The Lord Of The Rings:
After what seemed like a whole Third Age of waiting, the final instalment on the Lord Of The Rings trilogy has arrived in cinemas.
A multiplex audience wants spectacle, and there's more of that than your eyes and ears can possibly absorb in one viewing. Massed oliphaunts swaying dangerously towards the gates of the beleaguered Minas Tirith; Frodo pursued through dripping tunnels and caves by a monstrous she-spider; the terrifying Witch-King of the Nazgul swooping down on the helpless, screaming like a Stuka.
But it's churlish to complain about a film so packed with incident, drama and overwhelming wonder as this. The special effects are perhaps the best we've seen so far in the movies - and as the odds against each character's survival lengthen, every human actor seems to be reaching for his absolute career best. Especially heart-rending are Sean Astin's Sam, bowed and bloodied but still staunchly loyal to his damaged friend, and John Noble's Denethor, wracked by guilt and self-pity and driven towards desperate and destructive atrocity. Bernard Hill's Theoden and Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn vie with each other to deliver the most stirring battlefield speech and Aragorn's humble acceptance of his ancient crown translates a profound mythic moment into something that also has a deeply moving human dimension.
The end of all ends? Not quite yet - but put your order in early for the definitive DVD. Seen at last in its entirety, this really could be the greatest story ever told.