Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Game of Thrones: Season 1

 Sean Bean as Eddard Stark. Perfect in every way.
I had been looking forward avidly to this HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Well, to tell the truth, I was a bit put off by the extreme hoopla. There is such a thing as over-promotion. I'm sufficiently bored with marketing antics to not pay much attention to them. It tends to inspire disgust. Though I did think the food wagon was a nifty idea. Too bad I don't live in New York City -- I sometimes say that to myself, living out here in the cultural boondocks of Charlottesville. But, as I rarely leave the house, it matters little.

Anyhow, I thought I'd share my thoughts on this series so far, and if you're interested enough to read this far, I worship you, O Dear Reader, and I wish you would make a comment.

A very beautiful and perfect Brandon Stark.
Too bad we don't get more of his point of view.
Goodness: high production values, superb settings, costume, and atmosphere. Opening credit animation is fascinating and unexpected. Music is catchy and has that feeling of gravitas, wonder, and grace, typically fantasy-feeling. Casting is mostly delicious. Acting quality is very high, and the most important roles are played superbly.

So what's to complain about?

Sigh. It's all about the story. GRRM knows that. The magic is the storytelling. It's obvious that the episodes are well crafted. It's unquestionable that the series is faithful to the spirit of the plot.

But I'm missing something. If you know me, you know that I'm always missing something. I'm missing a slower pace. A savoring of the unfolding complexities. TV and movie story telling today moves too fast for my taste. I think that the modern audience demands everything FAST FAST and mostly on the surface. "DON'T MAKE ME WAIT FOR IT! DON'T MAKE IT DEEP! AARGH!" Yet the magic is in the experience of being drawn into the story. It's discovering that you are involved. It's in finding out how you feel about this character, or that development. You feel that you are going along on the journey. That's what makes A Song of Ice and Fire an outstanding example of epic fantasy.

I HATE being told what to feel and think. I LOVE when a writer explores character and situation, and doesn't give me a simplistic view. This truly requires a deeply intelligent and sophisticated talent. (Oh, like MOI! Chortle! -- spoken in Miss Piggy-like juicy congratulatory tones of self-mockery, for those of you who missed the intonation.)

Danaerys is another perfect piece of casting and gives a great performance.
I wish we could have spent more time on screen following her around,
feeling her fears and transformation.
I would like the episode writers to give more time for good ol' cinematography. Let the camera and the actors do their magic of movie-making. Find those elements that speak volumes without words. Pull a performance out of an actor. Linger on the face, let the actor tell the the story with his eyes and his body. Let the sky and hills and trees whisper their secrets in their unknown languages. I want to FEEL reality. I don't want it to be spoken to me at a rapid pace.

Yes, I LIKE Robert Bresson! (go look up his movies.) I like David Lean! For god's sake, let your director and cinematographer do their magic with the story. If they're up to it. I have my doubts about some scenes. Some were truly pedestrian instead of cinematographic. Yes, it's all about the writing, but if you don't make the magic happen on the screen, it was for nothing.

Slow DOWN. Pace the scene. Fewer words. It's not a book.

Sandor Clegane is perhaps my favorite character. This one isn't mean enough.
The body language tells me he's really a nice guy underneath the scarred face.
Similarly, the supposedly frightening dire wolves look like nice doggies.
Just not scary enough.
Worst scenes: expository monologues spoken in front of nude cavorting women. What's the point of that, except to make me think I'm watching Rome? Is something important being said, or am I just supposed to feel titillated? I start to think that the script writers are unfamiliar with film making. Or perhaps HBO has minimum nudity requirements per episode. Just stupid.

And its a pity that the writer didn't find a better way to tell us about Petyr Baelish ("Little Finger") who is another really interesting character, or about Grand Maester Pycelle. I'm old-school: I think sex is sexier when it's suggested, not when it looks like a soft porn movie.

Perhaps it couldn't have been done any better in 10 episodes. But I don't believe that.

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