Every attempt to film in the epic fantasy style of The Lord of the Rings has foundered on the technical difficulties involved, particularly Equity's failure to produce trolls, orks and hobbits in sufficient quantities. Henson, creator of the Muppets, has put all his energies into creating a spectacular range of live-action creatures who prance and gobble their way across the screen with an unprecedented conviction. Given this enormous advantage, it is therefore disappointing that this $26 million film should restrict itself to a very basic pulp fantasy plot - the hero's quest to free his world from the ravages of an evil race - when there are superior models available in any bookshop. Monstrous characterisations, and the relish with which the strange rituals of evil creatures are portrayed, make up for this deficiency. Desiccated, clawing villains feasting on rotting food in a castle as unprepossessing as the crashed spaceship in Alien have a splendour that is almost operatic.