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After Golden Globe shutout, Oscar chances dim for 'Rings'

January 24, 2002
By Franklin Harris

Bad news for movie geeks: "The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" was shut out at the Golden Globes on Sunday, which doesn't bode well for its chances come Oscar time.

So far, "A Beautiful Mind" appears to be the frontrunner, but at the very least, "Rings" director Peter Jackson deserves the Best Director honor. (Keep your eye on the Director's Guild awards. The winner of that usually gets the directing Oscar, Ang Lee being a disappointing exception.)

If "Lord of the Rings" comes up short, it'll be just like "Star Wars" losing to "Annie Hall" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" losing to "Reds." Of course, "Annie Hall" probably deserved to win, but who among you even remembered "Reds" until I mentioned it?

You can argue that genre-film geeks won last year with "Gladiator," but most of us were rooting for Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

The last time an undisputed geek favorite won was "Silence of the Lambs" in 1992, and "Hannibal" is no "Silence of the Lambs." Not that "Hannibal" is going to get any nominations, anyway.

'Deep space franchise'

One TV movie that won't be winning any awards is "Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers."

"Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski returns to his science fiction universe with this pilot for a new Sci-Fi Channel series. Alas, as pilots go, this one isn't promising.

The Rangers are an elite guard comprised of humans and aliens, including the Mimbari, who founded the Rangers 1,000 years ago.

Acting as trackers, spies and warriors, the Rangers go into the dark places where others fear to tread. And, as is repeated endlessly, they "live for The One" and "die for The One," which means nothing unless you're already familiar with "Babylon 5" lore.

The old-guard Rangers are particularly big on the dying half of that. So, when human Ranger David Martel, played by Dylan Neal, retreats from battle rather than send his crew on a meaningless suicide mission, it looks like Martel is up for court-martial.

Rangers, you see, are never supposed to retreat. Period.

Thanks, however, to some intervention by "Babylon 5" regular G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas), our rogue Ranger instead ends up the captain of a rickety, haunted spaceship. Soon, Martel is ferrying a shipload of dignitaries to a secret meeting.

Naturally, everything goes wrong, and Martel and his misfit crew get to prove their worth against a mysterious, eons-old enemy.

Straczynski once promised he wouldn't turn "Babylon 5" into a "deep space franchise" like "Star Trek," but now he seems to be doing just that. The result isn't so much a story as it is a patchwork of bad sci-fi cliches — including the "young upstart who gets his own ship instead of the boot" routine — held together by dubious leaps of logic.

Apart from Katsulas' performance, the acting is unremarkable. And some of the ideas, including a virtual-reality weapons station, are truly juvenile. Only a 10-year-old boy would design a spaceship weapons system based on someone doing kung fu in a VR simulator.

"Legend of the Rangers" is going to need rapid improvement if Sci-Fi picks it up as a regular series.

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