Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TV Series: Game of Thrones - Season One (First Impressions)

*mild spoilers ahead*

A Song of Ice and Fire is probably my favorite series and book two and book three are one of my favorite books of all time. I watched the first episode yesterday evening with Trin who's just as big a fan as I am. She also reread the first three books recently and loved them immensely even though she feared they would lose some of the shine the second time around.

I really want to rave about episode one, I want to tell you how friggin' good it is, I really do, but I can't. It is good though, even great in some aspects, but it's not as good as I wanted it to be. I guess it's impossible to reach high standards that the novels set up for me. So yes, I have to say I'm disappointed...but just a bit, the potential is there. Maybe it would feel different, if I wouldn't know what's going to happen in advance and suspension would grip me tight, but it's also a possibility that I just might have felt lost with all the exposition being thrown my way and by the background story. I missed moments when a simple dialogue line or a short silence filled with meaning rise goosebumps on your skin. I missed the hook.

I appreciate the artistic idea for the intro, but it feels like the cogs and the wheels were a bit off key with the general atmosphere and setting. I didn't really care for the music, which means that while I don't think it's bad at all, but it also doesn't make me want to buy the original sound track.

Scenery is...faithful to the books, which is a good thing for the most part. I especially savoured The Wall and the short panorama shorts of King's Landing. The scene in godswood was also enjoyably eerie. I hoped Winterfell would look more imposing and forbidding. As it turned out it was more like a rowdy village-fort, but I guess there's gritty northern appeal to that as well.

Arya, Brann, Cersei, and King Robert to an extent, but especially Tyrion were brilliant. Both child actors felt like transformed from the books, but it's reasonable to expect that it's much easier to portray a tom-boy and a reserved boy with little dialogue than a fully grown individual who's riven with conflicting emotions and motivations. When I saw Cersei on trailer movies I was dismayed, because I visualized her differently (her looks go towards classical beauty, but I always pictured her like a blond porn-star -- without over-sized body attributes ofcourse -- comparable to early Jenna Jameson or Krystal Steal, but with downplayed wantonness), but she transforms the b**** from the books (pardon my french) into a more wholesome and complex character. This gives the "evil" Lannisters another human face from the start which produces a more believable antagonism between the two houses. I don't think many people are aware how ugly Tyrion should be, with dwindling strands of hair, mismatched eyes and an appearance of a much older man while he's still in his twenties, but for what it's worth, Dinklage's performance is indeed stellar. King Robert was the other person I was dismayed when considering previews. The actor seemed more inclined towards "milder" roles, but I must say he plays the raucous king pretty damn well. I also relished the brief appearances of Jorah Mormont and Benjen Stark.

Performance from Viserys and Caitlin was equally enjoyable, if only a bit less impressive. Visery's conveyed the ambition and impetuousness from his literary inspiration well, but I missed the streak of Targaryen madness running through him. Cat is shown more as a caring mother than a woman obsessed with the well-being of her litter, which is also great, given the fact that her single-minded determination dismayed many fans and casual readers. Jamie was OK, but there was something about the final scene that disappointed me. I expected it to have a bigger impact, but it felt somewhat lukewarm.

Daenerys and Eddard were up to their roles, but without any truly stellar moments. Sean Bean is comfortable in his Boromir role - a caring and noble protagonist who's riven with conflicting emotions  - but he doesn't have any stellar moments, at least not in the first episode. Assaults on Dany's dignity and her coping with given situation were portrayed rather well, but I believe that flashes of her future self should be glimpsed at, even in introductory scenes. Her blond wig was terrible though, they might have given her purple eye-lenses as well. It couldn't look any worse that's for sure.

Jon is, sad to say, unremarkable. The same goes for Robb, but given how little screen time he gets, it's nothing to condemn yet.

Now to the bad, or rather, to the things that bothered me.

The Dothraki were undercooked, plain and simple. The lived-in surroundings that many early viewers describe as favorable only applies to Westeros, the scenery beyond The Narrow Sea is anything but. The lack of "grit" is stark in comparison to what we see elsewhere, but it doesn't add to the mystique of the place, to the contrary, it takes all of it away. The costumes look like something straight from the shop, the ceremony looked like a parade gone bad, or a dance performance with tasteless choreography. The short deadly duel by two revelers felt out of place in the cheesy setting and under the staring eye of Khal Drogo. The problem is, Khal Drogo didn't look so much as a taciturn savage, full of bridled power and charisma, but more like a depilated jock, trying hard to remember the lines he was supposed to say. The closing scene between Khal Drogo and Dany feels forced - Drogo's more uncomfortable doing the undressing than us who're watching it.

I'm no prude and enjoy the view of naked female breasts as much as anyone really. We have a fair share of these in episode one, as well as several glimpses of pertaining nocturnal activities. I'm not sure that it's the quantity of explicit material that bothered me, I was more put off by the forced nature of it. It just didn't feel natural to the flow of narrative. There's a a lot of coitus and nakedness going on in the books, but the nature of reading experience makes these things feel comfortably spaced out. Now if you cram all the boobs from the first third of book one into a single episode of the TV series I might cringe a bit, especially if there's so much actual story to be told (hidden behind the voluptuous lumps).

Despite my reservations, I think the story is setting up well and we can hope that the future episodes heighten the complexity, the drama and the immersion of the audience. I know I'm willing to give it my best, I hope you are as well.


Tehol said...

Great review Thrindir, though a bit lenghty. What I'd add is something you were not able to anticipate while writing your review.
The characters (though in some aspects still fall short in comparison to the book) or better yet actors do grow into their roles. Khal Drogo falls short of excellent, but suprisingly Daenerys grew on me despite her hair not being violet (which I hated). I also found the same irritation I felt towards Catelyn and Sansa while rading the series.
Have to say the only major problems for me were Lannisters and their phisycal attributes. Joff did destinctley not have full lips, Jaime had more worldly handsomeness instead of being good looking to a point where every wench in Seven kingdoms coveted him and grew weak at the knees. Catelyn is just not a tease I expected her to be, which is probably overcompensated with all explicit material...still - a hard on for me hehe.
All in all a great show, looking forward to second season.

ThRiNiDiR said...

As long as the review is insightful and interesting enough to read I'm not really worried about the word count. I still appreciate you making it through the wall of text though :)

I totally agree with you about the actors. Dany turned out good (too old though eh?;) ), Drogo was quite disappointing, Joff wasn't full lipped, but he was just annoying as Joff from the books if not more, Jaime was a really good pick in my opinion, not the "true blood" type of pretty guy, but definitely as cocky as the real Jaime, Catelyn wasn't what I wanted either...well, lets see what happens in s2 agreed?


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