Monday, February 14, 2011

Game of Thrones Preview (Two Months to go!)

Slightly more than 60 days from its premiere, not so much new can be said about the upcoming adaption of A Game of Thrones from HBO. I'm still very excited about seeing it all come to life and each new picture that we get, each new trailer and glimpse that we catch from the series seems rather promising.

I still believe that a TV series created by HBO must be the best fitting format to the complex stories of intrigue and dozens of characters that make their appearance over the different books. I remember, even when years ago there was no word about an adaption at all, if there were discussions on the matter, an HBO produced series was always the format mentioned as best fitting for the source material. Thus, it's really quite surprising that after five or so years I find myself here, barely two months from the pilot episode to what might be a great adaption of my once favourite books.

I say "once" here because I first read the books in the final years of high school and back then I was completely fascinated with everything. If I read them today, I don't know if I would be quite as amazed. But fact remains, those are really captivating stories and whomever I recommended the books to before always received them very well. So yes, go ahead and read them, they're good books. But maybe be a bit wary because in all the excitement before the airing of the new series I always read things like "best book series ever" and such, which might just not be true for everyone. It's quite different from your usual fantasy book series but there is one thing that A Song of Ice and Fire is extremely good at conveying, one thing that I always remember when I think back to it: The vulnerability of people who have to make their life in an unstable country that is plagued by war, looting and general desolation. If you are just walking down a street, trying to make your way from one village to another you might be murdered just for the clothes on your back or shoes you happen to be wearing. A lot of fantasy stories deal with the fantastical (hence the name) but one thing that A Song of Ice and Fire was good at making you aware of was that danger even lies in the common highway man and not necessarily fantastical beasts.

Another thing I remember is hating a character very much through the first two books and then, when he got his own point of view chapters in the next books, him becoming one of my favourite characters. It might be a little bit cliché but it really isn't an easy feat to pull off. A Song of Ice and Fire keeps surprising you in the strangest ways and that's what makes it worthwhile.

Remains to be seen if the series will be able to do the same for us! As mentioned before, a TV series seems to be the best format for the storytelling because even in the book the story heavily relied on cliffhangers. George R. R. Martin used to write for TV and maybe this is one of the cases where it really shows. Thus, the storytelling of Game of Thrones should offer great potential for a TV adaption of any kind. The richness of the story, filled with great castles, wonderful country sides, a small dash of supernatural beings and exquisite clothes of manifold styles beg for a big budget like HBO might be able to offer. And as far as we can see in the teasers and high resolution stills everything looks very real, refined and beautifully crafted.

Now, of course there have also been some things that I started wondering about. First there is the issue of the book series, and thus the storyline, not being finished and Martin taking his fair time to finish the remaining books to say the least. But with adaptions like True Blood we can see that HBO does take liberties with the source material. While I hope that for the books that were finished they stick as close to the story as the format allows them to (minor adaptions still welcome of course), it might come in handy once they reach territory where no storyline exists yet. This might prove to be a double edged sword and we can only wonder how HBO will handle this. Fact remains, for the first season we have a perfectly crafted storyline that they can follow and even have some minor plots be resolved in the progress of the first season. Well yes, I am not kidding you. There are a lot of loose threads still hanging as of book four and the plots that have been resolved are actually in the minority, which at times is a reason for people to discourage others from even starting to read the books, because that level of unresolved business does feel kind of unsatisfying at times.

Then there is also the objection that the whole project is doomed to fail as it is, since production alone, even if all other things are settled, will take too long for the child actors to still look appropriate for their roles. I am not sure what to think about this, since another big and long filming project springs to mind, being the Harry Potter series. I think they pulled it off satisfyingly enough and since they seem to have aged up the children of A Game of Thrones at least a bit for the adaption it might just work out. Another question of course is the budget and whether HBO and all the actors involved are willing to make such long-term committments. This depends largely on the success of the first season I would guess, so it all remains to be seen. We can speculate on it right now but until at least the pilot airs and ratings are announced it's a bit hard to say anything solid on those matters.

A very personal concern of mine is one character and that is the Hound, Sandor Clegane. To be fair, I have never seen Rory McCann in any other role than the one he played in Hot Fuzz and I doubt that role is in any way representative of his acting style, since it's very much a comedy role with not very many lines at all. One thing that caught my eye (or rather didn't) in previous trailers was that Sandor Clegane didn't have such a noticably burnt face. Granted, I have not seen really high resolution pictures of it before, I have not seen his face in motion and the little glimpses that I caught of him were too short and small to really tell anything. But yet, I hope they did well on his face. Big defining scars always require great make-up and I really hope they do his face justice and not play down his disfigurement, as it happened in the movie adaption of Avatar the Last Airbender. To both Zuko and Sandor the scars are as deep as they are meaningful and they should be visible on their faces. But of course there is more to Sandor's character than just his scars. I guess in the first season we might not see a whole lot of him but yet I hope that in the key moments that are crucial to his character development they will not forget about him and give him a chance to shine and foreshadow his importance. Thus one of the scenes that I'm looking forward to the most is the Tourney of the Hand.

What I have seen so far of Petyr Baelish is amazing! He looks very much like I imagined him and it seems that even though he comes across as a minor character in the first few books, they have not forgotten his importance and give him enough of a presence on the screen so he might get the viewer's attention and maybe even occasionally steal the show. As far as the child actors go, I think they all look great and very appropriate but how they are doing on screen is one of the things that remains to be seen. Especially Maisie Williams who plays Arya has caught my eye. Maybe HBO played off a bit of the fact that Arya is a big fan favourite and released a lot of images of her already, but she looks great and in-character in all of those stills and I am also looking forward to see her on screen. In closing I can say about the cast that I very much hope we will grow to love a lot of different characters, especially played by actors that haven't gotten a chance to really shine before and that HBO will not put too much emphasis on Sean Bean alone as a drawing card for the TV series. I especially count on Peter Dinklage as Tyrion to become a fan favourite, just like his character in the books.

On the one hand, I can not believe that after all these years of waiting we are finally barely two months away from the premiere of the series but on the other hand more than 60 days do seem like a long time. But winter is coming after all, it is only a matter of time. Waiting is at least one of the things that we fans are really good at!

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