Honestly, this has got to be the hardest category for me to pick a favourite.
None. Yep, no problems. I reckon all deserve the nom, and there isn’t any other film I’d prefer over these five.
My personal favourites
Um, am I allowed to say all? Honestly, almost each and every one in this category was visually impressive in some way, so how ’bout I just dot a brief summary of each to keep it simple:
Mad Max: Fury Road
Not only was most of the CGI in this film seamless, it used visual effects in the way I think every film should – to enhance, not create, what’s seen on screen. While the most impressive part of Fury Road’s visuals is how practical it is, the computer just added that little extra to elevate the film visually from excellent to mind-blowing.
While the CGI is not quite the necessity it is for say Martian or Star Wars, it doesn’t make the CGI any less impressive. Unlike any of the other nominees, the CG of Machina had to enhance and blend with an actor’s performance, and hence contributed to one of the biggest reasons this film was so great – Ava.
That word crops up again: Seamless. Not only did the vast plains of Mars possess a rustic beauty, they looked incredibly real. And that’s pretty important for a film set on Mars.
While not a huge part of The Revenant (only a couple of scenes rely on CGI, based on my memory), its still damn impressive. That bear scene in particular was harrowing, real and brutally effective, and was achieved almost purely through a computer.
While far far away the most bombastic user of CGI on this list, The Force Awakens still managed to bring the galaxy far far away to life for a modern audience. While there was some full-CG characters that didn’t look great, for the most part it lived up to the visionary visuals of the original trilogy.
Who will probably win
Well, Star Wars has the highest odds. Not sure why. Its closely followed by Mad Max, then far and beyond comes The Revenant, The Martian, and finally Ex Machina. Which honestly confuses me. It may be easy to look at a huge tentpole blockbuster CGI-fest and say ‘yeah, they know their stuff’ and sure, most of the effects in Force Awakens were great, but some of it was… less stellar. Snoke, and to a lesser extent Maz Kanata, were not very convincing characters at all. Especially compared to other Serkis performances like Caesar and Gollum, Snoke did not stand out. And since that’s the only one of these five I’d peg a negative on for the CG, it being the likeliest candidate confuses me. That being said, it is for visual effects rather than purely CGI use, and many of the practical effects in Star Wars were spectacular. But even so, I think almost any other candidate is more deserving. They were all just far more seamless. So I’ll be happy if Fury Road steals the award on the day. But it may not happen.
So yes, aside from a few niggles regarding Star Wars, this is still a spectacular and deserving category. What a way to set the standard for CGI and visual effects in Hollywood. Not bad. Not bad at all.