Unlike so many big budget productions, the first movie instalment of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth trilogy doesn't condescend to a teenage audience, but creates a sophisticated universe which abides by its own laws: a primordial world older than history and legend, back in the realm of myth. Here young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Wood) comes into possession of the ring of power - a talisman of evil so potent it corrupts everyone who touches it. Under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf (McKellen), Frodo escapes the clutches of the fearsome ring wraiths along with his faithful friend Sam (Astin), and heads for the kingdom of the elves, where they hope to thwart the encroaching forces of doom. Mostly, the film makes light work of Tolkien's richly Celtic imagination. You don't so much admire its virtuoso camerawork as lose yourself in the grandeur of the Gothic design, the bucolic Shire and mountain ranges riddled with mines and fire pits. Granted, there's a sermonising element which invites parody, but it never wants for menace (parents should probably steer young children clear). In unveiling the Holy Grail for action-fantasy aficionados, director and co-writer Peter Jackson has begun a series to rival Star Wars in the pantheon.