Weekend Superhero: January 28, 2017
The nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were announced this week, and superheroes were not invited. In a year that saw at least five major superhero releases, only two managed to earn nominations – Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad. Marvel’s introduction to the Sorcerer Supreme earned a nod in the Best Visual Effects category, while DC’s second-worst tire fire of the year picked up a nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Believe it or not, that’s actually an improvement over the previous year which saw superhero movies completely blanked out from the ballot sheet. But did the superhero movies of 2016 deserve more attention from the Academy?
Let’s start by agreeing that Doctor Strange absolutely deserves it’s nomination for Visual Effects. The Escher-esque landscapes seamlessly blending together into creative action sequences was a joy and truly impressive to behold. As for branching out into other categories, I think that would be asking too much. There really wasn’t much more to it than the visuals. As for Suicide Squad, if there is one positive thing to say about it, it’s that the makeup was on point. Killer Croc was, as far as I know, completely practical makeup on an actor, which is pretty neat. So I’ll give that nomination a pass, even though now Warner Bros can technically say “Oscar nominee – Suicide Squad“, which is equivalent to saying “Pulitzer Prize nominee – the collective writers at BuzzFeed”.
So what about the other major superhero movies of the year? Well there was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which absolutely belongs nowhere near the Academy Awards. This was a rare major superhero movie that truly offered nothing to be rewarded for. Right off the bat, throw out all the major categories. An incoherent screenplay stitched together with no direction by Zack Snyder, played out by morose actors that are apparently afraid of complex emotions. But a movie like this should boast some spectacular technical aptitude, right? After all, they poured a couple hundred million dollars into making this beast. Well all they got for their trouble was an ugly film with uninspired effects and an oppressive sound mix that was apparently edited together by a highly caffeinated zebra. In short, if you think Batman v. Superman should have gotten more love at the Oscars, you’re wrong. It’s perfectly at home on the list of Razzie nominees though, in which it received eight nominations.
What about Marvel’s other juggernaut, Captain America: Civil War? To be perfectly frank, Civil War freaking ruled. Upon a recent re-watching, I was blown away by how solid almost every single aspect of that movie is. Perfectly cast, impeccably choreographed, and with a tight grasp on what it wanted to accomplish. I really loved this movie. But it doesn’t really deserve any Oscars. Was the screenplay a sterling gem? By no means. Was it a groundbreaking take on the superhero genre? Not at all. Simply, it didn’t shake things up enough earn a spot amongst the best of the best. Marvel is great at putting out solid, gleeful entertainment. However, no matter how much it affects our culture, it will never take a big enough risk to be noticed by Academy members.
Aren’t I forgetting something big, though? Maybe something flashy, red, and foul-mouthed that Marvel dropped on us back in February? Deadpool is all of the things I just said Civil War wasn’t, so why wouldn’t that earn some nomination? It was bloody, crude, and absolutely shook up the superhero genre. Now Wolverine is getting his own R-rated movie due to Deadpool’s success. How does that not earn the Merc with the Mouth a Best Screenplay nomination, or Ryan Reynolds a Best Actor nomination?
Yes, Deadpool was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre, and Ryan Reynolds was indeed born to play Wade Wilson. But when you get right down to it, Deadpool is a commercial success that succeeded with critics purely due to the fact that it dared to be different. Can we stop pretending that Deadpool was an amazing movie, though? Can we just acknowledge that without the performance of Reynolds, the trite simplicity of the plot would have bored us to tears? Or that the endless barrage of juvenile humor would have landed dead at our feet, were it not carried by Reynolds so well? I’d argue that Reynolds wasn’t even enough to make the movie great, and that it kind of ran out of steam around the 50-minute mark. Deadpool was a fun treat for audiences. It is not a great movie. It doesn’t have amazing effects or action scenes or dialogue or anything of the sort. At best, you can argue Reynolds deserves a Best Actor nomination. I wouldn’t have been shocked by that at all, and I think that’s the only category that I say Deadpool could have reasonably made an appearance.
So what do you think? Should the superhero movies of 2016 earned more love from the Academy? Did I forget any movies? I tried to just stick to the big ones. Let us know in the comments below.