It's all about heroes and villains and wizards and Hobbits with names like Frodo and Bilbo. But, like billions of others, you already know that. And if you can't get enough of this sort of fantasy/allegory/whimsy/action stuff, you have reason to be happy: two more installments are in the can.

(Now in stores)

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

"... smashing for much of the way; as a piece of fantasy moviemaking, franchise-style, it beats the bejesus out of 'Harry Potter.' Years ago, Jackson made, among other sicko cheapies, 'Dead Alive,' the funniest and yecchiest gross-out movie ever made; in a sense, all of his movies, including 'Heavenly Creatures,' are horror films: They're about the repulsiveness of fear. In that spirit, 'Lord of the Rings' is horrifically imaginative, with imagery and (a few too many) computer-generated effects that are closer in scope to, say, Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' than to 'The Mummy' and most of what passes for scare pictures these days...But things eventually wear down; Jackson piles on so many escapades that the film turns into a riot of splatter." --Peter Rainer, New York

"...the film undeniably works. It's an imaginative and intricately layered re-creation of Tolkien's world, with precious few Hollywood indulgences (only one poop joke), and changes that are mostly well thought out and resolutely true to the spirit of the source...Peter Jackson finds just the right groove to tell the story: letting the visuals carry much of the exposition ...The characters are winning and the performances solid. Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett may seem a bit out of place as elves, but Viggo Mortensen (as the knightlike Aragorn) makes an unusually noble representative of the human species; and the baggy-eyed McKellen and cadaverous Christopher Lee--both of whom make music out of Tolkien's dialogue--are splendid as dueling wizards." --William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"After the lumbering 'The Phantom Menace,' the strenuously synthetic 'The Mummy' and its sequel, and the bland-o-rama 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' it's thrilling indeed to sit through a mega-budget blockbuster sword-and-sorcery picture that's the work of a genuine filmmaker‚ that has passion and urgency, that has characters who are (whatever their stature or alien protuberances) dramatically compelling, that is more than the sum of the scores (hundreds?) of millions that have been thrown at it." --David Edelstein, Slate

"If the books are about brave little creatures who enlist powerful men and wizards to help them in a dangerous crusade, the movie is about powerful men and wizards who embark on a dangerous crusade, and take along the Hobbits...'Fellowship' adds up to more of a sword and sorcery epic than a realization of the more naive and guileless vision of J. R. R. Tolkien...The Hollywood that made 'The Wizard of Oz' might have been equal to it. But 'Fellowship' is a film that comes after 'Gladiator' and 'Matrix,' and it instinctively ramps up to the genre of the overwrought special-effects action picture." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"The long-awaited adaptation of the first book of that trilogy, with its spectacular scenery, stupefying effects and epic scope, is a dream come true...the tale is highly complex, and one of the movie's achievements is that even the uninitiated are unlikely to get lost in the woods...The casting is superb and the acting energetic...Wood, an eloquent actor with deep doe eyes, quickly convinces us that hobbits have always looked just like this...Mortensen, as Strider, is a revelation, not to mention downright gorgeous...And McKellen, carrying the burden of thousands of years' worth of the fight against evil, is positively Merlinesque." --Rita Kempley, The Washington Post

"There are two groups probably sharing the same dread about the film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's ornate and busy 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'--its most loving adherents and those who have spent their lives avoiding the books. But neither side is likely to be disappointed by the director Peter Jackson's altogether heroic job in tackling perhaps the most intimidating nerd/academic fantasy classic ever...Mr. Jackson has simmered the novel down to the most compact action-epic that could be made of it...The playful spookiness of Mr. Jackson's direction provides a lively, light touch, a gesture that doesn't normally come to mind when Tolkien's name is mentioned." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times