Marvel’s Quick Cut Addiction

Marvel may be incredible, but cinematically they leave something to be desired… at least for me.

Thor: Ragnarok’s release has brought the world back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back to the iconic characters, the fascinating costumes, and the wild fight scenes. But those fight scenes, while incredibly dynamic and action-packed, can leave some viewers nauseous and overwhelmed because of Marvel’s addiction to quick, rapid fire camera cuts that can add a sense of confusion but reduces the scene’s effectiveness.

Observe this prime example: the fight between Black Panther and the Winter Solider in Captain America 2: Civil War.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKapwRU34Yk

Cut Count: 194 in 4 Minutes

 

This four minute-long scene, a fight and chase sequence, has over 190 separate individual cuts. This, in tandem with the shaky camera, is supposed to emphasize the action and provide a sense of tension, chaos, and dynamic movement. However, it becomes way too overwhelming as cuts become so short the viewers can’t process exactly what’s happening. All you know is that they’re fighting, not what they do specifically until there’s a significant setting or plot change.

And Marvel doesn’t only have one example of an overwhelming scene – this disjointed quick shot filming is becoming the norm for their fight sequences, like these scenes from Doctor Strange and Spiderman homecoming.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwLaB_O6IWg

Cut Count: 78 in 2 Minutes

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYxd-uuiglI

Cut Count: 80 in 2 and a Half Minutes

 

But this development doesn’t occur because they have to do it in order to make superhero films interesting, or because that’s the only way to show dynamic and exciting action sequences. Films like Wonder Woman, for example, and even other Disney films like The Force Awakens does it in fewer more effective shots.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlwHKphUU_Y

Cut Count: 103 in 4 Minutes

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWF0f183tSA

Cut Count: 90 in 3 Minutes

 

But this isn’t to say Marvel can’t make incredible sequences with creative and new ways to move the camera and use fewer shots. This sequence from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of my favorites; it is arguably one of the best fight scenes Marvel has done to date, and has significantly fewer shots than even the other examples I showed.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZTwuDi49uA

Cut Count: 105 in 5 Minutes

 

And let’s not forget this masterpiece of cinematography from Marvel’s Daredevil TV show, which completes an entire 5 and a half minute fight sequence in its entirety using only one continuous camera shot moving along a hallway.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV1Vzn6xwqQ

 

But scenes like there are exceptions to the rule, not a new norm. Scenes like this – incredibly action filled but interesting and easy to follow– are less common than confusing or overwhelming ones. When appropriate, yes, you can use the disorienting cuts trick for effect. But when it becomes one of the only ways you can make a fight scene, I’d ask Marvel to reconsider. If only for those poor souls like me who get motion sick whenever that camera cuts so quickly.