Judgement: Game of Thrones

I am still playing around with themes and such, so it’s still not quite ready but, here is the first of my Judgement series where I review stuff. The first subject will be HBO’s TV series: Game of Thrones!

The series is based off of George RR Martin’s fantasy book series: A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book, A Game of Thrones ( you can tell where HBO got the name from.) was published way back in 1996, I didn’t follow it back then, if I had read the book back when I was 5 years old I would be even more messed up kid. The next two books came out in 2 year intervals. Then book 4 where I found out about the series was back in 2004. Apparently book 4 was so big that it had to be split into 2 different books, taking place concurrently, at least at first, and the second half kept getting pushed back and pushed back until it’s finally coming out this July on the 12th. Though as a reward for the wait it is the longest book yet, eclipsing book 3.

More after the break

Story:

Now when I say it’s a fantasy series, I want you all to know there are no little kids running around shouting out Latin, nor are there Orcs or Elves. There is a dwarf but he doesn’t have a beard, work in a mine or any other typical fantasy dwarfish things, as he is just a regular human being with dwarfism. There is a fat Sam but he doesn’t talk about Po-Tay-Toes. The Dragons have all died off/be slain and the knight’s armour is far from shining. Seasons last for years, the beginning of the story takes place in a summer that has lasted almost a full decade. There is plenty of graphic blood and sex of all kinds barring bestiality, at least not yet.

The action primarily takes place upon the continent of Westeros, a version of middle England particularly during the War of the Roses roughly the size of South America. Westeros is also known as the Seven Kingdoms as each realm was once its own independent kings, (in fact at one point there actually 8 kingdoms). However 300 years before the main plot Aegon Targaryen came with his sisters and their 3 dragons and united the kingdoms (Mostly), and established a Dynasty over all of Westeros, though the regions do have a fair bit of autonomy, some more than others, and their own feudal hierarchy,

However 17 years ago, which is 15 in the books, during the reign of King Aerys the second, also known as the Mad King, his eldest son Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Stark, the daughter of Lord Rickard Stark of the north. Lord Rickard, his eldest son Brandon and several bannerman, vassal lords and knights, rode down south to the Westerosi capital of King’s Landing, where they were put to death.

This caused Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark and Robert Baratheon, who was engaged to Lyanna Stark, to rise up in rebellion against the crown. The two were both being fostered at The Eyrie castle of Lord Jon Arryn of the Vale. So the Vale, Stormlands, seat of the Baratheons, and North rose up against the Royal family. Ned Stark took his brothers place and married Catelyn Tully of the Riverlands and Jon Arryn married her sister Lysa, thus bringing another region, (though not one of the seven), to their cause

The war went on for about a year, before the rebellions forces were within striking distance of King’s Landing. Then Lord Tywin Lannister, the former King’s Hand to Aerys entered the fray, betraying his former king, as his son Jaime betrayed his vows to the Kingsguard and murdered the man he was oath bound to protect.

Rhaegar had recently died in a duel with Robert, as such Aerys’ other son, Viserys, and his pregnant mother fled the capital, ending the Targaryen dynasty. Robert Baratheon ascended to the Iron Throne, marrying Tywin’s daughter and Jaime’s twin sister Cersei Lannister, as Lyanna Stark had perished. His reign has largely peaceful barring a rebellion from the Iron Islands, 10 years ago.

Now, Jon Arryn who had been serving as the Hand of the King, essentially an appointed Prime Minister, has fallen ill and died. King Robert rides north to visit his old friend Ned Stark and his family.

Meanwhile even further north beyond the great wall of ice an ancient enemy long since passed to myth begins to stir. While the Night’s watch is a mere shadow of its former self, a brotherhood of criminals and extra sons. Across the Narrow Sea, in the free city of Pentos, Viserys Targaryen schemes with Illyrio and Khal Drogo of the nomadic Dothraki to regain his rightful place.

Production:

First off, let me say this is not like a big budget movie. I think I read somewhere that the series had a 60 Million dollar budget for the 10 episode series. There weren’t a lot of CGI big CGI effects, except for one which I was worried about but they managed to make it look great.

A Problem with the budget is the fact that a couple of the big battles in the books have been removed and we just see their aftermath. In one of the cases that’s fine, it’s the same as in the book, but in the other one of the main players gets taken out of the battle early and never actually fights in it. That was disappointing. There were some skirmishes and duels and such so it definitely wasn’t actionless but I would’ve liked to have seen more. I’m worried about next season’s major battle, even though George is writing that episode himself. Hopefully the series has been enough of a critical and finical success to expand that number.

