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June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision" 
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Gaffer

Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:23 pm
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
johnny larue wrote:
James...pretty much spot on. I think also part of the problem is that while you mention the production values are superb for "Game of Thrones" on HBO, they still have their budgetary limits. One of the ways that Jackson departed from the texts of "Lord Of The Rings" was to ratchet up the action; where Tolkien had more sparse descriptions of events in Moria and Helm's Deep, Jackson and his techno-geeks let their imaginations loose and greatly expanded on these conflicts to become major cinematic action set pieces. With "Game Of Thrones" so far, what battles there have been (outside of single, isolated combat) have been largely relegated to off screen affairs so that there's actually a lot more action on the page than there is on the screen. I can't really fault the show too much for that as budgets are budgets and what they have put on screen has looked darn pretty so far.


To be fare, in the first book, the ONLY battle scene also occurs off screen (the POV character that is supposed to witness the battle got knocked out and missed the whole fight).


Fri Jun 24, 2011 1:20 pm
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
BigFire wrote:
To be fare, in the first book, the ONLY battle scene also occurs off screen (the POV character that is supposed to witness the battle got knocked out and missed the whole fight).

You're wrong. In the Battle of the Green Fork in the first book, Tyrion not only was conscious but also a participant. He got wounded and took a knight captive after stabbing his horse. Two other battles occurred in the 1st book: the Whispering Woods, which was narrated from the perspective of Lady Catelyn as she waited, and the Battle of the Camps near Riverrun, which was only described by one of Lord Crakehall's men to Lord Tywin after it had happened.


Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:27 pm
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
I'm pleased with how the mini series turned out. The sets are great and so are the actors. Especially Dinklage, give the man an Emmy. But above all it's following the books! I rarely felt like I was watching something that didn't match my imagination. The only thing I can think of was the fact that the Dothraki didn't quite seem to be the Mongols I had in mind. The series will only get better next season as a Clash of Kings is in my opinion the best book in the series.

And I'll have to watch the wire one of these days...


Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:21 pm
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
Game Of Thrones was a little hard to get into for me. The acting and sets are very good, but I just don't feel enough of a reason to care about Westeros or its characters. I've read some non-"Fire And Ice" works of his, and he's not for me. I'd rather have HBO take a shot at something more lighthearted, like the Discworld books for instance.


Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:54 am
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
Well said, James. I agree completely and wholeheartedly. I believe that any film adaptation should stand on its own merits. The soul of a story is more important than a strict faithfulness to the source material. Films and books are different mediums. Though they offer the same type of content, each has its own respective way of delivering it, and its important to note that difference.


Sat Jul 09, 2011 6:53 pm
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
No doubt the show is quality. HBO doesn't muck around when plunking down for production value, although I know from first hand experience, their crew members get the shaft.

In any case, ratings don't tell the entire story.


Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:42 pm
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
rugolin wrote:
You have to explain if good critical response,positive viewer ratings and possible Emmy nominations are not the whole story about a great first season what is? Not everything has to be an artistic masterpiece to be enjoyable.When they were picking the book of the century some Canadian authors here especially Margaret Atwood said they would kill themselves if LOTR won the book of the century.They felt it was an overgrown schoolboy adventure book(I disagree on that)that was a plodding bore.These writers felt it had no soul or artistic worth.Here I disagree as it is the template for a whole modern genre of writing.Game of Thrones would probably not have existed without it but succeeds on it's own right by bypassing heroic fantasy with cynical realism of "The Prince".


I agree that it was a great first season. I'm not sure how it could really have been better considering the fans' expectations, and Martin's own. However, I think that Jackson's Lord of the Rings series had the benefit of time, in that the books were published quite a while ago, and the author was not alive during the production of it. I think it gave Jackson a certain freedom in making the films that the Song of Ice and Fire production team does not necessarily have, seeing that Martin himself even penned one of the episodes. Jackson also took a leap of faith, and trusted his team's and his own instincts when adapting the film, which is part of what sets the Lord of the Rings movies apart from that of Game of Thrones. Also, as James said, Game of Thrones isn't a cinematic experience so much as it was Sunday night spent in front of the TV. That's an inherent difference.

