Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Game of Thrones Review

Spoiler warning.

Just last night, I caught up on the new HBO show Game of Thrones, based on the hit fantasy novel series.

I don't think I ever wrote about the books by George R. R. Martin on this blog, but I do recall following and posting about the casting news they revealed a long time ago. There's a good reason for that. Two actually: Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau, both of whom I love. So is the wonderful actress from Possession, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Imagine Me & You, and the charming actor from New Amsterdam, Wimbledon and Virtuality, reason enough to keep watching?



Even just focusing on those two (and the disappointment, though complete understanding, I felt for Jennifer Ehle leaving the project) something is missing. Lena does a good evil bitch while playing Cersei, but unfortunately the character is flat and uninteresting. As for Nikolaj, he's as devastatingly handsome as ever, but somehow his accent doesn't translate so well to this fictional world full of British actors, and he just sounds off.out of place.

The show is faithful to its source material, which is to say it takes itself far too seriously. Clearly they focused heavily, as HBO tends to do (Rome) on set design, outfits, and the importance of graphic sex scenes and lots of words like "fuck" and "tits" in the script, leaving the actors little to do but stare vacantly at the stirringly beautiful landscapes or else brood over recently revealed shocking news. My complaints with the series are the same as my complaints with the novels: they are long winded, often boring, and the fictional world Martin created in such detail is 90% morally bankrupt, with no hope or happiness allowed for the few remaining noble characters.

No mission our protagonists ever embarked upon has been completed. The 'good guys' are continuously waylaid by kidnapping, treachery, or death. Five books have been written with a sixth coming out in July, and yes I stuck with them two years ago to read all in the hope of some resolution. A few hundred pages each, one would think that goals, established in the first novels and not of huge complexity ("find my daughters" for example) would be at least marginally closer to fulfillment, but alas. Brienne is hanging from a rope, Daenerys is about to receive ambassadors, Arya is blind and ruthless and far from home, Jon acting suspicious, Catelyn dead and avenging, Eddard and Rob just dead.

These are not satisfying tales, hence HBO's interest in making them. Potentially this TV series could last at least 6 years, with increasing brutality, betrayal, sex scenes and high production values. Many fans compare Martin to Tolkien and Lewis, and the only reason I can see for that is the scale of his fantasy series. Absurd. I don't see Diana Gabaldon compared to those great men and the beautiful, uplifting stories they wrote. One might as well call Charlaine Harris the keeper of the legacy of Narnia.

A good fantasy story has a moral center. A Song of Fire and Ice is a massive, decently written series of intertwining adventures, with occasional sparks of justice and nobility, and a constant stream of base, primitive characters doing evil things.

Perfect for cable.


1 comment:

  1. Narnia is now wonderful? Jesus christ on a pogo stick!

    Give me the new Evangelion any day of the week, at least that doesn't demonize people.

    And lord of the rings? Any book based on pittsburgh can't be all that awful... But we ain't orcs here!

    And does lord of the rings bother to have female characters? I count two plot devices, instead.

    Your taste is your own, of course, but I'd rather read a book about a pigherder than one about Narnia.