I've watched the original trilogy for years now. With the recent loss of my extended editions however, I decided to watch this most recent time on Prime. I hate to say they don't measure up at all to the extended editions; it feels as if over half of the movie is missing, altered from what it is meant to be. I did see one of the most recent other reviews giving only 2 stars because they claimed the movie only used 22% of the book, but you must realize that the amount of time it takes to make a movie, and even just to watch one for the general movie-viewing public, it just wouldn't be practical to make a movie with the entire book the size of the original. Even the absolute most hard-core fanboys (if they have any idea of the time and cost that goes into making this scale of movie) would admit that. Considering the scale of these movies and the fact that they got funded all together before even one was released, and at the immense budget that was at the time unheard of for cinematography, it actually very impressive how well they did. The praise these movies get are not just for pretty visuals and big actors, but by the effort the movie creators went to in order to stay as true to the books as possible with out changing major factors which I'm sure most anyone can agree with after seeing the vast majority of movies-based-on-books in the years that followed.
Would fans have appreciated a movie that mirrored the book in it's entirety? Sure, who wouldn't? Except for all the people who were not originally major fans before something like these movies came along for those of us that perhaps a bit more visual based or less inclined to reading. I myself read books before seeing the related movies, but I understand that these movies had an incredible impact on people who had never even read the books, or even heard of the LotR beforehand. And to someone who isn't already invested, a single 11 hour movie is an easy thing to say no to. It may be commonplace now, but a 3 hour movie was a mighty stretch at the time of this release. It wasn't truly until after these movies showed some of the underlying potential that filmmakers even realized that a general audience would sit through something this long.
For all the faults this movie and it's trilogy predecessors have, one would have to be truly ignorant to not see the feats that were accomplished with this series. Realistically feats that would be impossible to duplicate ever again. The Fellowship of the Ring - the Return of the King are 100% my number 1 recommendation to any fan of the genera, or just anyone in general.