The acting is serious, the directing captures the action well, the plot is interesting, the characters are memorable, and there are but 3 problems that prevent a perfect experience:
1. Plot holes. What exactly does the Ring do? It's the central MacGuffin
in a 10+ hour saga, and yet all is does is make you turn invisible at the cost of blurry color blind vision. Second, the importance of keeping the Ring from Sauron is lost on me for two reasons: first, he is defeated while wearing it (look at the opening sequence of the first film), and he almost came close to victory while he didn't have it (the Battle of Helm's Deep and the fight for Mina's Tirith were very close). It's implied that "the One Ring to rule them all" means that Sauron could mind-control those wearing the lesser rings, but then why not just say to every king and say, "You might want to take off your rings so you can't be mind controlled."? Why does everyone walk instead of oh I don't know, riding horses (for the entire trip, not just segments) or the eagles?
2. Gandalf doesn't deliver, which confuses me. He's made up to be one of the greatest wizards ever, yet only plays with fireworks, turns his staff into a flashlight, summons eagles, and talks to butterflies. What does he ever do or say that makes him more than a guy with a few party tricks? Yes, I know there's the Balrog, but it is at best an Offscreen Moment of Awesome
against a creature whose abilities were never measured. Gandalf might as well just have had a line like "I beat an army once." and the effect would be identical. In addition, people tend to forget that Gandalf died (or something) fighting Balrog; but then respawned because screw you viewer, here's a montage of space and a cosmo-babble explanation about something that has not been established as part of the story's universe yet.
3. Horrendous editing problems. I know fans of the book eat all the little details up, but for the mainstream viewer, a 3.5 hour running time for the shortest film in the series is simply atrocious. I could have easily cut an hour from each movie, and the pacing and timeframe of each film is horribly done. How long does it take to hike across a continent, and why must we be subjected to long periods of inaction?
And yet the LOTR is still
one of the greatest cinematic stories ever told in my book.