`Rings' fans sing praises of trilogy's final installment

Wednesday, December 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ One of the stars of the ``Lord of the Rings'' movies is Gollum, an emotionally conflicted goblin _ but fans were anything but two-minded as they left early screenings of the trilogy's final installment early Wednesday.

``It lived up to all the hype,'' said Columbia University student Alex Davis, 21, who planned to take a final exam five hours after leaving a screening of ``The Return of the King'' in Manhattan that began at 2 a.m.

``This one was better, more faithful to the original story than the first two,'' said Davis.

Stacy Prassas, a 41-year-old computer programmer who was leaving the same theater as it let out just after 5:30 a.m., said she was coming back later in the morning to see it again.

``No one seeing the movie at 2 a.m. is going to tell that they're not impressed,'' said Prassas. ``I thought it covered all the points in the book. ... The truth of the matter is, it's a terrific film. I was very excited.''

On Tuesday, 99 theaters across the nation showed all three films in the trilogy back-to-back, with ``King'' debuting midnight Wednesday. Numerous treats were arranged for the die-hard fans, with some theaters setting up buffets for the between-movie breaks.

The trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson and starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen and Sean Astin, began with the ``The Fellowship of the Ring'' in 2001. ``The Two Towers'' followed in 2002.

Moviegoers said Jackson's final stroke was well worth the wait, enrapturing even seat-weary fans, many of whom showed up dressed as their favorite characters.

``The crowd was cheering and clapping at certain points,'' said Joe Kingshaw, who attended a marathon screening in Baltimore. ``The crowd got dead silent during some other really serious moments.''

Fans who endured roughly nine hours in a seat at Loews Theatres Metron in San Francisco emerged into darkness at about 1:30 a.m. local time Wednesday _ also with high praise for the trilogy's conclusion.

``Overall, I think it was the best of the three,'' said Mitchell Johnson, 25, who got in line for tickets at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

But Johnson, an engineer in San Francisco, said watching all three films at once lessened the pleasure a bit.

``It was good but really long,'' he said.

Chris Baryliek, a 26-year-old who attended the Baltimore screening, conceded that sitting through three movies at three hours apiece would be trying.

``I was kind of hitting the wall during the first presentation,'' he said. ``My upper back was saying 'What are you doing to me?'''

Kingshaw's future plans foretold a likely course for legions of ``Rings'' fans.

``I plan on seeing it again,'' he said.