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The Iron Throne Of Westeros
Game of Thrones - Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: bilbobaginz
Game of Thrones - Season 1 (DVD)
Advantages: Great characterisation, sets, props and twisting story-line.
Disadvantages: Nothing at all - beautifully manufactured entertainment.
With season two nearing the horizon and season one already shown around the globe on television, HBO recently decided to release the first volume of their pristine fantasy epic (adapted from the first novel of a series [A Song of Ice and Fire] by George R. R. Martin) on DVD and Blue-ray. The furious scale and mountainous detail heaped into Martin's universe (or more specifically, Westeros - for this series) rivals that of the genres master, Tolkien - and it has to be said from the beginning that HBO and David Benioff (amongst others) have done a colossal job here. Bringing the deeply documented doings of an ancient-seeming setting to life in extraordinary quality couldn't have been an easy task.
The story of 'Game of Thrones' follows the life of Eddard Stark (the sensational Sean Bean), Lord of Winterfell and guardian of the North - a desolate region of the world, constantly threatened by a nearing winter and the wild humans and other's which lie beyond 'The Wall' the Northerners guard.
'Winter is coming' acts almost as a slogan for the series, a frequently mentioned phrase used as both a metaphor to express the increasing social unrest of the population, and the literal arrival of a cold and dark time - a time which has in the past lasted years, not months. The main fear associated with winter and coldness approaching is the rumoured return of the 'White Walkers' from beyond The Wall - they are a mythological race which story foretold had previously waged war on the Kingdom of Westeros, though the species is now regarded as either extinct or never to have existed in the first place. Nonetheless there is a general feeling amongst men of the lands that the time approaching will be one full of drawn out difficulty and suffering.
Eddard Stark's (Ned's) family who belong to the House of Stark (one of several Houses visualised in the series) are a close-net people, portrayed with similarities to a real life family - each character with their own likes and dislikes, aspirations and problems. Game of Thrones does an excellent job of getting across the individual family members personalities (capitalised by a collection of exceptional performances by the cast).
Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is the wife of Ned and they share five children, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon (in order of age). Catelyn is a good mother, but when it comes to Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow, Catelyn shows no emotion despite the boys closeness with his half-siblings. This relationship is acted out well, and the energy between all the characters of the family is captured with viewer insight, drawing you into the world through one small corner of it.
When one branch of the story-line takes Jon Snow to The Wall to carry out his days as a protector of the Kingdoms (with the 'Nights Watch') from the front-line, he becomes more of a central character - and Kit Harington plays this role to perfection.
Despite the great level of detail and interaction portrayed between Stark family members, the main story-line of the series is actually far wider and more complex than this. In fact, G.o.T is more about the interaction between the House of Baratheon (and King Robert Baratheon), and the House of Lannister (and the King's wife, Queen Cersei Baratheon) with the House of Stark (and Ned).
A grouping filled with extravagant individuals obsessed with either sex, blood, power or knowledge (or a combination of the above), the Baratheon/Lannister union is complex and highly interesting. The twists and turns between these factions create fantastic moments of thrilling drama, action and horror. My favourite character here has to be the 'imp' Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage), a loud mouthed intellectual dwarf who takes up his time reading ancient literature and visiting the various brothels of King's Landing and the rest of Westeros. Also playing a key role in the main story-line, this character sums up the royal class of the Kingdoms in an unrivalled way.
Ned Stark's involvement with the two Houses exists because of his history with the King (a friend of some 30-years), but it quickly spirals to a new level when King Robert asks him to be his 'First Hand' - a prestigious role within the royal arena which spells danger for Stark's family and involves him leaving Winterfell for permanent stay at King's Landing (the capital). The King's plan for Ned's promotion also involves the joining of the two families (Houses) through the marriage of Ned's daughter, Sansa and the King's son, Prince Joffrey (both aged about 13). The relationship between the two youngsters is well depicted, and as with most happenings it leads to further difficulties for Ned.
There are also two more Houses rendered, one is the House of Catelyn Stark's family (House of Arynn) which is run by Catelyn's be-crazed sister and her twisted child, Lord Robin Arynn - who despite being of an age below 7 has soaked up a personality of power and cruelty (much the making of his mother's smothering influence).
The other House is that of Targarwen - perhaps the most significant - for it depicts the exiled siblings of the previous King of Westeros, the King which King Robert (alongside Ned) overthrew to gain the Iron Thrown years before.
Princess Daenerys and Prince Viserys - the feeble air to the thrown - though exiled, have found a new race to reside - the Dothraki peoples lead by Khal Drogo. Prince Viserys plans to wed his sister with the Khal in order to acquire the barbarions fearsome army and take back the Kingdom for himself.
Daenerys relationship is one of brutality and harshness to begin with. She is frequently raped by Drogo, and it's only when she gradually learns to manipulate her position within the tribe that things start to change.
The Houses difficulties and the tensions between them are staged throughout the series in various ways. Though the story-line focuses on Ned's struggles, it does wander through and across many other important (and not so important) character paths which give the episodes depth and meaning on contrasting scales. The series is sleek and consistent in the way it does this.
Using a collection of authentic set locations and gritty props, the whole thing is shot in a subtly dramatic way. It's only in your face when it needs to be. Yes there are beheadings, realistic sword slit wounds and the like, but violence happens when it should and the bulk of the episodes are devoted to well thought out scripture portrayed by the cast. There are no 'Return of the King' cavalry charges (to the disappointment of some), but I'm sure this will come in the following series.
The best thing about Game of Thrones is its level of complexity, and the magnificent, inspiring way the makers of the series have managed to refine the story-line into a 10-hour platform everyone can follow. The character performances are believable, the sets and props are realistic, and the whole thing works in unison to draw you in, urging you to watch on and on and on...
The DVD which was released recently contains all 10 episodes of the first season. The second season is coming out on the 1st of April 2012, so now seems a good time to buy the DVD, watch the first season and prepare for HBO's follow up in a few weeks time.
Extras on the DVD include:
- A complete guide to Westeros - a compendium of the noble Houses and lands.
- The making of the Thrones - a 30-minute feature with interviews and new footage from the sets of the series.
- Character profiles - the 15 major characters described by the actors themselves.
- Show opener - inside look at the series opening sequence (Emmy-award winning).
- 'From the book to the screen' - a documentary talk with the author and series producers about the difficulties entailed when making G.o.T a reality.
- 'The nights watch' - a look at the men who patrol the wall.
- 'Creating the Dothraki language' - insight into the forming of the language portrayed in the film.
- Audio commentaries are also included to guide you through the episodes as they are played out before you.
The extras on this DVD are excellent compared to other series additionals I've encountered. The creators seem to have put a lot of time and effort into explaining the making of the series for the benefit of those truly interested in it. The die-hard fans of G.o.T will be grateful as I am, though I wish the series was a little cheaper to purchase (£30 on DVD and £40 on Blue-ray) - quite a price for only the first season of a series created the year before.
All in all, Game of Thrones has been an experience to watch. It's enthralled me every step of the way and I can do nothing but recommend it on every level. After watching the thing within three days, all I want to do now is watch it again - luckily I (and we) have the second instalment to look forward to now.
Summary: Remember, it is an 18 rating - not for kids!