Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 'Rings' returns

As swift as an arrow launched by an elfin archer, a year has sped by since The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of three epic films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's literary classic The Lord of the Rings, cast its sword-and-sorcery spell upon the worldwide box office. It took in $860 million and ruled the Oscars with 13 nominations, winning four.

If advance sales on online ticketing site Fandango are any sort of crystal ball, the spell may be more powerful this time.

The Two Towers may not leave theaters until next fall. This will be terrific and is just the setup for next year's even better Return of the King.

After winnowing four-plus hours to a lean-by-comparison 179 minutes, Jackson appears confident. (Extras such as a poetry reading by Treebeard that's especially treasured by the director will wind up on the extended DVD.) He's confident enough to eschew any introductory plot recap for potential newbies, despite pressure from New Line Cinema, the studio releasing the films. In his pragmatic Kiwi view, if you're too cheap to do your homework and rent the video, too bad. "There's not really an excuse," he says.

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