Now the fuss has died down, the Oscars been and gone and the poster whores downed keyboards 'til the next "epically bestest fantasy ever, ever, ever!" is Peter Jackson's trilogy launcher really that good? Very nearly.
Certainly, Jackson's achievement is a substantial one. Taking the least screen-worthy volume of JRR Tolkien's novel, the enjoyable but rambling The Fellowship Of The Ring, the Kiwi helmer's forged a lean, fierce and beautiful action adventure. The first hour sets up the quest of the stumpy hobbit Frodo to take world-threatening Ring Of Power to the fires of Mount Doom. And it's perfect. The fantasy land of Middle-earth is expertly realised, with top production design, ace cinematography and, as the Ring Wraiths (bastards on black horses) arrive, a tangible sense of danger.
It's only when Frodo joins The Fellowship - a multi-species bunch of goodies including the enigmatic Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) - that fallibility creeps in. There's just too much `quest' to cram in and, despite the hefty running time, some scenes are rushed, while the attempts to convey 'good' (soft focus photography and bright light) aren't half as effective as the portrayal of evil.
The casting, though, couldn't be better. The Fellowship members all impress, but it's Mortensen who steals the picture. If Wood is Luke Skywalker (wide-eyed, wimpy, slightly annoying) Mortensen is Han Solo - brooding, intense and handy in a scrap. The Star Wars comparison is an apt one, for if this superb scene-setter is anything to go by, part two will be challenging Lucas' space opera at the top of those fan boy Best Of lists.