational purposes not intentionally bashing another film. We learned so much from Mr. Pfister it was invaluable. It's unfortunate that this was made to be a bigger issue than it actually was. Wally is a great guy and we were all so lucky to have someone of his stature share his knowledge with us.

  • Lucy | October 20, 2012 8:12 PMReply

    I loved the Avengers, it was great!!! The world sucks at times and I personally want to escape not into another dark world of Batman but escape into the world of The Avengers. Even though I love the new Batman films but I don't find myself rewatching them a lot. But seriously I loved the Avengers, one fun entertaining ride.

  • LEB | October 19, 2012 3:50 PMReply

    INCORRECT. I WAS THERE. I go to Ringling.

    Wally Pfister’s comments about The Avengers were represented in a way that did not, by any stretch of the imagination, accurately describe the context in which he said them.
    Mr. Pfister worked with us for three days, from morning to night. In his first workshop, he talked about The Godfather, All the President’s Men, and Louis Malle’s Au Revoir, Les Enfants. In conversation afterward, he praised Jacques Tati’s Playtime.
    The question that led to the misquote heard round the internet was asked by a student, not a reporter. Mr. Pfister’s reply, he made clear from the start, was based solely on personal preference. He’d already stated that superhero movies weren’t for him. Funny how the same article makes no mention of all the positive things he had to say about so many other films, both classic and current. Consider: Mr. Pfister had the option of showing a Batman film in our school auditorium, but he chose Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey instead.
    We were truly blessed to have such an incredible filmmaker and film lover share his wisdom with us. This little blip was really unfortunate. But hopefully Wally will be back!

  • ap | October 18, 2012 2:20 AMReply

    "44 comments"

  • Rhop | October 18, 2012 1:56 AMReply

    This was said in a private school event not an interview!

  • Knative | October 17, 2012 10:13 PMReply

    I haven't watched The Dark Knight Rises. I am sure it might be an enjoyable enough experience, considering it at least tries to address more adult themes. The Avengers, though, was a movie for six year old children. Looper was awesome though.

  • ramubay | October 17, 2012 9:21 PMReply

    I saw The Avengers. I didn't see The Dark Knight Rises. In Hollywood that's important. Go boo-hoo on that one diaper wetter.

  • starway2001 | October 17, 2012 2:44 PMReply

    The pompous and arrogant attitudes of Nolan and Pfister are starting to turn sour on me. You made a movie about a guy who dresses up in a bat suit and speaks in a silly voice... get over yourselves already.

  • Rascal | October 18, 2012 12:18 AM

    Starway, sounds like you've been reading some of my posts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with superhero movies, but let's get this straight: they are not high art.

  • Moonway2002 | October 17, 2012 5:46 PM

    Especialy the voice!! He sounds like he has throat cancer, believe me, my friend's dad has throat cancer and i've heard him talk. I don't remember the cartoon Batman or Keaton's Batman having to change his voice.

  • Anonymouse | October 17, 2012 1:42 PMReply

    He is absolutely correct on this. Avengers is a fun action flick but by no means academy award level in any capacity, including cinematography. Dark Knight Rises has amazing cinematography, acting, direction, yet falters in the screenplay and editing departments, imo. However, Avengers is a more enjoyable comic book romp. these are comic book movies with men in tights, right?

  • Legion | October 17, 2012 5:42 PM

    The Avengers doesn't have to be Academy-level to be considered a great movie. EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE got nominated for some Oscars and I heard it was terrible from viewers and critics. :-/

  • Real | October 17, 2012 1:14 PMReply

    I can't wait for his directorial debut. He is incredibly talented.

  • Sean | October 17, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    Funny he says that considering Nolan is the worst director today at directing action. Some of the most frantic, confusing and mishandled scenes.

  • Nolan | October 17, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Avengers was fun. True. But it did look like low budget SyFy channel flick. Also WTF was the 16:9 ratio of Avengers instead of the widescreen. Wally's frames always had a expansive feel to it.

  • Pfister | October 17, 2012 5:39 PM

    I've seen low-budget Sci-fi flicks and The Avengers looks NOTHING like them. you havent seen the movie, quit trolling.

