With just a couple of weeks to go before the premiere of the Game of Thrones series on HBO, excitement among fans is reaching a feverish pitch. The show — named after the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by author George R.R. Martin — is a favorite among both fantasy geeks and mainstream readers alike.
The planned series of seven books is a little more than halfway complete, with Book 5 on the way this summer. It already totals more than 3,500 pages of adventure, battles and backstabbing, making it an epic tale in every sense of the phrase.
But should the average viewer, let alone hard-core fantasy geeks, really be excited about the television adaptation? Readers have consistently been disappointed with television and movie adaptations of their favorite books.
Can HBO’s Game of Thrones be any different? Will the 10-part series be worth watching?
We think so and here are our 10 reasons why:
1. First things first, it’s very geeky. It’s got kings and knights, crowns and swords, dragons and ghosts. Medieval drama is a genre we get precious little of on television (or in movies, for that matter), and Game of Thrones has nearly 10 hours of it. Plus, the series of books boasts fans who are as serious about the happenings in Westeros — where most of the book’s action takes place — as any hardcore Trekkie or Star Wars geek is about those sagas.
2. The story is compelling. Befitting an incredibly popular series, the books are packed with chapter after chapter that abruptly end in cliffhangers. The dialogue is often funny, acerbic and sometimes even heart-breaking. Though the books are as thick as phone directories, the story moves quickly, and it’s almost guaranteed to surprise you. In all my years of reading, seldom has a plot twisted so suddenly that I am shocked enough to say something like “Holy —-” out loud. A Song of Ice and Fire has done that to me many times, and HBO’s adaptation looks to follow.
3. The characters come first. Even if you’re not someone who likes fantasy, you will enjoy Game of Thrones, because it’s not so much a fantasy tale as it is an outstanding character-driven drama that just happens to be set in a fantasy setting. Westeros, the land where the series takes place, is a dog-eat-dog place where most people are playing the angles and looking out for themselves. The end result is a very tangled web of deceit, power plays and intrigue, which should make for an infinitely watchable show.
4. Game Of Thrones is based on really great writing. Martin weaves an incredibly complex story that encompasses thousands of miles, dozens of characters and a history that spans thousands of years. Yet, it’s easy to follow and just as compelling to read. To tempt you further, Martin was called “the American Tolkien” by Time Magazine. This is mentioned not to start a flame war or suggest he is the be-all, end-all of fantasy, but to illustrate how good his writing is. Further, Martin is credited, along with executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss, as a writer of the series.
5. HBO does a better job at this kind of thing than anyone else. Look at the track record: If there’s one thing HBO does better than anyone else, it’s original dramas. Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, The Wire, Oz, Deadwood, John Adams, Six Feet Under, True Blood — this list only scratches the surface of the great dramas HBO has brought to the small screen. What’s more, with some of the mature content in Game Of Thrones, it’s tough to imagine the show being on network television or anywhere else.
6. All signs point to faithful adaptation. Martin has been deeply involved with the production since the beginning and — if you read Martin’s blog – his excitement is contagious. Plus, the set photography, the images of the cast, the behind-the-scenes vignettes and, most recently, the wallpaper images that depict some of the major locations of the story all show that the series creators really understand what the book is about. That will, hopefully, lead to very good things. Heck, the producers even hired someone to invent an authentic language for the Dothraki. It seems no shortcuts are being taken.
7. The series was given a proper budget. With estimates at nearly $60 million for 10 episodes, expect big things on the small screen. And while GoT‘s budget is somewhat average for a big production series, the fact that HBO committed these resources toward an unproven show says a lot about the network’s confidence of success. Early shots of sets, special effects and the cast show the money is being well spent.
8. HBO hasn’t forgotten about the fans. Before filming began, fans were recruited for input. And, with each step, the folks over at HBO have remembered who its biggest critics will be. Martin has been heavily involved in decisions along the way (and the first to be edge-of-the-seat excited about the progress of the series). As the opening date draws closer, HBO has introduced a couple of social marketing tools to drum up excitement. It’s gone so far as to serve Westeros-inspired foods last week to lucky little folk of New York last week and Los Angeles this week.
9. A lot of thought went into casting the right person for each role. Because Game of Thrones is so driven by character development, casting needed to take precedence over everything else. And it appears that casting director Nina Gold understood this imperative. There are few household names in the cast, much like HBO’s other huge success, Band of Brothers. Plus, most of the choices seem perfectly spot-on at first glance: e.g., Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, John Bradley as Samwell Tarly, Kit Harrington as Jon Snow, Conan Stevens as Gregor Clegane …
10. This will be the show of 2011, Don’t be left behind! The early reviews are starting to come in, and they are positively glowing. The source material is a best-selling series of books and a fan base that is legion. Cast, sets and direction look to be more than anyone could hope for. HBO looks to have another winner on its hands. Don’t forget to set your DVR, stream from HBO GO, or throw a watch party — winter is coming!
Still on the wall, er, fence about Game of Thrones? Watch the 15-minute preview that HBO aired last night. It was much better than anticipated. (How’s that even possible?)
Game of Thrones is a 10-part series on HBO. The first episode airs April 17.