Review: Game of Thrones (18) / Directed by: Tim Van Patten, Brian Kirk, Neil Marshall, Daniel Minahan et al / Screenplay by: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson / Starring: Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Jason Momoa / Release Date: Out Now
Hype is a dangerous thing. Since it first aired a year ago, the HBO series Game of Thrones has been proclaimed as a televisual masterpiece and suddenly everyone on the London underground is reading George RR Martin’s books on which the series is based. Now that it’s out on DVD and Blu-ray those of us who don’t have cable can give it a look.
The plot for Game of Thrones is so labyrinthine and so dense that I could actually spend the entire word count of this review sketching it out for you and I would still miss out some details. All you need to know is that it revolves around an ancient land called Westeros, itself made up of seven kingdoms, and the intrigue, conspiracies and potential for war that surround the ruler of the territory in the iron throne in Kingsland. There are some brilliant characters and some of the finest acting ever seen on a television. Everyone highlights Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, and understandably so because his is a brilliantly written and portrayed character. In my mind Dinklage is matched by the likes of Emilia Clarke as Daenarys Targaryen, a girl who is amongst the last of her race and who is used like a puppet until finally hooking up with Jason Momoa’s Kal Drogo and finding something for herself. Sean Bean portrays Eddard Stark with a mix of haunted, fragile humanity, strength and morality when asked to do some questionable things. The rest of the cast, even in the minor roles, all get their moment to shine and have brilliant arcs which will pay off in the later seasons.
From what I hear of the books, no character is safe and Martin takes great delight in building them up only to kill them off just as they become your favourite. This is certainly true for the series which has some moments that beggar belief come the middle of the ten episodes. It’s this refusal to conform to television norms that makes Game of Thrones so addictive. Now that it’s out on home video, the opportunity is there to watch three or four episodes all in a row. I can imagine that watching it on a weekly basis was torturous.
The makers of the upcoming Dark Tower adaptation would do well to get screenwriter David Benioff involved somehow. He shepherds Martin’s epic vision to the screen in such a detailed and well realised manner that it’s hard to believe that this was made for television. Thankfully Game of Thrones also avoids many of the problems of previous HBO shows in that it doesn’t feel like a soap opera with gratuitous sex and violence (I’m looking at you, True Blood). There are some explicit and very violent scenes but not a single one is wasted or out of place. It all builds the characters towards moments of dramatic crescendo that really work.
At this point I’m amazed at how good this show is. Later books hold the promise of epic war, dragons and the undead hordes from beyond the wall. Will there be the budget to do all this justice? Hard to say, but Game of Thrones is a ratings winner so the audience is definitely there. If they can keep this level of quality up to complete a season for each of Martin's books then, once finished, we could be looking at the television equivalent of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. One of the best works of high fantasy in recent memory.
Extras: In episode guides to Westeros and the characters, Episode commentaries, An in episode making of feature, Hidden Dragon Eggs, Making of, Creating the language, The Nights Watch feature, From book to screen, Creating the opening titles.