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HBO’s Game of Thrones – As Good As The Book?
game of thrones is the title of the first book in a yet to be completed fantasy series by George RR Martin, entitled A song of fire and ice. game of thrones is also a recently released 360 and PS3 game, board game, card game, tabletop role-playing game, graphic novel, the subject of several iOS and Google Play apps, and an upcoming Facebook game. It’s also one of the hottest IPs right now, thanks in large part to the hugely popular HBO program currently airing its second season, as well as the DVD/Blu-ray release of the award-winning first season. at the Emmys and Golden Globes, available now.
I will be honest. I believe in the principle that the book is always better than the movie. Only in cases where the book was written first, ie. If it says “The novelization based on the movie” on the cover, then it’s ignition. I’m pretentious that way. Even when I know the book is better, because it’s always better, I’m still sometimes drawn to a film adaptation. Maybe it’s because a friend, or a naive reviewer, says something like “just as good as the book”. Sometimes it’s because I’m such a fan of the source material that I have to see how they slaughter it with my own eyes.
Anyway, whenever I see a movie based on a book I’ve read, I always have one of three reactions: 1) Pleasantly surprised (i.e. Fight Club, fear and loathing in Las Vegas, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). 2) Decidedly indifferent (Trainspottingby Stephen King He,). 3) Desporrified, a coined word combining despair and horrified (Breakfast of champions, everything else Stephen King let become a movie that isn’t already listed here). In any case, whether I’m surprised, indifferent or distraught, I always come out of it thinking that the book is superior to the film in every way. Until game of thrones It is. Now my view of the world has been shattered.
To HBO’s credit, the show stays very faithful to the source material, differing only in the smallest detail. Much of the dialogue comes straight from the novel, and in retrospect, the book’s pacing is nearly ideal for screenwriting. This may be due to Martin’s earlier work as a television writer, most notably for the mid-’80s revival of The twilight zone. Right off the bat, the series seems to focus on Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Guardian of the North. Early in the series, he is hired by his old friend Robert Baratheon, now King of the Seven Kingdoms, to help him rule as the king’s chief adviser, the Hand. Over the course of 10 episodes, we’re introduced to a myriad of nobles, charlatans, thieves, and villains, but by the end of the first season, it’s obvious that the show’s only real stars are the plot, the court machinations and the things people will do while seeking power. Of course, while people are playing their game, the shadow of a bigger threat looms. Winter is coming.
It’s hard to deny that the series is outstanding, as evidenced by the aforementioned Emmy and Golden Globe wins for Outstanding Drama Series and Best Drama Series respectively. The cast is superb and includes Peter Dinklage, who also won an Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and Sean Bean as Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark. Bean is probably best known for his portrayal of Boromir in Peter Jackson. the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Pleasantly surprised on that one, if you keep track).
The cinematography is also excellent and adds a visual element that the books somewhat lack. Martin’s writing focuses primarily on characters, and florid descriptions of environments are rare. Shot largely in Northern Ireland and Malta, the sets and backing shots are beautiful and bring the dungeons and castles to life in a way that Martin himself does not.
Although jokingly described as “The Sopranos in Middle-earth” by series co-creator David Benioff, the description is quite apt. Like Tolkien’s trilogy, game of thrones should be considered “high fantasy” due to the presence of mythical creatures and mystical/magical elements. However, these things play more in the background of Martin’s books, as well as the show, with game of thrones leaning more towards the Middle Ages than Middle-earth. The Sopranos the comparison is a little more relevant. Like this, and many other HBO shows, game of thrones is definitely adult. Nudity and gratuitous violence abound throughout the series, and are the only real source of complaint voiced by the show’s critics. However, if you’re looking for a show that has all the backstabbing and violence of The Sopranosall the sex of Californicationand as many people covered with earth as dead wood, you should probably come to Slackers and order the first season of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray or DVD today. Even if you’re not looking for a new show to watch, you still need to check this one out. I find it hard to believe I’m saying this, but it really is as good as the book.
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