Other than that, I think that James pretty much nailed it in his blog post. However, I think there's something missing from the series. I think that film adaptations are somewhat akin to musical interpretations, like when an orchestra and a conductor puts on a symphony, or like James said himself, a director's vision, or revision, of a play. Sometimes a rote facsimile may work when going from book to film, and in this case I think it succeeds in that respect. In trying to make a very near perfect translation of the book, they do a commendable job, but movies and books are different forms of the same type of content, and should be treated as such. For example, in the Godfather, when Coppola puts the horses head under the sheets instead of on top, cinematically it was a master stroke, and something that not only made sense for a film, but made the story even better. It added a sinister suspenseful quality that the movies can do so well.

When I watched the series on HBO, what I saw was Martin's text, and a bunch of actors, cinematographers, editors, directors, producers, and writers doing what they do best, and doing it well. When I watched Jackson's Lord of the Rings, I saw The Lord of the Rings.


Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:39 am
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
Will Hatch wrote:
Game Of Thrones was a little hard to get into for me. The acting and sets are very good, but I just don't feel enough of a reason to care about Westeros or its characters. I've read some non-"Fire And Ice" works of his, and he's not for me. I'd rather have HBO take a shot at something more lighthearted, like the Discworld books for instance.


They don't need to do the Discworld novels. The British are already doing them. I've seen The Color of Magic (which also covers The Light Fantastic), Hogfather and Going Postal. (Clearly not doing them in order, which is okay since the books are actually several series.) The last I saw in a convention film room with bad acoustics, so I'm waiting for the DVD, which is coming out in September. What I could hear was pretty good, but sometimes hard to follow.

These are not animated films like the earlier adaptations of Wyrd Sisters or Soul Music.

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Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:36 pm
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Gaffer

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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
James, this is similar to what I feel about the Swedish adaptations of the Millenium Trilogy, and it's part of the reason I'm so glad David Fincher is doing an English-language adaptation. The Swedish versions of the first 2 (I haven't watched the 3rd yet) seemed like very straightforward, simplified versions of the stories told in the books. Given all of the raves these films were getting, I was disappointed. They didn't make much of an impact on me. After reading the books, I had images in my head of what the story should look like, and while the films followed the books pretty closely, they didn't measure up to the images I had in my head. (It didn't help that while Rapace put in some great performances, I think she looked completely wrong for the role . . . far too tough-looking.)

And now David Fincher's adaptation is looming. Based on his previous output, I'm pretty sure that he's going to have his own take on the story and the way it's presented to the viewer. While the Swedish adaptations basically just took the events in the books, simplified them where necessary, and put them on film in a very straightforward way, I expect more from Fincher. Your example of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations was perfect to describe the way I feel on this subject. It's why I'm kind of mystified by some of the knee-jerk negative reactions I've seen towards the English-language adaptations.


Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:06 am
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
Azilis wrote:
James, this is similar to what I feel about the Swedish adaptations of the Millenium Trilogy, and it's part of the reason I'm so glad David Fincher is doing an English-language adaptation. The Swedish versions of the first 2 (I haven't watched the 3rd yet) seemed like very straightforward, simplified versions of the stories told in the books. Given all of the raves these films were getting, I was disappointed. They didn't make much of an impact on me. After reading the books, I had images in my head of what the story should look like, and while the films followed the books pretty closely, they didn't measure up to the images I had in my head. (It didn't help that while Rapace put in some great performances, I think she looked completely wrong for the role . . . far too tough-looking.)

And now David Fincher's adaptation is looming. Based on his previous output, I'm pretty sure that he's going to have his own take on the story and the way it's presented to the viewer. While the Swedish adaptations basically just took the events in the books, simplified them where necessary, and put them on film in a very straightforward way, I expect more from Fincher. Your example of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations was perfect to describe the way I feel on this subject. It's why I'm kind of mystified by some of the knee-jerk negative reactions I've seen towards the English-language adaptations.


