Will the Marvel Cinematic Universe win its first Visual Effects Oscar?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the fourteenth Marvel Cinematic Universe feature to be nominated for the Best Visual Effects Academy Award. What are its chances of being the first MCU movie to win?

(L-R): Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Dave Bautista as Drax, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.
(L-R): Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Dave Bautista as Drax, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL. /
facebooktwitterreddit

It would seem like the Marvel Cinematic Universe was destined to form a symbiotic relationship with this Oscar category – Best Visual Effects. In its early stages, the entire Iron Man trilogy and the first Avengers were nominated. Alas, all of those movies hit roadblocks against optically pleasing works that were also nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Iron Man 2 lost to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, while Iron Man 3 didn’t stand a chance against Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Even after The Avengers wowed the nation and took box offices by storm in 2012, Oscar voters couldn’t help but fall in love with Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. In hindsight, either Iron Man or The Dark Knight should have claimed victory over The Curious Case of Benjamin Button back in 2008. Had Iron Man won in its first outing, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, over 15 years and over 30 movies later.

In fact, the first Guardians of the Galaxy had just as high-quality special effects as Interstellar, but probably lost out to that Christopher Nolan astronaut epic because of the more realistic dystopian settings intertwining with its dramatic narrative. Aside from Iron Man, the Guardians trilogy is the only franchise within the MCU where all of its films received a nod for Visual Effects. The middle effort faced the stiffest competition against Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.

Out of all the MCU movies, Doctor Strange stood out as having the most stunningly inventive visuals, so it was too bad that Jon Favreau had his team develop advanced technology for The Jungle Book, especially after he helped launch the MCU. And the sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, was surprisingly left off of the Oscar shortlist last year.

Perhaps the most significant disappointment, when it comes to the MCU losing in this category, surrounds the largest successes – Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. While Infinity War incorporated so many filmmaking techniques and computer-generated elements to accomplish its mix of landscapes, assortment of character types, and staggeringly complex action sequences, there have been many similar looking non-fictional space renderings as seen in Damien Chazelle’s First Man. Even the magnificently shot war film, 1917, could have sufficed with its award for Best Cinematography, leaving Avengers: Endgame with a warranted Visual Effects Oscar.

So, will it turn out that the MCU’s destiny will actually be to continue to generate amazing visual effects, only to lose time and again? Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is just as deserving as the slate of MCU candidates that has come before. James Gunn’s team works at an expert level to make the extraterrestrial locales feel lived-in and fully functional. In particular, the motion capture process for the anthropomorphic ensemble in Guardians 3 is astonishing, wonderfully encapsulating the goal of utilizing visual flourishes to accentuate incredibly moving storytelling.  

Unfortunately for the MCU, The Creator is right on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s heels. Gareth Edwards employed beautiful, naturalistic environments and carefully fused robotic components into a shooting style that some might compare to guerilla filmmaking tactics. Like The Creator, Godzilla Minus One was a special effects platform with a lower budget, which puts previous Kaiju science fiction to shame. The stunt work in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning and the sweeping battle sequences in Napoleon are impressive, but the originality of The Creator poses the biggest threat to the Guardians.

With 33 movies under its belt, garnering 14 nominations for Visual Effects, the MCU has a noteworthy percentage at the Academy Awards; 42%. Of course, 0 for 14 when it comes to taking home the prize, are the kind of numbers that the studio won’t exactly be rejoicing over. Will MCU fans celebrate their beloved universe’s first victory or be let down once again? The winner for the Best Visual Effects Oscar will be handed out at the 96th Academy Awards on March 10.

Next. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's MCU connections. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's MCU connections. dark