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Cinematographer Ben Davis Helps Create the Look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

David Heuring

Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel cinematic universe has continued expanding, now numbering more than 20 films. Along the way, the company has developed a reputation for solid technology choices with the large-format ARRI Alexa 65 camera and the Codex Vault 65 on-set media management system as cornerstones of its workflow. Earlier in the series, the company kept tight control over the look of the films, but as the MCU has expanded and diversified, Marvel has given freer rein to filmmakers like Ben Davis, the DP on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Doctor Strange,” and the forthcoming “Captain Marvel.”

“Marvel is deferential to the source material, but often you’re very much creating a world and an aesthetic,” says Davis. “You’re trying to take that material and elevate it to something different. On ‘Captain Marvel,’ we had the benefit of a story that is set in the 1990s. There was an existing visual language, and a point of departure for decisions about color, camera movement and so on. On ‘Guardians,’ we were building a world from scratch.”

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Shooting on location in Los Angeles for “Captain Marvel” meant that the environment was already designed to some extent. But even when mundane is a virtue, Davis is still driven to find something superlative.

“Who wants to be ordinary?” he asks rhetorically. “By now, I know I can keep up with the schedule. I know I can handle any size task or technical problem. What I worry about most is whether I’m doing something extraordinary. I’m looking to push new boundaries. I’m never quite satisfied.”

Marvel, says the DP, “gives me all the backup I need. The commitment that is required is huge. But the people at the top are very creative filmmakers. You’re not dealing with accountants. They know the aesthetic.”

(Pictured above: Brie Larson on the set of “Captain Marvel” with DP Ben Davis)

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