  • cory everett | October 17, 2012 11:04 AMReply

    Avengers was fun but can't argue with him. It looks like shit.

  • Cory SHIT | October 17, 2012 5:36 PM

    You look like SHIT. :D

  • Zack | October 17, 2012 11:00 AMReply

    I'd say the main difference between Nolan's films and "The Avengers" is that Pfister probably isn't going to get any death threats for saying this.

  • Dan | October 17, 2012 11:03 AM

    After what Sam Jackson did to AO Scott I wouldn't be so sure.

  • Tim | October 17, 2012 10:55 AMReply

    The Avengers did look like it was shot by a five year old. Can't blame him for calling it like it is.

  • Tom | October 17, 2012 5:35 PM

    I have a 5 year old nephew and I'm pretty sure his filming sucks compared to THE AVENGERS. The filming was great in that movie, troll.
    Oh yeah, how do you know what movies filmed by 5 year olds look like? Have you seen any yourself? :-/

  • Ur mom | October 17, 2012 5:10 PM

    Nope. It was great. ;-)

  • Josue | October 17, 2012 10:43 AMReply

    I hope his directorial debut bombs and is a critical failure, I just wish for him to have the contrary to the film he was being a jerkass about.

  • tomincmh | October 17, 2012 10:30 AMReply

    I'm surprised at some of the hate on here for The Avengers. It's not a perfect film, but it was probably the most enjoyable experience I've had at a movie theatre in years. It was the perfect summer blockbuster and was an amazing culmination of the movies that preceded it. TDKR, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment compared to it's predecessor in the series. It was too long, unfocused at times, featured a villain you could barely understand, and don't get me started on logical leaps like Gotham being sealed off from the world towards the end of the film, but Bruce Wayne can just stroll back in and apparently knows right where Catwoman is at so they can work out a plan. Not to mention that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character could tell Bruce is Batman just by looking at him. John Blake must have been one massively intuitive kid or perhaps he's psychic as well. Wally shouldn't be throwing stones at The Avengers since, as talented a filmmaker Nolan and DP Pfister are, TDKR is one very big glass house.

  • Jerry | October 17, 2012 5:30 PM

    Totally agree!! Wally was just having his period.

  • Dan | October 17, 2012 12:19 PM

    Recognizing that Bruce's public face is false is a mutual understanding between two orphans. Understanding Bruce has a rage he wants to release is intuitive . Recognizing that Batman had a huge bank account to have the Tumbler and aloof his other goodies is insight. Put all this together with detective work not mentioned onscreen (following up with the attorney from the last film who was employed by Wayne, the Batman's disapperance coupled with BW becoming Howard Hughes etc) and you have detective work. PS. In their first conversation BW never admits to Blake he is Wayne. Only after his first appearance as Batman does he admit it at which point Blake has become Jim Gordon 2.0.

  • Zack | October 17, 2012 12:04 PM

    "I know you're Batman because you're sad your parents are dead" isn't "detective work". It's the script needing him to know it and not giving a shit about how it gets there.

  • Dan | October 17, 2012 11:19 AM

    Disagree. One point continually brought up, how does Bruce just find Selina. It is not like he hadn't located her place earlier in the movie via tracking device...oh wait. Well at no point in the movie did Bruce ever go to her place...oh wait. Blake finding out Bruce is Batman plays with more of the themes of the series, but it isn't like he is a police detective...oh wait. Then Gordon and the rest of the GPD must be the most incompetent police ever. It's not like Gordon isn't black balling any potential investigations that would bring about the the Batman's discovery. I mean is he police comissioner...oh wait. Glass house, ha!

  • Zack | October 17, 2012 11:01 AM

    I'm convinced JGL actually has cancer and Make-a-Wish had him written into the film. There's just no other explanation for Blake's nauseating level of Mary Sue-itude.

