2007 Calvin Awards: Best Special Effects

February 12, 2007

It must be hell when he sneezes.

Plot, character and theme are all important parts of a really good movie, but like a lot of multiplex goers, sometimes we just want to be wowed by some really dazzling effects. It's the hallmark of the summer movie season, and some creative use of special effects can really make a movie. Our winner for this year's Best Special Effects goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

While the first Pirates film offered some pretty entertaining eye candy (it placed third on this list in 2004), this second effort really kicked it into another stratosphere. Start with the main effect seen throughout the film, that of Davy Jones and his crew of damned sailors. Created with motion capture, the tentacles of Davy Jones, along with the various other sea creature effects, seemed all too real and slimy. And the film's piece d'resistance, the Kraken, was a classic movie monster creation. All in all, nothing looked sharper this year.

The third installment of the Mission: Impossible series took second place here, on the strength of a series of action sequences and explosions, as well with the trademark identity switching effects that it's become well known for. And hey, any film that can make it look like Phillip Seymour Hoffman is beating up on Tom Cruise has to be working with some kind of special effects black magic.

Third place goes to Pan's Labyrinth, the gothic horror thriller from Guillermo del Toro. His elaborately imagined fantasy world of demons and beasts was unlike anything we'd ever seen before, at least outside the time we had that nightmare after eating pizza too close to bedtime. Del Toro continues to be the go-to guy for grotesquerie in film, and the visual feast of Pan's Labyrinth may be his magnum opus in that regard.

While Superman Returns may have been a bit dull as a film, at least we got a bit of special effects magic to break up the scenes of Superman: Deadbeat Dad & Stalker. As well as the work that went into making Brendon Routh believable as the Man of Steel for today's effects savvy audiences, we also a couple of fantastic effects laden sequences involving an airplane crash averted, and Lex Luthor's attempts to destroy the world with, uh, crystals. Hey, don't look at us.

Fifth spot goes to Children of Men, which isn't effects laden in the traditional sense, but its extremely impressive in many technical senses. A huge number of unbroken scenes are filled with explosions, gun battles and even a birth. The film put us in the midst of a military action more thoroughly than any film since Saving Private Ryan, and without any cuts. Also, the Pink Floyd visual joke? Dynamite.

V For Vendetta is the sixth place film here. Although it can't compare to the effects work of the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix trilogy (and really, how could it?), Vendetta had some spectacular fight scenes and a little bit of landmark porn, but it also did something we love here - it used its effects in service of the plot, rather than just as a series of FX demo reels.

Poseidon was one of the year's biggest financial disappointments, but it wasn't because they spared the effects budget. Although a lot of the effects seem borrowed from The Perfect Storm, Titanic and/or Backdraft, we won't hold it against the film too much.

The Descent was an underrated little horror film this fall, which used its limited budget to rather impressive effect, producing subterranean creatures that inspired some of the best chills this year.

The latest installment of Bond offered up the usual impressive stunt sequences, leading Casino Royale to finish ninth in our voting. Still, to match the "back to basics" ethos of the film, they were not as outlandish as in previous years. Maybe that was for the best, as things like the car crash and the destruction of a building in the middle of Venice seemed all the more effective as a result.

Wrapping up the top ten in this category was X-Men: The Last Stand. Though filled with more effects than a lot of the films above it, it all seemed to be a bit of been there, done that. X2 finished fourth in this category in 2004, though that was a much better film overall and I probably wouldn't be amiss in guessing some personal feelings against the film got in the way of our voters.

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 50
2 Mission Impossible: III 37
3 Pan's Labyrinth 36
4 Superman Returns 35
5 Children of Men 28
6 V For Vendetta 27
7 Poseidon 25
8 The Descent 21
9 Casino Royale 20
10 X-Men: The Last Stand 19

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