Andy Serkis changed the film industry with his groundbreaking motion capture work. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the first film to include a digital character through fully real-time performance capture, just three years after Jar Jar Binks reduced the reputation of CGI characters in live-action movies. Serkis has gone on to create brilliant motion capture characters throughout his career, including King Kong and Planet of the Apesit’s Caesar.

Serkis is a trailblazer, making films with prominent motion capture work, including his debut behind the camera. Mowgli: legend of the jungle and the next one Venom: let there be carnage. It opened the door for others to use emerging technology, and motion capture has become a respected practice for leading players to experiment with. Here are the top seven motion capture movie performances that followed in its wake.

RELATED: Andy Serkis’ Performance Capture Roles Ranked From Worst To First


Bill Nighy in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Dead Man’s Chest”

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Image via Walt Disney Studios

Turned back to back, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At the end of the world has woven a complex mythology of political and supernatural forces into some of the most complex sets designed in modern blockbuster cinema. A majority of Dead man’s chestthe suspense hinged on the ruthless villain Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the squid-like Dark Lord who comes to claim the debt that Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) owes him. Jones could have been a cartoon monster so easily, but Nighy and the Revolutionary Visual Effects team created a nightmarish figure that combined a swashbuckling menace with mystical horror. Compared to The curse of the black pearlthe antagonist of Captain Barbossa (Geoffroy Rush), a human villain whose humorous side matched Depp’s charisma, Jones is a tragic character. Nighy has transformed a monstrous legend of bedtime stories into a loving sailor, cursed to a disfigured form for betraying the one true love he still longs for.

Zoe Saldana in “Avatar”

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Image via Disney

When Avatar 2 well (!) In theaters the speech won’t be fun, but it’s hard to overstate how much of a cultural phenomenon the first film was. James cameron asked his cast of Na’vi to take a bold risk; motion capture was still in its infancy, and the development of an entire humanoid alien race and culture from Cameron’s imagination was unprecedented. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) was to describe the Na’vi’s connection to the natural world and their grief to see it devastated, while also meeting the physical demands of digital tuning parts. Given Avataron a large scale, there had to be an emotional hook. Saldana manages to base the action on emotional issues as Neytiri falls in love with Jake Scully (Sam worthington). Worthington isn’t exactly the most charismatic guy, but Saldana sells the chemistry amid sometimes cheesy romantic writing.

Jason Cope in ‘District 9’

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Image via Sony

Neill Blomkampthe brilliant science fiction masterpiece District 9 explored the themes of apartheid, immigration and bigotry. The alien “Shrimp” creatures land in Nigeria and are forced to live in a segregated society under high surveillance. The emotional knot rests on Christopher Johnson (Jason cope), a single shrimp father who forms a hasty alliance with clumsy bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto copley) in order to escape the oppression of the MNU Foreign Ministry and return to his home planet. As he tackles burning political issues, the issues of District 9 are intimate, and Christopher Johnson’s struggle to raise his son CJ in a culture where they are looked down upon as monsters is heartbreaking. Shrimp are only vaguely humanoid, more like the insects of Starship Troopers than the more obviously empathetic Na’vi. Cope had to overcome the challenge of expressing emotions with his physique and expressions, while facing a language barrier. These are the same fights as Christopher Johnson’s character, and in turn, Cope’s performance feels eerily genuine.

Willem Dafoe in “John Carter”

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Image via Walt Disney Studios

The long developing sci-fi adventure John carter is one of the most notorious box office bombs in recent memory, though many have tried to reclaim it as an underrated gem. While there is a lot of great world-building and fantasy action, the pumped-up seriousness isn’t quite convincing as a serious sci-fi epic or heart-wrenching summer show. However, if there’s one really great thing about John Carter, it’s Willem Dafoe‘s as the Martian warrior leader Tar Tarkas. Dafoe had to wear stilts and a gray tracksuit amid the desert heat, and he vows to capture the spirit of a refined chef who forms a hasty alliance with taylor kitschthe titular hero. It’s sad to hear Dafoe’s enthusiasm for Tarka’s potential in the abandoned sequels; Dafoe always defends the film, claiming that “sometimes a movie comes out just at the wrong time, gets bad press, or gets the bad portrayal, and it’s misunderstood.”

Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Image via Warner Bros.

The Hobbit trilogy quickly went beyond the simplicity of JRR Tolkienoriginal novel of the complexity of a the Lord of the Rings prequel saga. However, the common thread of the dwarves reclaiming their homeland from the dragon Smaug which has remained most faithful to the original source has remained the most compelling element. There had been CGI dragons before, but Smaug had a distinct personality. Benedict Cumberbatch brought delicious haughty arrogance to the role as he stars with terrified Bilbo Baggins (Martin freeman). It’s a wonderful sequence where Cumberbatch revel in chewing landscapes, only gradually revealing his knowledge of the dwarf plan. It’s a shame The battle of the five armies gives Smaug such a disappointing conclusion, but you’re going to be in for a treat if you’ve never seen the behind-the-scenes footage of Cumberbatch’s commitment to capturing the dragons’ movements.

Toby Kebbell in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

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Image via Warner Bros.

In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Toby Kebbell faced the King of Motion Capture. Serkis’ role as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so popular it generated a serious buzz during awards season. The sequel opened up the world and developed each of the monkeys individually. Their advanced society rests in a fragile political dynamic with human survivors. Kebbell captured the same detail in the monkey movements that Serkis did. Like Caesar, Kebbell’s Koba was the victim of brutal laboratory experiments that left him physically and emotionally scarred. He is the perfect antithesis of Caesar; both have the reluctant spirit of a survivor, but Caesar chooses to build bridges and Koba sees revenge as his only means of satisfaction. Koba does some truly horrific acts, but Kebbell finds the pent-up ferocity that years of torture have caused. The concept of a monkey riding a horse and wielding automatic weapons sounds ludicrous on paper, but in this world, it’s a haunting symbol of cyclical conflict.

Josh Brolin in “Avengers: Infinity War”

There were colossal expectations for Josh brolin deliver as Thanos. The character had been teased for six years as the force that would unite all the heroes in the universe. Not only did he have to be a threat that warranted ten years of storytelling, but Marvel’s history with villains was fragile. Their best efforts tended to have human faces like that of Tom Hiddleston Loki, Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger, and Michael keaton‘s Vulture, and actors buried in makeup like Lee paceis Ronan and Christophe Eccelston‘s Malekeith struggled to give authentic performances. Still, the all-CGI Thanos was a surprisingly complex character. The collapse of his homeworld Titan gave Thanos understandable motivation, but his plot to wipe out half the universe’s population is obviously insane. Brolin gives Thanos’ obsession with “balance” an off-putting nobility that adds to his threat and digs into the twisted logic of an abusive father pitting his daughters against each other. His words of love for Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen gillan) are insane, and Brolin’s expressiveness captured this deceptive nature. Brolin doesn’t go for the easy portrayal of a supervillain; it’s quite surprising that a $ 2 billion mega-blockbuster devotes a significant portion of its runtime to a big purple alien crying on top of a cliff.

KEEP READING: New ‘Avatar 2’ Set Photo Has Fun With Underwater Motion Capture


Tom Hardy, his adorable dog and Andy Serkis on Venom 2 social
Tom Hardy, his adorable dog and Andy Serkis on ‘Venom 2’ and how they filmed the apartment fight between Eddie Brock / Venom

Hardy also talks about what it meant to have his first writing credit on the “Venom” sequel.

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