  • Dan | October 17, 2012 10:25 AMReply

    Take the context of how he said this. He was giving a discussion about cinematography to an auditorium of students and was asked what was most important about his job. I doubt his issue is with McGarvey as it is with producers who demand you really show off all the heavy product placement in the film. In all the Joe Wright films this is obviously never an issue, but in The Avengers you saw Target, SubWay, and dozens of other pieces of marketing for the sake of marketing.

  • Mike | October 19, 2012 6:09 PM

    What about TDKR's placement of Greyhound, Easyjet, Saks, Nokia, Chrysler, GNC, and Heinz? I'm sure you just forgot that all blockbuster films have blatant product placement, right? I understand he was giving a lecture of some sort, but bringing up a competing film so soon after it was released was classless.

  • Cook | October 17, 2012 5:28 PM

    But, didn't he said this in an interview with a reporter from "Digital Spy"?

  • JD | October 17, 2012 10:13 AMReply

    This coming from the DP who's three Batman films set a new low for incoherent shaky-cam action scenes and overuse of close-ups. At least in Avengers you could tell what was going on. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    In defense of Avengers, I would just like to say that Captain America's boots look very cool in the above image, thank you.

  • chaburchak | October 20, 2012 7:22 AM

    Amen, brother. I really did enjoy BATMAN BEGINS but those fight scenes are just criminal. I see up-close edit-a-thons like that and figure the fight choreographer must've been sick that day, so they just told people to flails their arms around and filmed all those fists and feet in close-up to fool us. Blech. At least in Avengers I could tell who was hitting whom (though to be fair there was one fight 'tween Thor and Loki on Stark Tower that seemed to be mostly faces and punching sounds...)

  • Chris138 | October 17, 2012 12:14 PM

    Incoherent shaky camerawork? Are you sure you weren't watching a Paul Greengrass film?

  • JOSUE | October 17, 2012 10:44 AM

    You mean 'You're such a Pfister'... Right Sam?

  • Sam | October 17, 2012 10:39 AM

    You're such an idiot.

  • James | October 17, 2012 10:04 AMReply

    There is no denying The Avengers had a poor story and was mediocre looking, but it had some fun jokes though. I don't see the point in calling it an awful film, but whatever. People like what they like.

  • June | October 17, 2012 5:27 PM

    Yeah, even though you didn't like, you did had some fun moments with it. I thought the film was great. I guess he hasn't seen Transformers 2 & 3 yet.

  • AS | October 17, 2012 9:37 AMReply

    The Avengers was awful. TDKR wasn't much better....

  • ASS | October 17, 2012 5:24 PM

    Bitch please. Go watch your Twilight Saga. -_-

  • luke | October 17, 2012 9:32 AMReply

    Seamus McGarvey is a very talented DP but Wally is right. The Avengers was ugly to watch and felt like a TV movie you might see on the Sci-fi channel.

    I'm guessing the look of The Avengers came more from Joss than Seamus.

  • coke | October 17, 2012 9:56 PM

    That post was in response to lucas and bonzob...

  • coke | October 17, 2012 9:55 PM

    how the fuck do you know that?? I know a great photographer who says the cinematography in Avengers is shit. The Avengers is just above mediocre in terms of cinematography and filmmaking. It does look like a tv movie and by the way just because a movie is successful doesn't mean it's good.

  • Lucas | October 17, 2012 5:22 PM

    Hmmm, I guess the movie was so ugly that millions of people wanted to see it again and buy the Bluray, and I'm sure te Sci-Fi channel would luv to air it since millions would tune in to watch it, idiot.

  • bonzob | October 17, 2012 12:37 PM

    Hey look, someone who has no idea how cinematography or filmmaking works.

  • Laura | October 17, 2012 9:28 AMReply

    I wouldn't call Avengers "appalling" but it definitely wasn't good. I have no desire to watch a bunch of do-goody superheroes bicker with each other for two hours.

  • Lora | October 17, 2012 5:15 PM

    They weren't bickering for 2 hours. You probably watched Spiderman 3.

  • Monica | October 17, 2012 9:24 AMReply

    He's right. Moreover, Avengers is unbearable.
    Waiting for his debut as director.

  • Booty | October 17, 2012 5:13 PM

    Nah, his opinion and yours. ^_^

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