Bet on Thrones is the title from the first book in a yet to be finished fantasy series by George R.R. Martin, entitled A Song Of fireside And Ice. Game Of Thrones is also a recently released game on 360 and PS3, a game, a card game, a tabletop role playing game, a graphic novel, the subject of several iOS and Google Play apps, and an upcoming Facebook game. It's also among the hottest IP's around at this time, thanks largely in part to the incredibly popular HBO program currently airing its second season, as well as the DVD/Blu-ray discharge of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning first season, available now.
I will be honest. I'm a proponent of the tenet that the book is always much better than the movie. Only in the cases when the book was written first, that's. Whether it says "The novelization in line with the film" around the cover, then it's kindling. I'm snooty that way. Even if I understand the book is better, since it is always better, I'm still occasionally drawn to visit a film adaptation. Maybe it's because a friend, or naive critic, says something similar to, "every bit just like it." Sometimes it's because I'm such a fan of the source material that I have to see how they butcher it with my very own eyes.
Either way, whenever a film with different book I've read, I always have one of three reactions: 1) Pleasantly surprised (i.e. Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Shawshank Redemption, Saving money Mile). 2) Decidedly indifferent (Trainspotting, Stephen King's It,). 3) Desporrified, a made-up word combining despair and horrified (Breakfast of Champions, everything else Stephen King's let be a movie that isn't already listed here). In every case, whether surprised, indifferent or desporrified, I still leave thinking the book is superior to the film in each and every way. Until Bet on Thrones that is. Now my worldview has been shattered.
To HBO's credit, the show remains very true towards the source material, differing on only the very slightest of details. Much of the dialogue is right out the novel, and in retrospect the pacing of the book is almost well suited for screenwriting. This may be due to Martin's previous work as a tv writer, especially for that mid-80?s revival of The Twilight Zone. In the outset, the show appears to concentrate on Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Early on in the series, he's tapped by his old friend Robert Baratheon, that has become King from the Seven Kingdoms, to help him rule as the king's top advisor, the Hand. Over the course of 10 episodes we're brought to a myriad of nobles, charlatans, rogues and scoundrels, but at the close of season one it's apparent that the only real stars from the show are intrigue, the machinations of the court, and also the things individuals will do while chasing power. Obviously while people play their game, the cisco kid of a larger threat looms. Winter is coming.
It's hard to deny the show is outstanding, as evidenced by the aforementioned Emmy and Golden Globe wins in Outstanding Drama Series and Best Television Series-Drama respectively. The casting is great, and includes Peter Dinklage, who also won an Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and Sean Bean as Eddard 'Ned' Stark. Bean is most likely most widely known for his portrayal of Boromir in Peter Jackson's Lord from the Rings trilogy (Amazed on that one, if you're keeping track).
The cinematography is great as well, and adds a visible element somewhat without the books. Martin's writing is focused totally on the characters, and flowery descriptions from the environments are few and far between. Largely shot in Northern Ireland and Malta, the sets and supporting shots are beautiful, and bring alive the keeps and castles in a way that Martin himself doesn't.
Although jokingly described as "The Sopranos in Middle-earth" by series co-creator David Benioff, the outline is quite apt. Like Tolkien's trilogy, Game of Thrones would need to be considered "high fantasy" because of the presence of creatures of myth and mystical/magical elements. However these things play more without anyone's knowledge of Martin's books, as well as the show, with Bet on Thrones leaning more for the Dark ages than Middle-earth. The Sopranos comparison is a touch more apt. Like it, and lots of other HBO shows, Game of Thrones is decidedly adult. Nudity and gratuitous violence abound throughout the series, and therefore are the only real source of complaint voiced by critics from the show. However, if you're looking for a reveal that has all the backstabbing and violence from the Sopranos, all of the sex of Californication, and as many people covered in dirt as Deadwood, you'll want to come down to Slackers and order the first season of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray or DVD today. Even if you're not searching for a new show to look at, you'll still have to check this one out. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, however it is really as good as the book.