I read most of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series a few months ago, and it certainly lives up to its reputation as ‘literary crack’. I was pretty stoked for the HBO series based on it, “A Game of Thrones” but didn’t really get a chance to start watching it till earlier this week.
The attention to detail – costumes, settings, special effects, dialogue-coaching &c &c &c – are all phenomenal. The opening titles, which features a shifting map of Westeros and the other lands depending on where the episode takes place is both an ingenious way to convey the spatial relationships of important places in the story and awesomely beautiful in its own right. And the fidelity to the original story is impressive for a TV series: even when the original author is involved, adaptations rarely come this close to the source material.
That said, this version of the story is clearly abridged, as it needed to be. But in that way, the core magic of the series – the deep characters whom we love to see develop – is lost; everything is cut just a tad too short and simplified just bit too much for the boob tube: Daenerys is more of a frightened girl, Khal Drogo is more of a brute, Tyrion is sharper and less sympathetic, and we barely even got to know Rob, Caitlyn, or Eddard.
And this is an HBO show whose episodes run nearly a full hour. The limitations of the medium are a real shame. It would be nice to have a full, 22-episode season dedication to Martin’s first book, “A Game of Thrones”, but the economics of the business won’t let it happen.
Otherwise, the acting and casting are mostly first rate, even if It’s Not Like I Imagined It(tm). Still, there are a few exceptions: Lena Headey really doesn’t work for me as Cersei. They needed to cast her and write her to be both more cruel and more lascivious. Caitlyn Tully is not supposed to look so middle-agedly severe: she’s supposed to be as much of a MILF as Cersei is. (It’s especially hard to imagine ‘Lord’ Petyr Baelish pining after her; I wonder what they’re gonna do with that.) Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark are wonderful, but are supposed to both be extremely ugly – especially Tyrion. I understand why they didn’t go in that direction – this is a visual medium after all – but it’s vaguely disappointing since their being ugly, and their being mocked for it ceaselessly, was central to who they are. On the flipside, I hated the unfairness of their situations in the book, so it’s nice to see that they’re not such miskeneem, for lack of a better word.
I’ve only read the books once, so going through the story again knowing what’s *really* going on behind the scenes is a fun treat: so far, prolly the equivalent of a quickie. But without having read the books at all – what are you waiting for!? – and having a version of the story in your mind to compare it to, this show is probably gonna knock your socks off.
EDIT: Just saw the third and fourth episodes. It gets far, far better 🙂