The evolution of film is unstoppable, including the development of utilizing motion capture performances, even if Hollywood hasn’t fully accepted it yet. In celebration of actor, director and producer Andy Serkis’ birthday, who brought the movement to new heights with exceptional performances in several tentpole franchises including “The Lord of the Rings” and “Planet of the Apes,” we’re ranking the 10 best motion capture turns in the medium thus far.
Any CGI character can be included in a narrative utilizing the wizardly tactics of visual effects artists, but an actor’s movement and voice are often needed to elevate the optical aspects of the personality, adding a layer of depth to the story that would be missing otherwise. Motion capture is extremely difficult but the entertainment industry at large hasn’t fully embraced its place in the medium, often paying the actors much less and no major awards body recognizing it as its own category.
A hot topic since the early 2000s, critics and industry professionals have circled the debate around awards season. Serkis has had mild attempts of breaking through; he was given a special digital acting performance award at the Critics Choice Awards for his turn as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002). Nearly a decade later, he was thrust into the Oscar conversation when he picked up a best supporting actor nomination for his work as Caesar, the evolved chimpanzee in Rupert Wyatt’s invigorating “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011). Finding recognition alongside the likes of Kenneth Branagh (“My Week with Marilyn”), Nick Nolte (“Warrior”) and eventual winner Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”), his nom marks the first and only major recognition for the acting art form.
While an old-school bias has prevented motion-capture actors from being taken seriously, as the Academy continues to diversify its membership and accept new types of films into its inner circle, perhaps a digital performance by an actor in the future will knock their socks off, leaving them no choice but to hand over the gold statuette for a masterclass in simulation.
Down below is the list of the 10 best motion capture performances.
Honorable mentions: Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”), Idris Elba (“The Jungle Book”), Toby Jones (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”), Seth MacFarlane (“Ted”), Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), Mark Ruffalo (“The Avengers”), Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”)