(This post went long, sorry 'bout that!)
I'm surprised by this. SM is all about just starting everything. LOTR you have to complete everything, well nearly everything. Some days you are playing a modes like nothing and collecting into double digits for gifts, and TABA comes easy, but you are just off with a couple of the movie MB's. Other days you nail the requirements for the MB's, but you are just not beating (not starting, beating) the modes of DTR, and just not collecting gifts.
The stars have to be aligned, and everything firing 100% to have a shot at Valinor (same with SDMEWM in TSPP). With SM, you can literally just coast through the game to the wizard via starting and not really playing, providing you are still having a decently long game. Other than Ock, the other guys literally get completed through normal progression without really having to concentrate on them.
You have to finish the 4 villains, but you are constantly trying to start Ock to combine with something, so he's never an issue. I always shoot for venom when a ball comes down from the right orbit, as I'm sure most do, so he just gets done in the process, and in MB's, goblin and sandman get enough shots to advance. Once I played all the modes, there is maybe one villain I have to finish up to have SH ready to go.
I still think SM is one of Stern's better games (which for a lot of what they made, isn't saying a whole lot still, but none the less, it's within the best), but LOTR, TSPP, ACDC and WPT (yeah, I said it!) are the best. I think SM is right after that though. It's a fun game, with a easy but fun layout. Venom ramp is addictive to shoot for. I expected more excitement out of many aspects of it though. Sandman, when you get to know the game, has to be one of the biggest disappointments for pre-conceived notions, especially if you are familiar with how well AFM used that same (original) design.
Even though I suggest WPT is better, to many, it would not be, as WPT can be a boring ass game if you aren't doing well, and don't know what you are doing. In that sense, if by your own admission you are not a great player, you would probably hate WPT, and love SM for that reason. Once you peel the layers of WPT, it opens up and gets crazy, just like LOTR and TSPP (Keefer designs).
I also get some people don't like the long ball times of LOTR. There is no question LOTR has the longest ball times of any machine ever made. It's a journey, and it's meant to be, and it plays like that, and when you get through it all, or even had a great game, you feel like you just watched a kick ass movie and were part of it.
In the end, getting back to the op, I think you would enjoy both. No question the are both in Stern's best list, and both get tons of love and praise.