After a massive week at the box office (both domestically and internationally), “Captain Marvel” has become an unqualified success. Accompanied by strong reviews (79% on Rotten Tomatoes, 64 on Metacritic, and an “A” Cinemascore), it’s time to turn our eyes toward the future of the character and the film. With Marvel finally breaking through the Best Picture barrier against superhero films, many have appropriately questioned what other successes await the studio with Oscar. With that goal in mind, let’s look at where we might find “Captain Marvel” competing in the future of Oscar.
While “Black Panther” was able to earn seven nominations and contend for Director, Screenplay, and acting prizes, those categories do not seem to be in play for “Captain Marvel” next year. Most criticisms of “Captain Marvel” have discussed the bloated nature of the latest MCU entry. While Ben Mendelsohn has been cited as a standout of the film, the support has not been so unanimous that it would make him a pop culture icon. Meanwhile, Brie Larson juggles a script that asks her to be subdued at times, and in most cases, her subtle work goes unappreciated. She rises all boats when she’s on screen, letting every other actor get their spotlight moments. However, this kind of work rarely sees Oscar success.
While the above-the-line categories seem to be off the table, “Black Panther” didn’t get any either. So where might “Captain Marvel” show up in the crafts? The most obvious work comes from the visual effects team. Some moments will likely get knocked with criticism throughout the year, especially the space flight sequence where Larson destroys Kree warships. At the same time, the de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson might be the most advanced use of that tech employed to date. It certainly helps the discussion, and if “The Irishman” cannot stick the landing of the CGI de-aging process, this will only make the work on Jackson stand out even more.
On the flip side, Visual Effects looks to be extremely competitive this year. “Star Wars: Episode 9,” “Avengers: End Game,” and LAIKA’s “Missing Link” are all returning to the race for follow-up nominations. “Gemini Man,” “Ad Astra,” and “Lion King” will also be in the mix. Really, Disney could try to fill the category, but expect some other features to slide in. While
The makeup effects seem like a stronger play for “Captain Marvel” to go all-in. The Skrulls are the most complicated work, especially when it comes to their natural state. The green aliens have drawn comparisons to the Orcs from “The Lord of the Rings” from 2003. The character design also appears to be stronger than “Suicide Squad” from just a few years ago.
“Captain Marvel” gets the benefit of profiling like a “Star Trek” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” film. The Skrulls are not the only creatures designed for the film. Gemma Chan‘s Minn-Erva and Djimon Hounsou’s Korath also show off complicated prosthetic and coloration. When you include the Kree warriors, there’s a lot of excellent craftsmanship for the makeup team to show off. While “Black Panther” struggled last year, the creature design should help bridge the gap.
The sound effects will also be an important category to watch for. Four-time Oscar winner Christopher Boyes leads the “Captain Marvel” sound team. Boyes bounces between editing and mixing nominations, with fourteen career nominations. He’s a legend in the industry, so that will undoubtedly raise awareness of the sound work among the branch. Other members of the sound team, including Bonnie Wild, Lora Hirschberg, and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle have industry nominations and awards. With jets, lasers, space, and creature sound crafted “Captain Marvel,” this is the latest auditory experience for the MCU.
There’s one other potential category where “Captain Marvel” could be a big play. If the Academy rolls out the “Popular Film” category, “Captain Marvel” will contend. Lesser features were in discussion last year, and given the cultural impact its already made, it sure seems to fit the description given to the prize. It may not be the best-reviewed feature, but when “Captain Marvel” becomes the latest billion dollar movie in the MCU, watch for supporters to rally behind the sci-fi space odyssey.
Sadly, this does not bode well for “Captain Marvel” as a Best Picture contender. Last year, I broke down a potential benchmark across the board contenders to shoot for. I settled on blockbuster/tech players needing to find their way into at least six categories prior to the Best Picture announcement. That’s not to say that movies with less nominations can make the lineup, but if you can find yourself reaching a wide swath of support, it makes the process much easier. The most optimistic day for “Captain Marvel” currently feels like a five nomination day, if an extra category is added. Instead, “Captain Marvel” profiles like a “First Man” or “Star Trek (2009)” style contender. That might not be exciting to hear, but many big-budget films would settle for that.
“Captain Marvel” will not have the showiest of Oscar mornings. However, if the campaign goes well, we should hear its name at least a few times. The likeliest nominations should come from the makeup, sound, and visual effects teams. With any luck, it can break into another category or two. While it’s still early, “Captain Marvel” represents a nice start for blockbuster filmmaking in 2019. If we’re not talking about “Captain Marvel” at the end of the year, it would be surprising.