The Oscar nominations are in and two movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar, so what are their chances of winning?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been around for 13 years now and has become one of the most beloved and praised action series in movie history. The franchise released four films in 2021 and half of them have now been nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home. This is further validation that the studio is still churning out quality and not just quantity.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is the MCU’s 27th movie and they now have 12 visual effects Oscar nominations but have yet to win a single one. And with two out of the five nominations this year (the others are Dune, Free Guy, and No Time To Die), does the studio have a 40% chance of winning? Well, it isn’t that simple when you take a look at the previous 10 MCU nominees.
Marvel’s history with the Best Visual Effects Oscar
Early on, the Iron Man movies were a main attraction bringing viewers to the cinematic universe, with the first in the series starting it all. Between 2008 and 2013, Iron Man became the first solo hero to complete a trilogy within the larger franchise. Each of those films were nominated for Best Visual Effects and each of them fell to a film that was nominated for Best Picture in their respective years: Iron Man lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008, Iron Man 2 lost to Inception in 2010, and Iron Man 3 lost to Gravity in 2013.
You can also throw The Avengers into that mix and the trend continues. The major interconnective extravaganza skyrocketed the MCU into the stratosphere in 2012. Its popularity and universal admiration gave it more notoriety going into the Oscars that year. However, like the Iron Man trilogy, The Avengers lost to a Best Picture nominee – Life of Pi. The Academy seems to be fond of voting for movies that they really adore (also known as Best Picture nominees) in the technical categories over those only receiving nods strictly in those groupings.
2014 was the first year that two MCU movies were nominated for Best Visual Effects; Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. While they did not lose to a Best Picture nominee, Interstellar is a sci-fi epic from Christopher Nolan, whose previous nominated film, Inception, beat Iron Man 2.
In 2016, Doctor Strange had one of the best chances to win the award for the studio because the visuals were applied with an immense vivid imagination, plus no Best Picture nominees were in the race. The Jungle Book stole the statue by combining old and new methods to permit computer animated animals to move and speak convincingly in a live-action environment. The following year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did not have much hope against Blade Runner 2049, but surely the award would go to one of the final two Avenger triumphs, right?
Unfortunately, both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame failed to win a gold statue at the Oscars. Infinity War, similar to Doctor Strange, seemed like a front runner. It employed the effects of every MCU hero into one monumental cinematic achievement, utilizing the visuals of Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. And on top of that, 2018 had no Best Picture nominees in the visual effects category. Alas, the votes went to First Man; another space-based project, although, unlike Gravity and Interstellar, this one was a nonfictional story of the American hero Neil Armstrong.
Avengers: Endgame had a tough battle in 2019, with The Jungle Book team returning for The Lion King, as well as two Best Picture nominees receiving visual effects nods. Ultimately, 1917 took top prize for its impressively realistic depiction of relentless World War I sequences.
Leading up to the current race, Shang-Chi and No Way Home still have hope to win the Oscar this year, however Dune is their greatest obstacle. Somehow critics took to the sci-fi adaptation enough to nominate it for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture. Denis Villeneuve has made several great films, including previous visual effects winner Blade Runner 2049, yet Dune leaves too much to be desired.
Many MCU fans would argue that both Shang-Chi and No Way Home are exceedingly more exciting and captivating than Dune, a merely adequate remake that ends rather anticlimactically. And yet, here we are again, with the MCU facing off against a Best Picture nominee for the Visual Effects Academy Award.
Although taking up 40% of the nominated films, the inclusion of Dune in the race brings the pair of Marvel movies chances down to the 10-15% range. This is despite Spider-Man: No Way Home swinging into box office history with the spectacular effects of two decades of Spider-Man films as well as Doctor Strange’s trippy mirror dimension. And lets not forget the unparalleled fight choreography in Shang-Chi.
Still, we will have to wait until Oscar night on March 27th to find out who takes home the gold. Here’s hoping that either Shang-Chi or Spider-Man: No Way Home are announced as the winner, giving Marvel Studios that coveted Best Visual Effects Oscar.
Which film would you like to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar this year? Do you think Dune is a sure thing or will the MCU claim a surprise victory?