Yeah, reviving dead topics! Probably nobody's going to read this, but I feel strongly about this, so here's my two cents (and anyway there's the "Hobbit" movies now, which suffer from the same problems, imo):
a) The LOTR movies are (for the most part) visually beautiful. New Zealand scenery is great and the props are really well done.
b) In my opinion, the movies were too much tailored for commercial success, unfortunately:
1) major focus on action: Lots of stuff was cut (Bombadil, Scouring of the Shire, ...), allegedly in order to keep the movies at an acceptable length. However, then PJ went and shoehorned a lot of unnecessary stuff back in, completely bloating the movie.
- Aragorn going over the cliff on the warg. Cheap cliffhanger, really, nobody can possibly believe he dies. Come to think of it, the whole warg fight was unnecessary.
- the fight at weathertop, with Aragorn singlehandedly driving off all the Nazgul
- any Aragorn fight, really
- all Legolas superman scenes
So, in essence, in my opinion the books were stripped and used as a convenient background to show as much over-the-top action/fighting as possible. Oh yeah, the fight between the wizards is also a great example. In the Tolkien books, magic is much more subtle. Speaking of subtle, I also didn't particularly like the RoboCop portrayal of Sauron.
2) lots of romance:
The extended screen-time for Arwen, in particular, is obviously a move to cater to the female audience
3) lots of drama:
The amount of time we have to look at Frodos sad puppy eyes is just ridiculous. Just look at the last half-hour of RoTK. Also, I am _really_ annoyed by the cheap suspense generated by having Faramir seize Frode and Sam and ship them to Osgiliath, just to have the opportunity for another completely unnecessary emotion-laden monologue by Sam. As pointed out earlier, this completely kills the fine point Tolkien was making in the character differences between Boromir and Faramir.
4) comic relief: Gimli is reduced to a completely one-dimensional one-liner production machine. In general, funny one-liners which no-one would possible use in any "real" situation, are prevalent. This is something which belongs into sit-coms and action movies but doesn't fit into my understanding of the LOTR grand epic story. It makes the characters completely unbelievable.
c) If we assume for a moment, that these movies have nothing to do with the books, they are OK, compared to other SciFi/fantasy movies out there, which are often quite terrible and clich?d. The LOTR are entertaining, but don't leave a lasting impression. As is the trend in recent Hollywood movies, stories are just used as an excuse to show as much action as possible, which I find unsatisfactory. Then again, I am not in the targeted audience age anymore. However, the visuals are great as is the production quality in general.