* I was terrified at a few moments that I would have to walk out of the theater, and that we'd "been betrayed," but can report that no, Arwen is not at Helm's Deep. Thank you, Peter. Sorry I doubted you, Peter. May we have the third one now, Peter? :)
* There are some major changes, yes. In my opinion, all but one of them works, and most add some flesh to the bones laid out by Tolkien. I'm not sure some of them were necessary, but IMHO, they work. Helm's Deep revisions bother me a bit, ditto Fangorn and the abbreviated ent segments. The only one that really doesn't work for me is Faramir.
* Am ready for Eowyn in the third movie. You have to understand . . . she's special, at least to me, and to many I've spoken with. Long before the Invincible Sword Goddess in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there was Eowyn. Does she have a small part? Yes, but for many young female fans of the work, she was very important. Oh, Galadriel is good, too, and Arwen has her part to play as well, but Eowyn actually went out and kicked Nazgul butt (with an assist from Merry). Not just any Nazgul, either: the Witch-King of Angmar himself.
"Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
Anyway, for the most part, I liked it. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was better than the first, as some are saying, but my deepest fears did not come true, so I'm relieved and happy -- and as a bonus, we got to see the balrog again on the big screen. :)
My only minor criticism is that Viggo, try mightily though he does . . . he's just not quite Aragorn. He just doesn't bring the kingliness forth yet. I'm hoping that he's saving it for the third movie, but I'm not confident.
Other minor criticism: I feel like they're not quite doing Gimli justice. Okay, we got to see a little axe-wielding in this, and I frankly think John Rhys-Davies does a lovely job with the part when we get any Gimli time. Heck, I didn't even realize I liked the character that much until I felt myself getting defensive about him being primarily reduced to comic relief. :/
As for Frodo, he didn't have much to do in this one besides look sickly.
Sean Astin is, again, wonderful.