The problem is, “good” is not a very developed concept in the director’s mind. Very common problem. (See also: Good is dumb on TV tropes.) This is actually the major problem with the LotR movies: they do an incredible job of presenting the hidden beauty of mundane things and expressing the aesthetics of evil. But they don’t do nobility very well.
I think the only people who pulled off decent depictions of nobility were Saruman, Theoden, Arwen, and Galadriel. Gandalf did okay. Viggo Mortenson did the job they gave him well, but they gave him a bad crib sheet to work from. The old 1978 cartoon did Aragorn better.
Mortenson’s Aragorn isn’t very kingly. He’s more of a teenager’s heartthrob. Theoden pulled off a bit of kingliness. Denethor was a travesty. He’s supposed to be a Saruman-like king and they made him another Wormtongue. And they didn’t give Elijah Wood any of the lines that showed Frodo to be the hobbit version of an old money aristocrat, although he was pretty good overall.
Hugo Weaving made a sporting effort but he was hopelessly miscast as Elrond. I’ll express this mismatch in a meme:
Doesn’t really fit, does it?
High elves are probably Tolkien’s worst-treated legacy. The correct understanding would begin with a nuanced angelology. The best example of this that I’ve seen was in Vox Day’s early series, The Wrath of Heaven etc. Most people’s conception of angels is joyless authoritarian Puritans. But “joyless” and “unsympathetic” are precisely opposite of the correct conception.
Tolkien’s elves, in contrast, were characterized by emotional depth, ranging from fey to lamentation. The way to understand elves properly is to imagine angels became nations on earth, like men. Whereas the D&D conception of elves is like the worst kind of modern scientist, austere, judging, and aloof. Possibly the worst offender is Skyrim, where the high elves are used as a metaphor for Jews.
There’s a sort of logic to this, since Europeans tend to conceive of Jews as a priestly race, and further associate priests ~ angels ~ elves. Hence, the joyless authoritarians who somehow manage to have beautiful Tolkienesque aesthetics in their clothing, armor, language, etc. Even though people who are ugly on the inside never make beautiful things. Most of the elf characters in the LotR movies look like children pretending to be adults in suits that are too big for them. The exceptions, although only somewhat, were Live Tyler as Arwen and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel.
Actually, I think Orlando Bloom was a pretty good Legolas, except they managed to make all of his action sequences look silly and he could have put a bit more of a sense of humor into it. But the character is pretty good, since he’s supposed to be youthful and energetic, and the strong jawline etc. balances out the girly hair. Sort of a warrior prince character. Except elvish.
The less said about the portrayal of Gimli the better. They wanted a comic relief character and succeeded in making him very funny, but it wasn’t the same Gimli as the books.
The aesthetics of everything evil was spot on, no complaints. Especially the orcs. You get the sense they wouldn’t look any less pretty with their skins off. You can SMELL the orcs when you see them. The sound production for their roars and screams is incredible. Their armor is perfect too. All hanging animal skins and hard edges and curves and points. The average orc looks like a homeless drifter and the Uruk-Hai look like genetically engineered super soldiers in SWAT armor. Wormtongue was perfect.
Sean Astin was the most perfect Samwise Gamgee I can imagine. Again, they did the hidden beauty of mundane things very well. The best way to see this is to look at the practical effects they put into all the manmade scenery of everyday things like house decorations.