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Complex, Brutal, Smart And Sophisticated--A Fantasy Epic Geared Toward Adults Proves HBO Does It Best
on May 19, 2011
Few shows have been more eagerly awaited than the arrival of HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's masterful and massive epic "Game of Thrones" (the first in a series). As the books have progressed, however, faithful followers have cried foul as promises have yet to be delivered. But no matter where you stand in that controversy, there is little debate to the majesty and quality of the novel "Thrones"--an almost instant classic in the adult fantasy genre. Multi-layered and ambitious, this sprawling tale charts a powerful story of intrigue, political machinations, and violence amidst the brutal landscape of a nation divided. It is not a production you could approach half-heartedly. To do justice to the novel's intricacies required a massive cast, extensive period sets and costumes, lavish effects and a focused and intelligent screenplay. Well, creators David Benioff (a top notch novelist himself--check out City of Thieves) and D.B. Weiss were up to the challenge and the astute HBO has once again backed a winner. Make no mistake, this is no cheesy kid's story--this is dark and relentless entertainment for people who enjoy quality programming.
At the heart of "Game of Thrones" is the Stark family. Living in relative isolation, patriarch Sean Bean is called to assist the King when a vacancy opens up due to suspect causes. Suspicions have fallen on the King's wife (Lena Headley) and her twin brother (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and there may be further nefarious acts in store for His Royal Highness. When the Stark's young son witnesses something he should not have, a violent act that will have long range repercussions occurs. This, however, is just the jumping off point for a tale with numerous dimensions. There are the exiled Targaryen siblings, a brother and sister who have a claim to the throne and hope to retake the power seat by aligning with a barbaric and powerful tribe of warriors. Bean's illegitimate son figures prominently as well, as a guardian on The Wall preparing for imminent danger. There are so many other peripheral characters and story lines, it would be impossible to delineate them all concisely. There are assassination plots, vigilante justice, court intrigue, various sexual escapades, vicious barbarism, unseen monstrosities, plenty of wolves, family drama, and a dragon egg or two.
Through it all, there is a recurrent theme that "Winter is Coming"--a threat that poses a menace and a danger that may be unavoidable. This show is not for the faint of heart, and should only be considered for age appropriate audiences. As an HBO production, the screenplay doesn't shy away from the gritty violence that this time period and life style would necessitate. I, for one, appreciate the authentic feel to the drama. This show is also not for the casual viewer. It unfolds at its own pace, much like a good novel. It requires both patience and attention to really appreciate just how sophisticated and complex this tale is. It is a grown-up and smart piece!
The show looks absolutely fantastic. Technical aspects of the production are as good, or better, than any comparable feature film. The cast is also uniformly excellent. It would be impossible, again, to highlight everyone in the cast that deserves a special mention--so I'll limit my accolades to Peter Dinklage. As Tyrion Lannister (the black sheep brother of Headley and Coster-Waldau), Dinklage steals just about every scene that he is in. Funny, sardonic, and wise--this Imp (as he's called) has a terrific knack of putting things into perspective. Dinklage has had many great roles in his life--but this is a performance of true star wattage. Don't be surprised to see him invited to the Emmy race for Best Supporting Actor! He is one of the best things in this great presentation. I truly admire and recommend "Game of Thrones" because it never panders. It requires your active participation in the narrative to fully appreciate how well constructed it is--and any show that treats me as an intelligent human being deserves recognition in this age of formulaic TV. Watch it--and read the books (Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings especially are monumental)! KGHarris, 5/11.