C'MON HOLLYWOOD: Should Andy Serkis be nominated for an Oscar?
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES hit theaters this weekend with a stronger-than-expected $54 Million opening, thanks in no small part to the stellar word of mouth the film is already raking up. Currently, the Cinema Score is sitting around A-, which is striking, as most blockbusters even out around “B”, and this rating suggests word-of-mouth will continue to be strong, and that the inevitable second weekend drop-off may be minor.
What’s interesting about the reception RISE has received is that, audiences aren’t the only ones enjoying it. The mainstream critical press has also embraced the film, with it sitting around 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is far beyond what anyone was expecting based on the early buzz.
Most importantly, this critical acclaim gives Andy Serkis, who “performed” the role of Caesar the ape through motion-capture, a legitimate chance at an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in January. Early Oscar handicappers are calling him a lock, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Academy will be accepting of a role that’s mostly non-verbal, and would have had no chance of succeeding if the CGI artists at Weta Digital had not been at the top of their game. It’s also worth asking whether or not the academy is entirely aware of how much Serkis’ performance actually influenced Caesar. Comparing them side-by-side, it’s striking to see how closely Caesar represents Serkis, and one wonders whether he’d have a better shot at a nomination if make-up and prosthetics had been used as in the original series, or Tim Burton’s 2001 film.
Personally, I’d like to see Serkis get the nomination, but I truly feel that if he did, it should be shared with the key animators at Weta, as the role is truly a partnership between him and Weta. This is not to meant to be a slight to Serkis, as he’s wonderful in the part. Truly, he’s the Lon Chaney of the digital age, with roles like Caesar, or KING KONG, or Gollum in LORD OF THE RINGS being absolutely stunning. Serkis also has a big part as Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, in addition to his upcoming part in THE HOBBIT, so his mo-cap performances will continue.
However, it’s really a gray area here about what exactly goes into these performances, and I imagine the Academy will be very reluctant to reward a performance so closely identified with CGI. It reminds me of Zoe Saldana, who was heavily favored for a best supporting actress nod in AVATAR, but was eventually overlooked by the Academy. And in that film, she got to use her voice, unlike Serkis (for the most part) in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
That said, if Serkis doesn’t get a nomination this year, it’s inevitable that before long, someone will for a similar performance as motion capture isn’t going anywhere. In RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Serkis and Weta show exactly what can be accomplished if the technology is used correctly and that deserves recognition.