Sorry for the repost (which is also, I guess, a riposte!):
Summary judgment: not better than the films, but obviously different--and probably, as Jonathan said, without prospect of influencing our view of Tolkien so profoundly.
And some first impressions:
I'm now at Level 6 (so obviously it can't be that bad! ), still doing the baby quests in the little valley that comprises both the Elvish and the Dwarven starting areas. I'm going to stick with it through the Beta, and after that my question is going to be whether to go month-by-month or to spring for the lifetime subscription. After an initial period of shock at having the conventions of the genre applied to the Quenta (for example an area in the Elvish camp where you have the trainers for the four classes just standing around, which doesn't seem strange in WoW, but does when placed in a world I know [though it's an argument from silence] isn't supposed to contain such a place), it became more natural, and although the quests are structured in the same maximally episodic way as in other RPG's, the story behind them is more coherent than any I've played before, because, obviously, of the material they're based on.
There are certain moments, visually, that really do capture ME; the only problem at the moment, since everyone just started new characters, is that there's pretty much a cocktail party going on in all those places! That should change very shortly, though. It does lead to some hilarious moments, as characters stand around waiting for a monster to reappear so they can kill it to finish a quest. The problem is that you have to be the first to target it to finish the quest, and I had to run around an obelisk for ten minutes until I got lucky. If I'd been feeling trusting of my fellow players (about 5 percent of whom have names in Tolkien languages, another 60 names that evoke myth [Stormbringer, vel sim.], and the remaining 35 names like "BigPapa" or worse--though I have a feeling Turbine, like Blizzard, will get around to telling them they have to change them) I would have suggested we form a queue!
Nice little things:
You earn titles for deeds--I earned "the Wary" for reaching level 5 without dying (not a hard feat, unlike in WoW, where your early quests pose serious dangers).
You can access a world map, and the signage in the game is very good.
Elladan and Elrohir are integral to the plot of my baby quests. I keep thinking that I'm their other brother (I didn't actually take the title "the Wary", but instead stuck with "of Rivendell," which I earned, I think, for Level 3, so that I'd look more like a son of Elrond).
Not so nice:
I did have a little lag--but that's to be expected when you have what must be a nearly full server, and certainly not the norm.