Thoughts: After finally finishing the text trilogy, I thought it necessary to view the films in their "entirety", especially before viewing The Hobbit. There was a lot I remember not fully comprehending during the many previous times I had viewed the film, and now, with the Extendeds under my belt, I can still honestly say that I prefer the original Theatricals.
I never thought I'd be one to join the camp but, I really dislike some of the deviations from the original text, so much so that it kinda breaks the films for me. Specifically, the changes to Treebeard and Faramir, my two favourite characters. In the books, the entire sequence (making up a large part of The Two Towers) involving Treebeard is more wondrous, enigmatic, fulfilling and enlightening than the movie, by leaps and bounds. The Hobbits Merry and Pippin are taken for a magical journey both through the forests of Fangorn, and through one of the best parts of Tolkien's world. Treebeard is presented as mystical, almost endless omnipotence that has learned over time that time itself is both important and irrelevant. The Hobbits are both enchanted only partly dismayed at the wait for deliberation when it comes to aid their friends.
The movie however, makes the two Hobbits into some of the most irritating little snaps this side of Gondor, and Treebeard into a lumbering, dotty old fool that thinks and acts slower than a rock. I was so disheartened by the whole thing that it turned my favourite film into my least. And that doesn't even account for Faramir. In the books, Faramir was an outspoken, quiet and exceedingly intelligence tactician, who really wanted to do right by everyone, especially his family. And when it came time for the test of the One Ring, within a paragraph he had passed with flying colours, proving his stoic defense of the good, right down to the bone. In films he is far more of a wimpy boy, and practically spends the entire second film gearing up to do bad with the ring. All of that together really wrecked my enjoyment of the second film.
The first film is still fun, and at least contains a good dose of wonder and excitement, despite all the walking. My new favourite though was definitely the third film. I liked the pace, I actually liked some of the adjustments to the story (like Saruman for instance, I was alright with that end), and the fight sequences are loud and very cool.
Altogether though, I prefer the tight flow of the Theatricals. Either way, I plan to rewatch them many years from now, in my home cinema, as loud as I possibly can. Can't wait to see the Ride Of The Rohirrim in that setup. Love their musical theme. I'm thinking of it now!