While traveling over the weekend, I grabbed The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey--Visual Companion at a local Fred Meyer, which was selling them for 25% off. (As I write this, I find out it's even cheaper on Amazon).
The actual movie hits the theaters on December 14th. (Which by the way, will only cover about the first third of the novel).
I'm now in the process of reading the The Annotated Hobbit, in order to re-familiarize myself with the story I read in my junior high school days.
So why bother buying the Visual Companion?
I wanted to see how Peter Jackson would portray Thorin and Company. When I finally see the film on the big screen, I want to enjoy the story and the action--not sitting in the dark, trying to figure out who's who among the thirteen dwarves.
This is where the Visual Companion comes in. It's a coffee table type of book that I read in about an hour (and I'm a slow reader). It's lavishly illustrated with movie stills and a fold-out map. Also included, are several pages of biographical sketches for all the important characters, along with a plot synopsis and descriptions of some of the good, bad and ugly creatures of Middle Earth.
Two of the reviewers on Amazon, call this a "promo book" for the upcoming movie (but still gave it a 4 and 5-star rating).
I'm inclined to agree with them, because promotional aspect of the book definitely worked it's magic on me. I'm even more excited to see the film than I was prior to reading it.
I'm also inclined to give this book another 5-star rating. True, there are more detailed works like The Tolkien Companion and The Atlas Middle Earth. But neither of these fine books will give you the visual references you may need, when you see the film for the first time, or even the eleventy-eleventh time.
For those interested in a behind-the-scenes look, there's The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide.