Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones Premiere Review

"Winter is Coming"

I’m a big fan of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m currently on the third book; I’m thoroughly enjoying the series, but the first book, A Game of Thrones, is by far the best in the series. 

The first Song of Ice and Fire novel, titled A Game of Thrones was an emotional ride. It really is much more of a political drama…but don’t think boring Star Wars prequel senate meetings; the conversations in Martin’s books are scintillating.  It’s not that everybody has weighty words when they speak, it’s that they talk like regular people. It’s somewhat hard to explain. But think the opposite of what the Lord of The Rings characters are, and you’ll get a sense of what the atmosphere of the Song of Ice and Fire books are about.

The world of Song of Ice and Fire is medieval and Tolkien-esc in some respects, but it is much more centered on humanity and what that means. The series does become more fantastical in future novels, but A Game of Thrones is more of a family drama…but even that statement doesn’t explain the depth of this story.

The premiere of the HBO series, simple called, Game of Thrones was on last night. Did it live up to everyone’s expectations? I can’t answer that…but for me, I was utterly blown away—for the most part.

Sean Bean as Eddard Stark--it's a great match

Now I don’t watch a lot of television, but that’s just because I always find most shows cheap looking. Even the best produced and funded shows can still look like they were filmed in a back lot. Game of Thrones avoids this, sometimes—but not always. One of the sets in particular, in a place called Pentos looks very “TV”. And I was expecting more scale from the main setpiece, Winterfell, but even it feels a little shoddy.  

But, as a whole this does look like it has the highest budget for any series on television, ever. So I can forgive and forget. As most of the time, the show is gorgeous. Winterfell, the glorious castle, and home of the Stark family looks just how I imagined (except for the aforementioned scale). It looks damp and dark, and all the inhabitants are used to the chilly cold that strikes only as far north as Winterfell.

Tonally and visually it’s a desaturated looking show. That’s not to say there’s no color. What is there is rich, but don’t expect the colorful bounty that was Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Game of Thrones isn’t about action. The first scene in the show really isn’t indicative on what you’ll see throughout the series. Or so I assume. The producers of the show may try and up the action, but the novels—mainly the fist one—don’t have a lot of big fight scenes, so know what you’re getting into.

This is more of a political drama. And the first book really is a murder mystery; but there is much more to it then just that. As who is murdered doesn’t really matter so much as why they were murdered.

Admittedly you may have to be a fan of the series to sit still throughout the hour long episode—which feels very long because there is so much information that you have to digest in such a short amount of time.

The Game of Thrones will be broken into two parallel stories. The main story takes place in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and the other is on another continent loosely labeled the Free Cities. 

The cast of young actors is solid

The premiere does a good job juggling both stories. And the cast has many noteworthy actors. Sean Bean plays the role of Eddard Stark, King of Winterfell and future Hand of The King. I thought at first I would get the feeling that Sean Bean would channel the personality of Boromir from his stint with Lord of the Rings, but that isn’t the case.

You can tell that he understands the source material and knows that Eddard Start is a man of high values, and he plays that up brilliantly. I particularly like the chemistry between he and actor Mark Addy—King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon—, which is important to establish their longtime friendship. 

Then there’s Peter Dinklage who plays the scheming Tyrion Lannister (probably the most interesting character from the entire Song of Ice and Fire novels), it’s been said he was “born to play this role” and while that is a good and a bad thing, the reality is that it’s a true statement—I can’t imagine anyone being able to play Tyron better than Peter Dinklage, it’s a perfect fit, and we’re going to see much more of him as the series continues.

Unfortunately the premiere of Game of Thrones is very, very slow. And I assume that this is more difficult for those who haven’t read the book as well. Luckily, or unluckily (depends on how you look at it), there isn’t much exposition, the episode just plays out—and major details are thrown out as just off-hand comments at times. But even though I knew how this episode was going to end, it still left me breathless; and if you weren’t pulled in with the premiere’s climax than this show may not be your thing.

Game of Thrones has a long road ahead of it. And I’m surprised how well they were able to tell such a large amount of information in just one hour. But we’re just scratching the surface of the fist book in George R.R. Martin’s epics series, and trust me it’s going to be great. A must watch for any fantasy fan.

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