I am a huge sucker for fantasy and everything medieval. Something about those swords, shields and their style is damn attractive to me. So when I saw the trailer of HBO's Game Of Thrones adaptation, I was instantly smitten.Though I have never seen anything else from HBO, I had heard only good things about their undertakings. I also confess, even though I love fantasy, I haven't read George R.R. Martin's 'A Song If Ice And Fire' series. So, this adaptation was the perfect opportunity for me to do a little experiment I had had in mind for a while. I will watch every episode of the adaptation immediately followed by a reading session to finish whatever chapters were covered in the episode. This is better than finishing the whole book before or after the series because not reading the book before helps keep the suspense of the plot and not reading after prevents me from feeling bored due to the slower pace of reading.
HBO's Description :
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plots, lusts and intigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men... all will play the 'Game Of Thrones.'
A short summary for the uninitiated, Lord Eddard Stark(Sean Bean) of Winterfell has been sought out by his old friend King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) to come south and help him run the kingdom after the questionable death of his right-hand man. The king is married to Cersei Lannister(Lena Headey), of the wealthy and corrupt Lannisters, who has her own hidden agendas. While across the narrow sea, the exiled teenage Princess Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd), whose family ruled the seven kingdoms for many years, are looking to reclaim the throne with the help of the Dothraki warriors.
Fellow bookworms, you can put your fears to rest. This is probably among the most faithful adaptations of all time, and with Martin himself among the show's writers, it should remain so. After the credits, we directly jump into Stark household where most of Stark family is introduced via one quick non-canon scene and then we jump to the book's deserters, royalty , wronged royalty ,horse lovers and half-naked people. The opening credits deserve a special mention here because they are absolutely lovely. We tour the map of Westeros, from King’s Landing to Winterfell to the Wall in the North to Pentos across the narrow sea. Every location rises from the map, forming buildings and other structures via interlocking cogs and machinations with the colors and sigils signifying the climates and dominance of houses in that place. Rotating above the map is the Sun surrounded by bands bearing the animals of different houses with the Game Of Thrones title in the centre. Reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs, this brilliant work is done by Angus Wall, the same guy who won the editing Oscar for the Social network.
One thing that I have learned about HBO from this pilot is that they aren't cheap, every set, every frame looks great. The production values of this show are very high and it shows. Winterfell, the forest beyond the Wall, warriors in armor, working servants, CGI everything is so richly done, you would think that you were watching a movie. The show has vulgarity, carnage and nudity but it never uses it as a crutch, standing tall on it's story using them as devices to tell it. It's a teensy weensy bit slow as well, but it has to be. The cast is so vast, the story so spread out, that the pilot only introduces most characters and their relationships with each other. Still you can sense the political undercurrents, the history between the families, their feelings towards each other via every little glance which is explained in detail in the books but obviously difficult to do on video.
These characters are possible thanks, in part to due Martin's excellent writing, but most of it is because of the great cast. Sean Bean (remember him as Boromir in LOTR?)and Peter Dinklage are the biggest assets of the show, each of them filling their characters so perfectly, you would think Martin wrote Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister with them in mind. Sean Bean is a doting father, an honorable lord who upholds the law, a loyal friend and infinitely watchable. Dinklage definitely shows how good things come in small packages by stealing every scene he is in. Watch out how he dishes out humor, wry observations and advice in small doses whether he's drinking, whoring or just talking. Though these two actors came out on top for me, that doesn't mean that the rest of the cast is disappointing, far from it. The casting directors have done a great job, every actor snugly fits their character, especially the children. Though they are shown to be slightly older than in the book, the actors definitely do a commendable job. Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Maisie Williams in particular made me sit up with their expression (the latter uses her eyes too well). Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen are two characters who seemed better to me on TV than in the book, all because of Michelle Fairley and Emilia Clarke. I hope their characters develop a lot more because I would love to see them have a chance to show their talent.
The climax is a cliffhanger, which when coupled with a decision made earlier during the episode, has interesting implications.To the fantasy genre the show night belong, but it is a drama at its core. My complaint to the directors is that they didn't choose to do a double-episode as the pilot, but as my only problem seems to be that the episode wasn't longer, I can easily say I loved it. Everything about the show seems to be really good and if the same quality continues, I am sure Benioff, Weiss and Martin will set the gold standard for fantasy adaptations. Highly recommended!