Since I missed the in-production teaser when it aired during the Countdown to True Blood on Sunday, I had to watch it on HBO’s website. Which meant that I also read the introduction by the producers (thank goodness there were no obvious spoilers in there, even if they did reference things that haven’t quite happened yet!). Basically, I agreed wholeheartedly with everything they (and then the actors and writers in the video) were saying about why an adaptation of A Game of Thrones needed to be an HBO production and why it needed to be a series.
I mean, I am taking on faith that the book would be raped to get compressed into a 3-hour block, but considering how much pillaging was done to the Lord of the Rings, and this is obviously already way more complex, I didn’t find that statement to be questionable.
I am a huge fan of HBO on general principle; I think they handle graphic situations and gritty realism better than anyone else on TV and 99% of the feature film studios and directors, as well. Their casting teams are simply brilliant at finding the perfect actors for the roles. And they do not sacrifice quality or authenticity to save money or broaden a new program’s “commercial” appeal—they don’t PG-13-ize something that should be rated R for the sake of sucking in the junior high kids’ allowances, and they don’t skimp on portrayals of political incorrectness to avoid offending and thus alienating specific demographics. So, yes, I can absolutely see why a fantasy series that is always, always described as being “gritty” and “fantasy for adults” would consider it not just the best but the only choice of venue for an adaptation.
I think that a series of books this long, and told in the way that AGOT has already shown me it is, will also lend itself well to an episodic format without too many changes to the story or situations. I am currently watching a TV series made out of a trilogy of books, and while it’s been fascinating to see how they twisted situations to make the storyline indefinite even while they pull in elements from the books, that is not what I—or likely anyone—would want to see from this adaption. I think a straightforward presentation of the story as written by Martin would work and will engage new fans and old ones alike. The series is up to, what, 4000 pages already? Damn near an indefinite storyline in terms of TV, and especially HBO, season lengths.
As far as the casting goes, I honestly don’t have a strong enough grasp of the characters to feel much. I liked Sean Bean as Boromir, and it’s easy to see him as a knight and a lord like Ned Stark. As Ned himself? Will have to see his mannerisms to be sure, but I expect I’ll like him. I did like the casting for Tyrion, even though we only saw him for a half a second. Dani looked…older than I expected, but I guess she’s not 13 for the entire series, so—duh. I also didn’t get any sense of her appearance from her own mind, but I am also really not a reader who visualizes well even if she made reference to her own appearance. Characters tend to be faceless entities to me, at most rendered into impressionist-painting-like moments of visual importance but most of the time being sort of nebulous. I read words. I do not take the time to create pictures. I know some people do, though, so I’m quite curious to know how any such fans react to the visualizations of these characters and this world. But I am not one of those readers, not for people and not for places, and I’m new enough to the series that I haven’t developed too many ideas for these looks to contradict. (That’s the most that I ever feel—that an actor doesn’t look like the character to me, even if I don’t have a clear idea of what s/he DOES look like to me, or that a setting doesn’t fit my unarticulated sense of the place.)
On the subject of the sets I did have a stronger reaction, however. The ground shown during the execution from Bran’s first chapter looked more like where Valhalla Rising was filmed than I expected—was thinking of the North as forested rather than bleak windswept tundra. I thought the peasants looked appropriately dirty and the conditions medieval squalid. I tend to enjoy the costuming aspects of series like this, so I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more of how that angle is put together.
For now the teaser is interesting but not like electric to me…really it just makes me nervous that I won’t be far enough in the series by the time it starts. So maybe all of you complaining about how we’re analyzing this slower than Martin is writing will get your wish for us to speed up, after all….
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.