The sets are pretty spectacular, and the Graphic Background paintings they use for big exterior shoots and stuff? A.Maaaazing. Even if some of them don’t look like I imagined while reading. Costumes are all pretty good, though there are a couple of oddities such as one of the major characters wears a jacket that seems more at home in the 18th century or so. The two main locations have been Northern Ireland and Malta, which all seem to fit the locations be it the wintery Northlands. The soundtrack is good, though I honestly don’t notice it very often. The series’ clockwork style opening credit has gotten a fair bit of well-deserved praise.

I do have a problem with some of the editing, in the show some transitions and stuff, some stuff that probably should’ve been cut and replaced but all and all it is well shot.

Acting:

 The series doesn’t have any really big names involved. Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Sharpe, National treasure) and Mark Addy (Knight’s Tale, The Full Monty), and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Threshold) are probably the biggest names, maybe include Lena Headley ( 300, Sarah Connor Chronicles) in that list. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage were most fans, including myself, picks for Ned Stark, and Tyrion Lannister respectively. Both are in early Emmy talks (Nominations are announced July 14th), and they both deserve it. Dinklage pulls off the snark and inner torture of the dwarf son of the richest and most powerful family of Westeros masterfully. Whereas Bean really brining the gravitas, compassion and nobility of Lord Stark to life, being a truly good man without being boring.

Another standout is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister, with the right tone of arrogance, ease, and conflict. The Danish actor really shows it was a shame New Amsterdam never really got up off the ground.

The series has a lot of young characters, which I’m sure was a challenge. Often kids on TV Shows can be annoying and not very worthwhile, and very few have the acting abilities yet, but I don’t know whats in the water over there in the UK but I don’t think there is a rotten one in the bunch. Most of them are actually around their characters ages though the older teens are played by actors in their early-mid twenties. Speaking of which a real find for HBO has been Emilia Clarke, who came to the show shortly after graduating from Theatre School and has been a gem as exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen, who goes from scared girl to a true royal. And she looks pretty hot naked which, is a nice bonus.

The only really casting & acting problems I have are with Ser Loras Tyrell, who looks as thin as a blade of grass nothing like the famous warrior he’s supposed to. Also Sandor “The Hound” Clegane is hit and miss in my opinion, They’ve gone a different  route from the books with King Robert’s youngest brother Renly, which I didn’t like at first but admitted grew on a me a little bit during his few appearances

Writing:

Movie adaptations are never as good as their source material; that is one of the law’s of the universe. They vary from an abomination never to be spoken of again, to “Hey this is actually pretty decent”. There aren’t many TV series adaptations but they seem to be, while better than movies hit or miss as well.

Perhaps it’s because they don’t have commercials so have close to a full ten hours to cover the 800 page first book, but David Benioff and DB Weiss (Main producers/screenwriters), have created probably the most faithful adaption of a book/comic/videogame/whatever on either the small or silver screens.  It is likely because George Martin is heavily involved as an executive producer and writes an episode per season.  The aforementioned 3 plus Jane Espenson (Buffy) and Bryan Cogman have done a phenomenal job on every episode. They borrow Martin’s dialogue but it’s far from word for word. The progression is pretty much identical. They do add seems to help flesh out some characters that may have seemed one-note or out of focus in the novel, or even some of the more important Westerosi figures.

Some of the history and back-story, while they do an admirable job of trying to fill it in, is lost in translation between the mediums. This can lead to some confusion amongst new-comers to the series unfamiliar with the books. There is a lot of mythology and background info throughout the series so I can’t exactly blame them for picking and chooses when, how and what they show it. Hopefully next season, viewers will be more comfortable with the setting, so they can bring into the show more fluidly

Also there is a fair bit of sex in the novels yes. But the HBO team have included way too much “sexposition” exposition before, after or even during intercourse. Some of the scenes are better than others, most of the poorer ones seem to involve Ros, a whore HBO created, it’s my understanding they liked the actress but she didn’t get the role she auditioned for so they gave her a new spot. I think she is in every fucking episode, (pun not intended)

Not sure if this should go here or back up in production but whatever. One thing I was an issue with is there were only 10 episodes. The first book in the series is the smallest at 800 pages. That is a lot of stuff to squeeze in, plus a fair bit of stuff cut, though less than I expected. Others and I had hoped that season two would be extended to 12 episodes but it seems no such luck, though they haven’t started filming yet so still hope. Also the third book will probably have to be split into two seasons given how much occurs in it, and the fourth and fifth being concurrent will be merged into a couple of seasons unless HBO wants a couple actors/resses to take a season off.

FINAL JUDGEMENT!

An Excellent series on its own and a brilliant adaptation of wonderful source material, I highly recommend picking up the series and grabbing the show. I’d prefer if y’all showed your support by getting them for legit which I doubt will happen, at least for the show.

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2 responses to “Judgement: Game of Thrones

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