The use of motion-capture technology has become increasingly commonplace in recent and upcoming big-budget productions – be it to create “realistic” cartoon humans (The Adventures of Tintin), bizarre extraterrestrial creatures (Super 8), fire-breathing dragons (The Hobbit), superhero costumes composed of unusual material or substances (Man of Steel), or even giant, green, rage-fueled men (The Avengers).
While the film community as a whole seems to recognize just how useful this new filmmaking tool is, there has been disagreement over how we should evaluate the quality of a mo-cap enhanced performance – specifically, in comparison to those that are done sans any makeup (be it old-fashioned practical or digital in design).
20th Century Fox Film Entertainment co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman has announced that the studio aims to mix things up (with regards to that issue) by officially pushing for Andy Serkis to receive a Best Supporting Actor nod for his turn as the genetically-altered ape, Caesar, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Such a move would not only mark a first for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but also serve as a public recognition of the quality of Serkis’ acclaimed mo-cap performance in the Planet of the Apes franchise reboot/prequel (requel).
Here is what Rothman had to say, on the matter of Serkis’ chances of landing an Oscar nod (via THR):
“I think part of what we have to do is help educate people to understand that [Caesar] is 100 percent [Serkis'] performance. It is great emotional acting. Tom Hanks didn’t have to say any dialogue in ‘Castaway’ for it to be a great performance… The emotionality – what you see and what you feel – [Serkis] did it. I saw him. I watched him. Then they digitally overlaid – you can think of it as a costume – the skin and the hair of an ape. But I tell you the thing that people felt – and a lot of people where moved when they saw the movie – is because of his performance.”
Many moviegoers feel Serkis ought to be nominated for his Apes role, based on his performance alone. However, such a move would also be seen as reparation (of sorts) for the actor being snubbed for his beloved mo-cap turn as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Part of the reason behind the controversy surrounding mo-cap performances is that people have mixed feelings about how much the “human component” actually affects the CGI final product. Some might argue that, say, Neytiri in Avatar or the titular character in Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake could have been just as emotionally-expressive had they simply been purely computer-animated creations. Others would say that thespians like Zoe Saldana and Andy Serkis (who portrayed the aforementioned mo-cap characters) have yet to receive their due credit, with regards to the pivotal role they played in bringing said non-human creatures to life in a convincing fashion.
The debate will surely carry on in the future, given the increasing prevalence of mo-cap technology. Whether someone like Serkis will (or won’t) be awarded for their efforts anytime soon, though, is another matter…
Do you feel Serkis should (at least) be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.