24 April 2011

Game of Thrones [HBO]

It has been a while in the making, but HBO's adaptation of GRR Martins "Song of Ice and Fire" had its season premiere last sunday. The first season is but 10 episodes long - I wonder if it will consist of the entire first book or if they will split it up. I can't even understand how they dared to adapt a book series that is half finished and with a author who writes 1 book every 5 years or so.

Anyway, so is the show any good, minor spoilers below -

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A few things that should be known, if you have not read GRR Martins work (or seen any HBO show before) it pretty much is a "tits and ass"-fest with raunchy sex scenes both in the book and in the TV show. If you are easily offended by nudity you probably should know that this show will contain lots. Will it top "Rome" - hard to say but it probably is on the same level.

The other thing is, don't get too attached to main characters. GRR Martin likes to off the main cast as he please (in my opinion this degrades the book series as it progresses, simply because a lot of interesting characters are killed).

I do think that a TV adaptation is a good thing however, as this will focus on the story itself and not overly long descriptions of pointless stuff that at times bog down the books.
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The TV show then, I've only seen the first episode - I watched it twice a few days apart. Overall I think HBO has done a good job. The episode isn't fantastic and mindblowing - but neither is the first chapter of "A Game of thrones". It is however very good compared to a lot of crap on TV - and given the source material at least I know I won't be dissapointed like with Boardwalk Empire (omg) which had a terrific first few episodes and then became one of the most boring and pointless things I've forced myself to watch.

Since only 1 episode have aired so far I wil simply focus on how the show looks, sounds and the casting.

The intro sequence has to be one of the best intro sequences I've seen. The music playing is perfect - love it. And unlike most TV shows this intro sequence is actually useful to the viewer - mostly to newcomers - as it shows the geographical map of the Westeros continent, and important locations such as the capitol Kings Landing, Winterfell - home realm of the Stark family, the great wall of ice to the very north and Pentos in the east across the sea. This is cleverly done, and saves exposition time during the tv show itself. The viewer will be kept busy trying to keep up with the endless hordes of named characters.

This is actually where I'm a bit worried. If you have read the books you pretty much fill the blanks automatically. However if you have not read the books it may be hard to keep up with all the family names, who's who,  where's what, weirdo names -  characters that just show up for a few seconds and then dissapear. I saw that they tried to moderate that bit a little in the first episode - for instance they did not even say who that young man who was willing to kill the direwolves was. That was Theon Greyjoy - an important character in the series - but maybe not that important during the first episode to called by name.

The casting is quite solid, many characters look pretty closely to how I've imagined them.

Sean Bean, I saw him in Black Death a few weeks back -  always seem to do good in settings like this.The kids are well casted, like Arya who later becomes one of the main character - in the books I found both her and her older sister Sansa annoying. But in the TV show they seem to work pretty well. The male siblings are also very well casted - especially Robb. You don't get to see much of the youngest Rickon but then again he doesn't really do much in the books either. Jon Snow works well too, though I might have wished he had a bit more charisma to him as he too will be one of the main characters.

Other great choices, the kid playing Joffrey - son of the king and queen is also perfect. You just want to punch that smug little shit in the face when he's smiling. Exactly what is needed as he is one of the more despicable characters. 

A very good choice was actually Peter Dinklage for the dwarf Tyrion, and I'm very glad they chose a short person to do the role and not some LoTR - Hobbit special effect. He's a great actor, actually the funny thing is that he probably is too pretty to be Tyrion. As a fan favorite from the books, it's good to know you have a solid actor as much of the material that he will have to work with needs perfect timing and good acting skills to pull off. This is also the character that is the biggest whoremonger in the books, which isn't my favorite part. I much prefer his sharp tongue as he cleverly insults those around him or gets out of bad situations.

Characters that left me a bit dissapointed -

Jaime and Cersei Lannister. It's funny how Tyrion is too pretty and these two not pretty enough. Jaime I can live with. But Cersei is described as very very beatiful in the books - and use her looks to get her way. The actress playing Cersei isn't a natural blonde - and with blonde hair she looks weird. Also, she looked constipated when acting "natural" and very old and worn when smiling and squinting her eyes. I mean, shes not ugly - she just looks like your average middle aged woman. There is really nothing special about her looks. There are plenty of "prettier" actresses in the same age (35-40 years) with better acting skills out there. I read some silly defense of the actress online that went something like "well maybe in GRR Martin intended her to be Westeros beautiful,  not beatiful according to our real world". What? As if the descriptions were meta, and you had to think your way into the minds of the people of a dark ages fantasy setting.

"The Hound", was another slight dissapointment. He did not look terribly scarred, neither very threatening. He looked more like a bum with a bad haircut. We only saw glimpses of him in the first episode, but I hope the acting is better than the looks. He is supposed to have scars after being burnt in the face as a kid and have a threatening prescence. Not really feeling this one.

Finaly Viserys, the fake blond guy across the sea with his equally blonde sister. The acting was quite spot on. But the hair - what were they thinking? That looks so ridicilous. I've seen cheap wigs that look better than the one he was wearing. Kind of annoying to watch his hair when the only thing that should annoy you is the way the character acts - as he is another one of those lovely GRR Martin created assholes.

The music of the show is very good so far, I think it fits perfectly. From the intro music to the music played during various scenes. The special effects were a mixed bag. The sequene with the wall and the creatures beyond the wall looked good. As did all the "medieval Europe" looking locations. Damp, dirty and worn as it should be in the northern kingdom. However I found the locations across the sea, in Pento to look a bit fake and at times it felt like I was watching Xena the Warrior princess or Hercules the Legendary Journey. That oddly clean/fake feeling of those locations (which are my least favorite in the books as well) stood out a lot in contrast to the locations in Westeros.

The only time the show looked completely fake however was the sloppy use of greenscreen during the sceen with Bran sitting atop the Winterfell walls watching the approaching column of the King. I don't know how they let that scene slip. And it really just is the one scene, the rest of the sequence with Bran climbing around looks very realistic.

It will be interesting to see how HBO will handle this show, it is a "fantasy light" - the show is more of a costume drama than a story about war. The war in the books is mainly playing out int he backround so it should be easy on the budget. THe main question is whether or not they will start to stray from the books like Walking Dead did from the comics - or if they will start to drag out the books so that GRR Martin will have the chance to finish his series if they really intend for this show to be 1 book = 1 season.

Game of Thrones airs each sunday, episode 2 will be broadcasted tonight. Give it a try, you might like it. The first episode is a dealbreaker, if you don't like the first episode you will most likely not like the rest of the show either. If you like it, then you have something to look forward to each sunday.


If you want to know more about the books I described the story in general here:

http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.com/2010/12/george-rr-martins-song-of-ice-and-fire.html

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