Game of Thrones: An In-Depth Look at the New TV Series

Posted April 7, 2011 by 1 Comment

We have written at  length about the upcoming YA movie adaptations of 2011, along with this year’s slate of Comic Book movies. However, one of 2011’s most anticipated print-to-film translations is coming  to the small screen. The network that brought you Tony Soprano and Lucius Vorenus will soon be home to a cast of Kingslayers and direwolves.

On April 17th, HBO will debut its mini-series based on George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.  AGOT is the first of 7 planned books in Martin’s  “A Song of Fire and Ice” series. And if the TV show can approach the scale of its print forebears, we may be in for the most epic small-screen series of all time.

Keep reading after the jump for much more about this series & what’s in store with the TV adaptation, including some great video previews:

“Gee, Frodo – we’re not in Middle Earth anymore.”

AGOT is set in the mythical world of Westeros. It is a land that resembles medieval Europe in many ways. In Westeros elite families battle for control of an ancient throne,  gallant knights compete in tournaments for glory, and a group of warriors man a giant ice wall where they protect the realm from zombies and giants that ride on the backs of wooly mammoths.

OK, that part about the zombies may seem a bit off, but in the world of AGOT, those deadly details are almost incidental. High fantasy exists in Martin’s world, but it plays second fiddle (or even third) to the political wranglings and Machiavellian scheming of the kingdom’s leading families. At the heart of AGOT is a struggle between the Houses of Stark and Lannister- two noble families that are just within reach of Westeros’ Iron Throne. Their conflict is punctuated by murder, betrayal and even incest.

Series writer David Benioff has described AGOT as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth”. It sounds like a trite description- a movie pitch straight out of Tim Robbins’ mouth in The Player- but the comparisons (especially to The Sopranos) are not far off. Both series are essentially dramas about powerful families that occasionally have to send people to their graves. And just as David Chase created Tony, Carmela and Paulie Walnuts, Martin has created a gallery of fully-realized and unforgettable characters. They include:

Tyrion Lannister– The Lannisters would likely be described as the “villains” of AGOT, but  “The Imp” is one of those characters that constantly makes you smile. Born a dwarf, Tyrion has been underestimated since birth. He has spent his life defying expectations and cementing his reputation as the most cunning man in Westeros (he may also be the funniest dude in the realm). Peter Dinklage will play Tyrion in the series, and this casting was a no-brainer. As demonstrated in movies like The Station Agent and even Elf, Dinklage is fully capable of projecting the self-assurance and self-doubt that are both central to Tyrion’s being.

Ned Stark- Ostensibly the “hero” of AGOT, Ned may be the last honest man in a kingdom of vipers. The head of House Stark is the best friend of King Robert Baratheon- a once great leader that is now disillusioned and drunk. In AGOT, Ned assumes the role of the King’s “Hand” (his top advisor and administrator). He quickly discovers that it is a thankless job that just might get him killed. Ned will be played by Sean Bean, best known as Boromir from Lord of the Rings. Don’t worry, this isn’t a rehash of Bean’s work with Peter Jackson. Unlike the flawed and corruptible Boromir, Ned works hard to maintain his honor while navigating a world of secret plots and deadly conspiracies.

Queen Cersei– King Robert’s wife and Tyrion Lannister’s sister, Cersei is the closest thing AGOT has to a villain. A manipulatrix on par with Lady MacBeth, Cersei has a certain “secret” that could have grave implications for the kingdom’s Iron Throne. She will be played by Lena Headey, who is best known as the title character from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Daenerys Targaryen One of the few survivors of Westeros’ former ruling family, young Dany lives in exile with her cruel brother Viserys. In AGOT, she marries the warlord of a Hun-like people called The Dothraki. She longs to return to her family’s homeland and reclaim the throne that is rightfully theirs. Those desires will lead to the resurrection of a terrible force that Westeros has not seen in generations. Newcomer Emilia Clarke will play the young khaleesi.

Jon Snow: Ned’s illegitimate son, Jon is raised alongside his half-brothers and sisters, and is shunned by Ned’s wife Lady Catelyn Stark (also a major character). Another relative newcomer, Kit Harrington, will portray Jon. In AGOT, we will see Jon trade a life of privilege for a life of sacrifice as a member of  “The Night’s Watch”. Which brings me to…

The Wall and The Aerie: These are not people, but places. Yet both are characters in their own right- crucial to establishing the soul, and scale, of A Game of Thrones. The Wall is a massive ice barrier that is patrolled by the sworn brothers of The Night’s Watch. It is considered Westeros’ last line of defense from the ancient and evil powers of the frozen far north. The Aerie is the home of Lady Catelyn’s sister Lysa, and eventually serves as a prison for Tyrion Lannister. It is a series of four massive castles that cling precariously to the side of a mountain known as the Giant’s Lance. While there are other important locations, Martin’s descriptions of the sky-piercing fortress and frigid Wall are incredible and awe-inspiring. Hopefully, HBO loosened their royal pursestrings enough to recreate those sensations on the small screen.

There are, obviously, a great number of characters and details that I am leaving out. And with only four of the planned seven Fire and Ice books published, I am skeptical that HBO will ever be able to completely bring  Martin’s vision to life. Still, I have no doubt that this is the best way to create a live-action Game of Thrones. A big-screen Hollywood adaptation would leave out far too many crucial details, even if it had a running time of four hours (which it would not). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not expecting HBO to nail everything that made AGOT an incredible read. I’m just glad that their creative wizards are attempting to conjure a form of entertainment that the small screen has never seen before.

For the comments: Will YOU be watching Game of Thrones? Have you read the books? Share your thoughts below!


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