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Our access-all-areas back-stage pass to Peter Jackson's Middle-earth
on 15 November 2013
Peter Jackson's Hobbit films come with so many tie-ins that it can be difficult knowing which to go for. First, there are the Annuals, essentially children's activity books. The Movie Storybooks are magazine-like plot synopses jam-packed with gorgeous screen-grabs. Jude Fisher's Visual Companions are heavily illustrated slimline encyclopaedias for people who find Middle-earth confusing and need a bit of help as to who's who and what's what. The Chronicles are lavish design albums celebrating the work of the films' art team. Lastly, the Movie Guides are traditional making-of books, comprehensive access-all-areas accounts for anyone, young or old, with a general interest in how the films were created.
The present volume - a sequel to last year's Official Movie Guide (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) - is the second of what will obviously be a trio. Available in hardcover or as a large, sumptuous paperback, it provides a nice mixture of text and copious behind-the-scenes colour photographs. Interviewees include actors returning from the first film of Mr Jackson's trilogy as well as newbies debuting in his second; and there are also many fascinating conversations with the sometimes unappreciated craftspeople whose off-camera labour created the universe in which stars like Miss Lilly, Mr Bloom, Mr Cumberbatch and Mr Fry could do their diamantine sparkling.
The quality of the writing is much above the norm for an entertainment tie-in. Sometimes, sadly, film books are cobbled together by overtasked studio publicists; this one is a substantial piece of work by the award-winning author who dramatized The Lord of the Rings for BBC Radio 4 and wrote Mr Jackson's biography. Expect great expertise lightly worn and a kindly sense of humour. As for the illustrations, they're as fascinating (and often amusing) as they're numerous.
It's becoming plain that the three Movie Guides as a set will together give us a life-story of Mr Jackson's Hobbit that will surpass even Harper's magnificent The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. Nobody curious about how the Hobbit's magic was made can really afford to miss them. And both this one and its predecessor certainly have the Wow!-factor that you want if you're looking for something to give to a Hobbit enthusiast for Christmas.