“War for the Planet of the Apes” is nominated at the Oscars for Best Visual Effects, following nominations in the same category for 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Neither “Rise” nor “Dawn” won Visual Effects in their respective years, despite showcasing some of the most realistic effects in film today. “War” is Oscar voters’ final shot at rewarding the film franchise’s groundbreaking visual effects, but much like in previous years, it could be an uphill battle.
“War” is the latest nomination in the “Planet of the Apes” film series for VFX supervisors Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett and Dan Lemmon, earning nominations for the first two films as well, with Joel Whist earning his first nom alongside them. Letteri is the director of the innovative VFX company Weta Digital, which has won six Oscars, for all three “Lord of the Rings” films, “King Kong,” “Avatar” and “The Jungle Book.” The visual effects on “War” begin with actors like Andy Serkis donning motion capture suits and acting out the film’s scenes, giving the characters realistic movements and emotions. The footage is then sent over to Weta Digital, which designs several layers of effects onto the shots to create photorealistic apes that blend seamlessly with the live-action background. “War” has already earned multiple awards for its effects, from the Critics’ Choice Awards, Annie Awards and various critics groups.
As it stands now, “War” is predicted to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, according to Gold Derby racetrack odds, but it faces tough competition from “Blade Runner 2049.” The biggest issue for “War” is that Best Visual Effects is its only nomination, and we’ve seen over the past decade that films with multiple nominations tend to win here. Typically, a Best Picture nominee is crowned the winner in this category, like “Inception,” “Hugo,” “Life of Pi” and “Gravity,” but luckily there are none among this year’s nominees, which also include “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Kong: Skull Island” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Yet, there were no Best Picture nominees in Visual Effects in 2014 either, when “Dawn” was nominated and predicted to win. The film lost to “Interstellar,” which had five nominations in total, suggesting more voters would have watched and liked it. We are in the exact same scenario this year, with “Blade Runner 2049” earning five nominations to “War’s” one. With so many films to watch, will enough voters even pop in a screener for a movie that has only one nomination?
The best “War” can hope for is that the trend of the past two years will continue. In 2015, “Ex Machina” was a huge upset in Best Visual Effects; not only did it have just one other nomination but it beat three Best Picture nominees — “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian” and “The Revenant.” Last year we saw “The Jungle Book” win as a sole nominee over multiple nominees like “Deepwater Horizon,” “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” These wins suggest that voters are really paying attention to the particular craft of visual effects and not necessarily defaulting to a movie they may have liked better. If this line of thinking continues into this year’s voting, we may finally see the team from “Planet of the Apes” earn their overdue Oscar.
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