22 March 2022

Dune battles it out with James Bond, Spider-Man, Shang-Chi and Free Guy for the VFX prize at 2022’s Oscars

Visual effects are so often taken for granted by movie audiences. Hell, in a way, that’s the entire point of them. Which director wants to draw attention to the fact that the 200-foot monster smashing its way through New York City ain’t real? 

But now that we’re in the thick of awards season, we can turn the tables and focus on when a visual is a visual effect. We can also shine a spotlight on those maestros of the VFX artform.  

We’ve just had the BAFTAs, where DNEG (formerly Double Negative) claimed the gong for their spearheading work on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Congrats to Paul Lambert and his team for that one. It’s not only the company’s seventh BAFTA win in just 11 years, but their second gold for a Denis Villeneuve flick – who can forget those eye-popping cityscapes in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049? Or that fully-digitised Sean Young, for that matter. 

However, the million-dollar question is will they score big again at the 2022 Academy Awards on Sunday 27 March? This is really the biggest and swankiest event in the movie calendar, and DNEG are nommed twice this year. As well as Dune, they’re also up for Daniel Craig’s farewell Bond outing, No Time to Die. So, there’s a plot development we never thought we’d see – Bond versus a giant sandworm. 

Dune is the bookies favourite this year, of course, but there have been wildcard winners before. Other strong contenders for the statuette are Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Who knows, maybe Ryan Reynolds’ impressive sci-fi drama Free Guy might defy predictions and walk away with the prize? Digital Domain excelled with this one, creating detailed CG versions of many of the characters, including Reynolds, as well as building nearly 100 three-dimensional environments. 

Meanwhile Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick did some wowsome work on the latest Spider-Man, and Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver dazzled us all with their pixel work on Shang-Chi – the Great Protector at the film’s climax was one of Marvel Studios’ most impressively realised monsters. Ever.   

But the smart money is on Dune to bag another biggie. After all, DNEG have been scooping a host of Best Visual Effects gongs ever since picking up the ​​Outstanding Visual Effects In A Photoreal Feature prize at this year’s Visual Effects Society Awards.   

And if it happens again, it’ll be Paul Lambert’s third Oscar triumph. 2017’s Blade Runner 2149 was his team’s first victory, and 2018’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, their second.  

In its 24-year year history, DNEG has never lost its Midas touch. But what all five nominees really show us, is that a winner is almost impossible to choose. The nomination remains an award in itself, and annually resets the benchmark for industry excellence. 

More importantly, however, it reminds audiences why brilliant VFX is fundamental to telling a believable on screen story. And while most of the time, the industry wants its work to go unnoticed, once a year it’s high time everyone gets a really good look at how it’s done.  

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