I thought highly of the Swedish movies, but I have *not* read any of the books, so the movies stood on their own for me. I neither applaud nor dread the Fincher version; I'm not inherently anti-remake. I'll comment on it after it comes out. My hope is that it will be a fresh take on the material rather than just a stylized, big-budget re-telling of the same story. The thing about remakes and adaptations is that they need to have a reason for being (other than the obvious financial one). Too often, that's not the case.

Quite often, if I read a book, I have no interest in seeing the movie. That's why I often choose books to read that I think have about a 1% of being adapted. Obviously, I missed where A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is concerned. Conversely, If I know or suspect something is going to be dramatized, I will often skip it. With book-to-movie adaptations, I often buy the book then "quick read" it between seeing the movie and writing the review. That way, I can write intelligently about changes and differences while still maintaining a clean perspective upon the movie.


Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:22 am
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
See i'm different, If I know a film is based on a book, I pupposely don't read the book so I can have a fresh perspective on the film without constantly making comparisons to the source material.


Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:28 am
Gaffer

Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:05 pm
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Quite often, if I read a book, I have no interest in seeing the movie. That's why I often choose books to read that I think have about a 1% of being adapted. Obviously, I missed where A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is concerned. Conversely, If I know or suspect something is going to be dramatized, I will often skip it. With book-to-movie adaptations, I often buy the book then "quick read" it between seeing the movie and writing the review. That way, I can write intelligently about changes and differences while still maintaining a clean perspective upon the movie.


As a film critic, that's a great policy . . . I've always appreciated your reviews of adaptations. As a non-critic, though, I follow the opposite policy. The book, rather than the film, is the big event for me, so if I see that there's going to be an adaptation of a book I haven't yet read, I read the book before seeing the movie (assuming it's a book I think I'll want to read anyway at some point in the future). If I see the movie first, it's impossible for me to picture characters or locations any differently than they were presented on-screen. In the case of the Millenium trilogy, I'm thankful that I didn't picture Noomi Rapace when reading about Lisbeth Salander. She did a great job in the movies, but the choice to cast her was a strange one. She looks quite different from the way she's described in the books.

BTW, I had a similar experience with the Game of Thrones HBO series. I enjoyed it, but wasn't blown away. And as much as I enjoyed the books, they had their faults. Thanks to the incredible faithfulness of the adaptations, those faults are present on-screen too.

I also seem to be one of the only people on Earth who prefers the film-version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the book. Thanks to it's willingness to stray pretty far from the source material, it eliminated most of the problems I had with the book.


Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:46 am
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
Hey James, I've been reading your site for years but lately I haven't been coming on as much due to the lack of quality movies released this summer. I was thinking about Game of Thrones today and oddly enough I thought "Why doesn't James review miniseries and video games?". Video games and movies are slowly merging together just as television and movies did. So I went on your site and was pleasantly surprised to see exactly what I was looking for.

I don't get glued to television shows often. I watched The Sopranos episodes when they were released on DVD and thought the series was amazing. I agree with you that they dragged it on too long but I saw them one after the other on DVD so the time did not seem to pass as slowly as it must of for those who watched the Sopranos on HBO. But any who, after I saw the last episode in 2008 I almost mourned its end. People told me how great True Blood and Lost were but I found both to be disappointing. When Game of Thrones came out this year I watched it with no foreknowledge of the book. I was absolutely riveted by the uncompromising reality of the series, an aspect which is absent in many fantasy movies. For me, it felt as if the genre was coming of age, a feeling I also felt while watching the Dark Knight.

I think that for some movies (like Lord of The Rings) the twists of the plot and ending are not as important as the adventure itself. The Lord of The Rings trilogy is in many ways similar to Star Wars. You kind of know where the movie is going but you don't care because you are wrapped up in the aura of adventure. They are romantic movies in that sense and there will always be a place for them because, let's face it, reality is just too boring sometimes.

