On March 2, 2014 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 86th Annual Academy Awards and while a lot of the recipients will honor their own personal heroes in their acceptance speech, there is only one hero (and his support staff) up for an award himself: Iron Man. For the third time in three tries the Iron Avenger’s cinematic exploits have been nominated for an award for Achievement in Visual Effects.
Iron Man 3 earned its nomination with visuals that prove superhero movie effects are now up-to-par with the storytelling of film. Heroes like Iron Man can come to life on screen in a way that complements the story and the characters, rather than overpowering them or clumsily taking audiences out of the action.
However, the Invincible Iron Man has proven quite vulnerable when it comes to actually taking home the visual effects (or any other) trophy on Oscar night. The original film (and notably The Dark Knight) lost this contest to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008 and the first sequel fell to Inception in 2010.
The challenge this year for first time nominee Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams (who was once nominated in this category for his work on The Avengers), Erik Nash (nominated for effects work on Real Steel and I, Robot), and Dan Sudic (who has five previous nominations including both previous Iron Man films) to take home the ‘original’ (but much tinier) iron man is even more formidable then it has been in the past.
The memorable effects of Tony’s self-propelling Mark 42 armor, the subdural glow of the Extremis-powered bad guys and the destruction of Tony’s Malibu manor is up against the stunning realism of Gravity, the deeper space action in Star Trek Into Darkness, the wild stunts of The Lone Ranger and the stupendous Smaug in The Hobbit sequel.
If the competition looks insurmountable, there one ray of sunshine to be found in the Academy’s habit of honoring the third entry in a trilogy as a kind of ‘cumulative effort’ for all the work done prior, best exemplified when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King took home eleven Oscars out of eleven nominations in the year of its eligibility despite the first two films going just six for nineteen over the previous two years.
The world will find out if Iron Man 3 will win the first award in this category for a comic book film since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 on Sunday March 2nd.