Monday, September 20, 2010

Winter is coming... to HBO in 2011! (Game of Thrones preview)

As the year is rapidly drawing to a close (I bet you, next time you look around it will be christmas!), I thought it would be high time to take a look at what exciting things await us in the year of 2011. There is a bunch of new stuff coming out, as well as old beloved series getting a renewal but we will go at it one preview at a time. This one here is about HBO's brand new epic fantasy series A Game of Thrones.

If you are into fantasy literature and have been so inclined for a certain time already it would be a surprise if you weren't familiar with George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or had at least heard a mention of it at some point while getting recommendations for what to read next. A Song of Ice and Fire is hard to sum up in a few sentences but it starts out as tale set in a world where magic is but a forgotten whisper, where monsters and undead are only the subject of old wives' tales and all dragons have long been slain. The old Targaryen king has been slain by his own guard, his heirs driven away beyond the sea into a strange exotic land. And in the North, beyond the 7000 feet tall wall of ice, unknown things start to stir. Ser Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell receives notice that his friend the king (who some might call usurper) is intending to make him his new advisor after their old mutual friend died under dubious circumstances. Thus the noble Ser Eddard Stark travels south to where his old friend reigns and tries to shine a ray of light into the thick swamp of schemes he finds there.

I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire some time in high school, after I had gotten two recommendations for the same series by two people from different countries. I thought: Hey, maybe there is something to it! And they were right, A Song of Ice and Fire will suck you in pretty quickly, provided you don't have a problem juggling with the names of its many major and minor characters. Rest assured, if you run into difficulties remembering everyone at first, it's nearly impossible to get everything on your first read through. At least one re-read should be recommended, you will suddenly notice so much more stuff that at first didn't make sense.

However, this article is not about the book series. I wouldn't even go as far as saying that A Song of Ice and Fire is the best fantasy book series there is, but it is definitely high up there because I am a picky person when it comes to fantasy. Still, it was apparently good enough to finally pique the interest of HBO and thus, this article is about the adaption that will premiere at HBO in 2011.

I have followed the production of this series from its very beginning, from the time on when there were rumours about the script, when the script was leaked, when the pilot got its greenlight, when the first casting choices were made, when the pilot was shot, when the series got the greenlight from HBO and until now, while they are shooting and new news about minor characters being cast surface quite often. Most of you will probably know what it is like to follow news from the adaption of one of your favourite books. If there is a popular source material loyal fans will be very picky.

But I have to say that everything I have looked at so far (especially the leaked script... if that was real) just looks amazing! You know fans don't say that easily, they always have something to nitpick. But I am truly happy with a lot of the casting choices. I think Sean Bean will make a great Ser Eddard Stark, I am confident Lena Heady as Queen Cersei will be appropriately icy. I am really excited to see Peter Dinklage's (the first casting choice that surfaced, btw) performance as Tyrion Lannister and personally I don't think they could have picked a better Jon Snow than Kit Harington. He looks exactly, one hundred percent like I always imagined Jon. And hopefully this will be an opportunity for Rory McCann to shine and show himself to an international audience beyond saying 'yarp'. I could continue like this for pretty much all of the cast. The only casting choice I ever felt "meh" about was when Tamzin Merchant was cast as Daenerys Targaryen. However, as if to answer to my every wish, her role was recast after the pilot and the scenes were reshot with Emilia Clarke. I am ridiculously happy with this cast. A few big names and familiar faces, along with a lot of fresh new faces that can surprise us all! Seriously, in the department of casting I don't have a single thing that irks me.

Now, of course I will have to watch the first episode at least before judging this series but so far this is a complete thumbs-up from me. We haven't gotten a whole lot of official promotional material yet. Some atmospheric picture of a winter forest, probably taken from the prologue scene from the pilot, which takes place beyond the wall. Some pictures of little Maisie Williams posing with her tiny sword Needle, looking just as if Arya had stepped right out of the page. The highlights are two rather tiny teaser trailers and one little featurette about the series. You can watch them over here: (Incidentally, the Winter is Coming blog has been my primary source of information about this adaption from the very beginning and they are the best). Everything you can see so far looks very polished and high budget. This is what we fans expect from HBO after all.

So, my verdict for this TV series long before the pilot will air is as follows. You all probably know that sometimes when you closely follow news about an adaption of your favourite book or graphic novel that at some point you can sort of tell they are screwing it up. They are changing things that shouldn't be changed or they cut entire characters that are important later on. With Game of Thrones, so far there has been no such nonsense. Nothing! Everything I have seen so far makes it look so very promising. My expectations for this series are really high. This could be something special, something really big that even people who aren't into fantasy will take note of. I really hope HBO will deliver when it does come out but so far, everything really looks spot on and you can take that from a very picky person. And you don't know how long I have waited to see the words "Winter is coming to HBO in 2011"!

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