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Review: The Hobbit - The Official Movie Guide / Author: Brian Sibley / Publisher: HarperCollins / Release Date: Out Now

Impatient Middle-earthlings who can't wait to see Peter Jackson's return to that world could do worse than The Hobbit: Official Movie Guide, a tantalising peek at Bilbo's Unexpected Journey.

It's a big book, packed full of sumptuous behind the scenes photographs, interviews, production stills and concept art. Reading it so soon before The Hobbit's cinema release is a little akin to shaking one's own Christmas presents under the tree, but when the packaging is so pretty, it's difficult not to. It manages to intrigue and entice readers without ever feeling as though it's spoiling the movie.

This reviewer read Tolkien's The Hobbit long before reading or seeing The Lord of the Rings, so very much appreciated this sneaky peek at the story's translation from book to screen. The emphasis here is firmly on character, with much of the book devoted to the inhabitants of Middle-earth. Sir Ian McKellen's Gandalf is back, as are the likes of Galadriel and Elrond. But we already knew that – of more interest are young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his dwarven companions. The Official Movie Guide answers a question a lot of us have had since day one – how did they shrink James Nesbitt and Aiden Turner down to dwarf height? All of these make-up tales and more are answered, with more Hobbit feet and enlarged foreheads than you can shake a stick at. 

For those who would prefer to go into The Hobbit completely blind (and we can't blame you) we'd recommend picking up this book after seeing the film. Mister Jackson is a fellow who puts a lot of work into his movies, and The Official Movie Guide is testament to that (as are the nine-or-so hours of discarded footage across the previous trilogy). His frequent collaborator and fellow workaholic Andy Serkis also pops up to give his thoughts on playing Gollum and partially directing a bit of the film. Fans of movie guides and behind-the-scenes books should enjoy The Official Movie Guide. It's beautiful and does its job (to get people excited about the film) very well. Given that it's been released alongside the Visual Companion, it could seem to some like a bit of a cash-in. £15 is maybe a tad steep too, but there will surely be fans glad to pay the price for an insight into one of the year's most anticipated movies. 

The Hobbit: The Offical Movie Guide is detailed, pretty and a very nice size (size matters, in cases such as this). It does a great job of whetting the appetite for the forthcoming film and celebrating the minds behind it.

To paraphrase a certain Smeagol - the preciousss is nice. Juicy. Scrumptiously crunchable. Well, maybe not that last bit. It is only a paperback, after all.

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