So, on to my movie review, or what passes for one:
The minor complaints, first:
The Faramir issue: Yes, this sort of bothered me. He was given a very sketchy characterization, not at all the detail Boromir got, and I still don't see why they carted Frodo and Sam all the way to Osgiliath. But then, Faramir does get to live through the third movie, so we'll be seeing him again. His character didn't intrude on my general enjoyment.
This is a middle film. By definition, it doesn't have a proper beginning or ending. I so wanted them to continue on to Shelob's Lair at the end. But hey—our curiosity is now piqued.
OK, enough of that. Stuff I liked or otherwise want to comment on:
A lot was changed or unexpected. But I approved of it, generally. People have to understand that what makes a good movie is not exactly the same as what makes a good book.
Weepy stuff: I was braced for some Frodo/Sam angst. We got that—very sweet. I was braced for Gandalf's return, and Faramir saying his brother was dead. I was even, sort of, braced for Theoden's mourning of his son—which was done very beautifully. (Those white flowers! Sigh.) I was not prepared for the exceptionally poignant scenes of children being outfitted for battle at Helm's Deep, or people saying goodbye and being pulled away from each other in the caves. Those were the saddest moments for me, mostly because they caught me off guard.
So did Haldir's death. Whoa! Poor guy. I feel really bad now for calling him a stuck-up jerk. Forgive me, Haldir.
Stuff from the book I'm SO GLAD they left in: Legolas and Gimli keeping a body count. Hee! Sam and Gollum bickering about how to cook rabbit. So cute. The Frodo/Sam conversation at the end: "I wonder if they'll tell tales about us one day? 'Tell me about Frodo and the Ring, Dad.'" The audience laughed at that—as if they thought Peter Jackson was making a smug reference to how famous the books/movies are—but I don't know if they realized it was all straight out of the book.
Stuff that just generally rocked: Eowyn's way cool. (Steve: "She's easy on the eyes.") I thought Eomer was handsome too. (Steve: "He looked like Jack Black.") Legolas got a lot more stuff to do, including speaking in his native tongue, and it was all good. The fangirls were out in force, incidentally—when Leggy first appeared onscreen he got a few whistles, which prompted a small backlash of jeers from the anti-fangirl folks. Heheh. The audience also burst into cheers for him when he did his horse-jumping trick, and his surfing-down-the-stairs thing. Truly, it's not just that he's pretty; he really does kick ass. Gimli was great too. Oh, and Arwen didn't even annoy me. The foreshadowing scene ("Aragorn will die someday") was genuinely sad and lovely, and her scene with Elrond was very touching.
GOLLUM. Very well done. Pitiful, creepy, sometimes funny. (The audience laughed too much at him, though.)
The Ents! I liked them. Don't know why people are complaining. They were kind of old-school in appearance; more Muppetish than CGI, which I thought was good. Poor Merry and Pippin, though, hardly got to do anything except ride around on Treebeard.
Frodo and Sam sure were bickering a lot. That was a bit of a surprise. I don't think Frodo ever says or does anything really mean to Sam until the Tower of Cirith Ungol, in the book. But in this one, he's practically cutting Sam's head off by the end. However, this serves as a reminder that the stress and the Ring are taking their toll. And it made the ending more tender. (I wasn't crying, but I heard lots of sniffles in the theatre when Sam was in tears, there, in Osgiliath.)
I can't even bear to think about the Shelob scene now, or the parting at the Grey Havens that will probably come at the end of the third film. However, I feel somewhat better since they've been calling Valinor "the undying land." So, potentially, when Frodo (and eventually Sam) go there, we can rest assured they'll be kind of immortal. Or something. That's how I want to think of it, anyway.
Maybe I'll go make muffins. Yeah.