In Patrick Willems’ video essay titled “Why Do Marvel’s Movie Look Kind of Ugly?,” Willems explores and discusses color grading in Marvel films, asking why all of Marvel’s movies look like “muddy concrete.” Before even watching this video essay, I knew that the tone would be less serious/scholarly because of the title, and after watching the first few seconds, it is clear that the tone that Willems uses in his voiceover is conversational and playful, setting the tone for the rest of the video essay. From this tone, viewers can understand that this essay is based more on opinion and observation rather than facts. Willems also says explicitly in the video that he is expressing his own opinion, so his tone works very well with the subject matter of the essay.
In introducing his topic, Willems gives a brief background of Marvel films and one example of a scene that he considers ugly based on the color grading, and then gives a brief explanation of what color grading is. He explains that color grading is the digital manipulation of colors and tones of the images seen on screen, and how this technique began in 2000 and has become significant in films since then. He explains the technicalities of color grading, saying that digital cameras capture very flat images that look gray and dull, in order to allow color grading that will enhance the images later. Willems gives various examples and before and after shots of color grading to make the difference clear.
After providing some context about his video essay topic, Willems goes on to discuss his issue with color grading in Marvel films, which is mainly that the films consistently use the same style of color grading on digital footage, creating images that appear flat and dull when they should be vibrant and exciting. A part of the reason for this is the lack of pure black value in the images in Marvel films, allowing little contrast, which doesn’t allow other colors to pop. Willems brings in comic books and inking techniques to further illustrate this point, then adjusts the saturation and contrast in a clip from Guardians of the Galaxy, showing how the aesthetics of the original and the enhanced version compare. After watching this video essay, I did look back on my experiences watching Marvel films and thinking that the images looked dull and flat, especially in the daylight scenes, and it was interesting to learn about the technicalities of color grading in these films.