June 20, 2011

Game of Thrones - Review (Part 2)

A continuation from the previous Thrones review.

I'm not a big fantasy buff. I mean, I enjoyed, Lord of the Rings, Legend, Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and 300. And I've seen all the harry potter films once, they are good, and that's that. But I'm not obsessed about any of them or anything like that. But this particular series is based off of a series of fantasy novels, and no other show has made me want to read a book more than this.

Just when I was starting to settle into a relaxing Summer with lighter TV fare, Game of Thrones went and dropped a bomb on me. I've been voraciously devouring HBO's newest series for the past few months, my fandom growing with each passing episode. *Warning - Spoiler Ahead: Since I haven't read the book series, all of the happenings in the world of Westeros are new to me, and naturally, my jaw hit the floor when I watched the final two episodes last night and saw the leading man Ned Stark literally get the axe last! Actor Sean Bean has been the face of Game of Thrones since its inception (and he just so happened to be one of my favorite characters to boot). End of spoiler*

I can’t think of another channel that brings such high quality programming to its audience. It’s practically the definition of the brand, “It’s not TV, it’s HBO,” and for good reason.

The pilot, “Winter Is Coming”, had a perfect balance of character, story, sub-text and exposition, making it easy for new recruits to enter the world without feeling too overwhelmed by the breadth of its daunting mythology. The writing is top notch; we're introduced to characters with hints of their back-story’s without becoming dependent on the details that only those familiar with the source material are privy to. Characters are defined in their most basic terms so that viewers can understand and even relate to them emotionally while showing us where they all fit within the larger narrative.

We're given just us enough information to be interested without feeling overloaded. Afterwards, each of the following nine episodes developed the principle characters further, and would constantly and smoothly introduce new ones, all the while the structure of the story with thicken and expand in a satisfying and exciting manner.

Visually, Game of Thrones could be the most stunning series that HBO has ever produced. We don’t often get to see so many breathtaking environments in one episode (let alone a pilot) of TV, so I was floored by the beautiful photography. From the frozen wastelands of Winterfell to the picturesque sea-side setting where Daeneyrs was married, the organic feel of the show will prove to be an amazing attraction for audiences. Quite similarly, the production design is a marvel. With a rumored seasonal budget of around $60 million, it should come as no surprise that the sets were all painstakingly particular in their construction, accentuating the differences between the various cultures and Houses of the land.

Whether it’s the New Jersey and New York mobsters fighting for their piece of the pie or Octavian and Marc Anthony clashing over control of Rome, there’s almost always opposition among the many groups of characters in any particular show. In Game of Thrones, the quest for the crown is not just a seasonal plot-point; it’s what drives the central narrative of the entire series. This is the greatest common factor within all of HBO’s dramatic programming. After watching its 10 episode run, I am officially addicted to this show, and I will be going through withdrawal for the next 9 months.

Just as the characters are unaware of what gruesome or glorious fate awaits them, I, too, look forward to the surprises that the story will bring next season, as this expansive epic show leaves its mark on pop-culture. Based on the strength of these first 10 episodes, the world is in store for a truly special program that seems to be honoring its creator’s vision while taking on a life of its own.

The ratings were quite high too, reaching between his is great news for HBO and it’s risky decision to film the fantasy epic. Every episode was damn near perfect. The cast was expertly chosen. The sets and costumes crafted by obviously skilled and passionate artists. The soundtrack and special effects were flawless. The writing, acting and cinematography rivaled that of most fantasy-related Hollywood films of the last 8 years. The marriage of all these physical accomplishments resulted in one of the most entertaining seasons of television that I’ve seen in a long time, a triumph that few outlets other than HBO could achieve.

The television format has an advantage over the theatrical feature film format, and that is of being able to adapt a book (or series of novels) into a more wide spread and fateful way, able to tell a longer story, rather than attempting to cram large novels into only a 2.5 hour space of time (ala Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter). Watch all of season one of this series in a single day, it will be a fantastic 9 hour movie that won't seem long at all.

I am eagerly awaiting the next season. Here's a preview of the pilot episode that aired 3 months ago:

The Opening Sequence:

A fiery astrolabe orbits high above a world not our own; its massive Cardanic structure sinuously coursing around a burning center, vividly recounting an unfamiliar history through a series of heraldic tableaus emblazoned upon it. An intricate map is brought into focus, as if viewed through some colossal looking glass by an unseen custodian. Cities and towns rise from the terrain, their mechanical growth driven by the gears of politics and the cogs of war.

From the spires of King's Landing and the godswood of Winterfell, to the frozen heights of The Wall and windy plains across the Narrow Sea, Elastic's thunderous cartographic flight through the Seven Kingdoms offers the uninitiated a sweeping education in all things Game of Thrones.

No comments: