Nearly eight years ago, the Academy Awards saw one of the great clean sweeps of all time as "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" walked away with the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated. The grand release at the end of a three-year journey that saw a total of 30 Oscar nominations and 17 wins, the film was the bow on a lucrative, critically acclaimed series that could only again be matched by the same unique mixture.

After legal disputes and a non-starting try with a different filmmaker at the helm, audiences will again be treated to that same unique mixture after all as the Peter Jackson-directed "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters in one year's time, with a part two, "There and Back Again," to follow in 2013. And with the release of the first full trailer for the former, one can't help but wonder: will Oscar come calling again?

I was always appreciative of the "Lord of the Rings" franchise and what Jackson accomplished, even if I wasn't at all a fan or thought all that much about the films after they had come and gone. I revisited them once or twice over the years, picked up the extended editions on DVD and then again on Blu-ray (the extended version of "The Fellowship of the Ring" being my favorite installment). But certainly the films built magnificently on an already established fan base as they raked in $2.9 billion worldwide.

With films like "The Dark Knight" and "Avatar" setting new box office milestones and benchmarks, one wonders what film, if any, will be able to make a strong play at those numbers. I'd say the second film in this two-parter might be the one, but more importantly, it will be fascinating to see what Jackson's lessons will bring to these prequels to his previous series, just as it will be delightful to see where Andy Serkis and the Weta crew expand on what they've already pioneered in performance-capture technology with the character of Gollum.

Speaking of which, perhaps by that time, after all the fuss over his work in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" this year, some ground might have been softened, if not broken, to allow for serious consideration of Serkis's performance in the films. We shall see.

Check out the new trailer for "The Hobbit: An Incredible Journey" at Motion/Captured (courtesy of Apple). And feel free to leave your thoughts on it, or on the previous franchise in general if you like, in the comments section below.

Only 12 more months to wait.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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