Somewhere, there are future Hollywood directors who will tell magazine feature writers that they first decided to make movies as they watched this film; it's that good. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a once-in-a-generation, not since Star Wars, transcendent reminder of why we tell stories, why we have imagination, and why we must go on quests to test our spirits and heal the world. And it's a story that invites us into a fully realized world with many different civilizations, all so thoroughly imagined that we don't only believe that they each have complete languages, but that they have dictionaries, histories, mythologies, schools, music, and poetry. Peter Jackson, who directed and co-wrote the script, has created a movie that seems astonishingly inventive and new and at the same time somehow seems as though it always existed inside us. Every detail, from the tiniest plant to the hugest battle, is exactly, satisfyingly right. The bad guys, all thundering hooves and billowing capes, seem to have come from the core of every nightmare since the world began. All three movies in the series were shot at once, so his singular vision can carry us through to the end.
A couple of caveats -- like Harry Potter, Frodo is a character who is more interesting on the page, where we can share his thoughts, than in a movie, where he is primarily called upon to look amazed, scared, or sad. And like Harry Potter, there were benefits to producing a series of films at the same time (continuity, commitment to getting all of the details right), but some drawbacks, too. So, we get glimpses of people who will be important later but now are somewhere between placeholders and distractions.