As the cliche goes I think you are comparing apples to oranges. To me The Lord of The Rings is to Game of Thrones, what The Godfather is to Gomorrah. The Godfather and LOTR romanticized their topics to great effect. They're excellent movies but they present their topics in a grandiose manner. This is not a flaw, it's just a matter of style. Game of Thrones is much more plot focused. What gives the series so much power is that everything is so uncertain, just as it is in real life.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I thought Ned Stark was going to always be on the show until his head got chopped off. I was just floored by that; the main character getting axed so soon. That's pretty much unprecedented in television history. That would be like if Tony Soprano was shot dead in the first season. Most networks would never let the writers do that to their "product". And I'm sure even HBO would have had Ned Stark go on another 10 seasons if there were no books to lead the way.


When I saw that episode I felt like I had lost someone. I know he's not real but I got the same pain in my chest. I'm sure people who read that part in the book felt the same way. I think no matter whether you see the movie or read the book first, you come away with the same feelings. The producers were right not to tamper with it too much. If it were a trilogy on the big screen I would expect them to take liberties to accommodate the limited amount of time, but they have a full season to work with. And this leads back to why I think you "merely liked" Game of Thrones. The Lord of the Rings was divided into 3 two-hour long movies released over a period of years. Jackson had to modify it extensively so it was almost like watching a different version of the book. Game of Thrones is a television series, so the producers were able to take the time to follow the book closely. Perhaps watching an hour of Game of Thrones week after week becomes tedious to those who read the book because it is much more tedious to watch a series than it is a movie, especially a series that follows the book so closely. Perhaps if Lord of The Rings was made into a series (which will probably happen eventually) it would be less interesting to you as well because more screen time would let the writers to stay more faithful to the book. A movie and a television series are very different formats, the latter more closely resembling a book. That's one of the reasons I like movies. Their limited amount of time lets the director create his vision on a grand scale that would be impossible to create with the stretched out budget of an entire series. It's a unique mouthpiece in the arsenal of storytelling.


Sat Jul 30, 2011 8:56 pm
Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
I know this thread is getting old, but since it's about the books vs. the TV show and I'm just now getting to my Tivo'd episodes, I have to ask...

Are the books as guilty as the series as putting naked people together and then...talking about subplots?

I guess if there's going to be nudity in a show, I'd like for it to seem like more than pandering. And so far, six episodes in, that's what it seems like to me.

I enjoy the show enough to keep going, I guess, but at times it seems quite forced.


Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:59 pm
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
AkiraKaneda wrote:
I know this thread is getting old, but since it's about the books vs. the TV show and I'm just now getting to my Tivo'd episodes, I have to ask...

Are the books as guilty as the series as putting naked people together and then...talking about subplots?

I guess if there's going to be nudity in a show, I'd like for it to seem like more than pandering. And so far, six episodes in, that's what it seems like to me.

I enjoy the show enough to keep going, I guess, but at times it seems quite forced.


There's a lot of nudity in the books. Actually, one surprising thing is that Cersei represents a fair amount of book-nudity but Lena Headey, who has never been shy about stripping in the past, has not yet shown anything. I guess there's always Season 2.


Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:34 pm
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Post Re: June 22, 2011: "Of Thrones and Rings and Seeing the Vision"
James Berardinelli wrote:
AkiraKaneda wrote:
I know this thread is getting old, but since it's about the books vs. the TV show and I'm just now getting to my Tivo'd episodes, I have to ask...

Are the books as guilty as the series as putting naked people together and then...talking about subplots?

I guess if there's going to be nudity in a show, I'd like for it to seem like more than pandering. And so far, six episodes in, that's what it seems like to me.

I enjoy the show enough to keep going, I guess, but at times it seems quite forced.


There's a lot of nudity in the books. Actually, one surprising thing is that Cersei represents a fair amount of book-nudity but Lena Headey, who has never been shy about stripping in the past, has not yet shown anything. I guess there's always Season 2.

Don't hold your breath on seeing Lena bare all in season 2, as Cersei doesn't show much in the way of skin at any point during A Clash of Kings (2nd book). For that matter, it was clear that the scene in season 1 where Bran catches Cersei and Jaime was toned down, as it's clearly stated in A Game of Thrones that Bran sees them both in the nude. Moreover, it's said that in that scene in the show, a body double was used for Ms.Headey.


Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:40 pm
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