Director scores big with final ‘Rings’ film | AspenTimes.com
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Director scores big with final ‘Rings’ film

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings, a film feast of daily presentations of Oscar contenders opens this weekend with a bang.

Kicking off the 13th annual Academy Screenings program, which runs at Harris Hall through Jan. 2, is “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” It’s the final installment of Peter Jackson’s acclaimed film trilogy adapted from the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novels.

Of the 19 films to be presented at the Academy Screenings, “The Return of the King” is the one that holds the most serious blockbuster potential; the first two features combined to rake in over $700 million in the U.S. alone. Newsweek magazine featured the movie in a recent issue ” as a multi-part cover story.



Most impressive, early word places the final episode of the epic, in which various Hobbits, humans and wizards battle to prevent Sauron from realizing his evil plans for Middle Earth, at the top of the heap of the trilogy. Several reviewers have called it the front-runner for the best picture award; a Los Angeles Daily News reviewer practically concedes the award to “The Return of the King.”

If it does win, it would be the first fantasy film so honored. Roger Ebert’s three-and-a-half star review calls “The Return of the King” not only the best of the series, but adds that it “certifies the ‘Ring’ trilogy as a work of bold ambition at a time of cinematic timidity.”




In Ebert’s view, the film’s emotional content falls short of the thrills and technological achievement, but that seems to be a minority opinion. Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times says Jackson’s “made-up world [is] as completely real on the psychological level as its up-to-the-moment visual effects have on the physical.”

What everyone seems to agree on is that “The Return of the King” reaches the heights of sci-fi, special-effects wizardry. (And there is unanimity in that the film is long: three hours and 20 minutes, to be exact.)

From the monumental good-versus-evil battle sequences to the partly computer-animated fiend Gollum, Jackson is being praised the way George Lucas was 25 years ago for his “Star Wars” films ” as the master of special-effects cinema.

But with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy definitely coming to an end now ” his next project is a remake of “King Kong” ” Jackson is sure to avoid the inglorious fall that Lucas has experienced with his prequels.

“Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” shows Sunday, Dec. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings run through Jan. 2, with daily screenings at Harris Hall. The series breaks Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 24-25, for Christmas. Tickets are available at the Wheeler Opera House box office. For a full schedule, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org.

The Aspen Times will be running daily reviews on this page throughout the event.

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com]


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