Way back in 1997, Peter Jackson began the epic undertaking of translating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy a live-action masterpiece for the big screen. In an unprecedented move, Jackson filmed all three movies simultaneously. After the success of his LOTR movies, Jackson decided to take Tolkien’s The Hobbit, split it into three, and film another trilogy set in Middle-earth. These six movies are seen as some of the best interpretations of Tolkien’s work in modern times. And just like Tolkien’s work, Jackson’s movies are a sprawling, complex compilation. Spanning more than 17 hours, or more than 20 hours for the extended cuts (not to mention deleted scenes), it’s a real-time investment. With so much material to deal with, Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies is a helpful companion.
[Note: While I am reviewing this book independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Smart Pop for the purpose of this review.]
Note the “Peter Jackson’s” in the title
As the title says, this book is all about Peter Jackson’s films. That means that if there was a discrepancy between the movies and Tolkien’s books, only Jackson’s version matters here. I was honestly happy about this. I have recently read some similar books that included both the book source material and the movies based on them. It led to a lot of confusion with differing canons coming together without differentiation. Dealing with only Jackson’s movies in this Smart Pop book was, well, smart!
Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies has a fun, conversational approach
This book is written in a very conversational style. It has a question-and-answer format, posing questions like “If there’s a ‘One Ring’, how many other rings are there?” It then follows the question with an in-depth answer given in a tone and delivery that matches your average teenager (on a good day, thankfully!). There’s a very healthy dose of humor mixed with all the factual information that makes the book a fun read.
The question-answer format cuts the book up into bite-sized bits which makes the reading go fast. It also makes it easy to set the book down when you need to do something else and pick it back up when you’re ready again. It doesn’t take long to read each question so there’s always time to pick it up and read one or two. And there’s no need to remember what came before like with a storybook, which makes jumping in and out even better. You don’t even need to remember your page number because the questions can be read in any order.
I like to call books like these bathroom books. They are perfect for picking up when you need something to distract you for a few minutes but don’t want to get engrossed for a long time. There’s no story to keep track of and the questions can be read in any order so just read what you want for that time, then forget about it until the next time.
Never before thought of questions and helpful charts
Part of what made Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies an interesting read was that they asked questions I never knew I needed answered. From “What was up with Thranduil’s face?” to “What do Hobbits smell like?”, just reading the questions made me crack up. Then I got to read the answers and that was even better. Imagine mixing a stand-up comic with a 16-year-old and you’ll begin to see why it was so fun.
When my comedian-in-a-book wasn’t posing and answering questionable questions they were creating lists of important information for sidebars. These included a list of all the people who held the ring and for how long, and all the meals a healthy hobbit expects in a day. These lists helped to consolidate some of the information that would have taken up a lot of space conveying with witty writing.
A lack of organization in the presentation
Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies is presented in a conversational style but that doesn’t mean it follows a conversation’s organization. Of course, conversations aren’t always organized perfectly but one subject does tend to lead to the next in a traceable path. However, this book doesn’t. The questions aren’t grouped by any logical system. Questions that seem connected may have ten or twenty unconnected questions in between them.
There is an index at the end of the book but the system is a little clunky. I’d have liked to see questions grouped at least loosely by subject, and then to have a logical flow from one to the next. It would have made reading that much more enjoyable, and made the information easier to process.
Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies is not essential reading, but a nice relaxation piece
So on balance, this book is not anything that needs to be read, but it does have some merit. If you’re friends with someone who is (still) always talking about The Lord of the Rings movies but you’ve never seen the films, this would be a great way to be able to follow or even join in the conversation. If you have children that are interested in watching the movies but love to ask a million questions while you’re watching, hand them the book and they may (may) be quiet.
Die-hard fans are probably not going to be super interested, although I think anyone might find Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies entertaining enough behind a closed bathroom door, and it never hurts to keep some reading material in there.
My Rating: 7/10
For anyone who read my Smart Pop Explains Harry Potter Books and Movies review and feels that I was much harsher on that book than this one, all I can say is that I am a much bigger Harry Potter fan than a LOTR fan. I haven’t even seen The Hobbit movies (although I have read the book many times). What really rankled me about the Harry Potter book was the number of inaccuracies. I am aware that there may be just as many inaccuracies in the LOTR book but if so, I wasn’t aware of them so they didn’t bother me and that affected my rating. I am human, I hope you understand.
Smart Pop Explains: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Movies is available now. Planning on checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review on Smart Pop Explains Harry Potter Books and Movies!