Aquaman is swimming towards a billion-dollar payday, giving Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment a much-needed win for its DC Extended Universe franchise. Few fans would argue that Aquaman is in any kind of running to receive a Golden Globe or Oscar for something like Best Picture, but the underwater superhero blockbuster would understandably be in the running for some major technical awards - or so you would think.
When the shortlist for the 2019 Academy Awards for Visual Effects were announced last month, Aquaman was nowhere on the list of nominees, which included the following films:
- ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
- AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
- BLACK PANTHER
- CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
- FIRST MAN
- JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
- MARY POPPINS RETURNS
- READY PLAYER ONE
- SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
- WELCOME TO MARWEN
Well, when Aquaman was released in theaters, director James Wan did a Facebook post to both advertise and commemorate the film's release. One of the well-wishers who replied to Wan's post was Aquaman's visual effects supervisor, Kelvin McIlwain, who posted the following congrats to his director:
"Congrats James, It was such an honor to be a part of this creative endeavor and to work with you again. Cheers!!!!"
After seeing this message, Wan took it upon himself to let his VFX supervisor know what a great job he'd done - even if the Academy didn't recognize it. As you can see below, Wan did not mince words when it came to expressing his displeasure with the Academy voting process:
"Kelvin, you and your department are the unsung heroes of this film. The fact that your VFX peers in the Academy aren't recognizing or appreciating what we/you've all contributed to the film and cinema is a f**king disgrace."
There is some valid reasoning for Wan's anger, in the sense that Aquaman is probably the first blockbuster movie to be set predominately underwater, featuring people (and things) that live and move in an aquatic environment. The visual effects required to create and populate that world convincingly were pretty substantial - and the overall creative design had to be somewhat revolutionary. When you look back over the list and see films like First Man, or Christopher Robin or Welcome to Marwen... have they really done something visually that's offered audiences a bold new cinematic experience? Really?
For his part, Kelvin McIlwain managed to soften the edge of Wan's outrage with a witty quip, which shows he's not lamenting this all too hard:
"I'm with you James. It was a complete shock to everyone that we are not in the final 10 films that will be presenting at the Academy VFX Bake-off. The selection process is very flawed in my opinion and too open to influence."
If you're wondering how Aquaman got left out of the nominees list, it's probably a simple answer: not enough critics saw it in time to push it through on their year-end lists of best visual effects, or studios like Disney simply campaigned harder to remind critics of their films, just before voting time. It is indeed a process that is flawed - but it's also why choosing the right release date can be so crucial.
Upcoming DC Extended Universe films include Aquaman on December 21st, Shazam on April 5, 2019, and Wonder Woman 2 on November 1, 2019.