Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Cultural Reading: George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons

The last book I purchased on the day of its release was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, fitting given Friday’s release of the final installment of the film adaptations of that series.

I remember going to my local grocery store early in the morning and picking up a copy, and then returning home to do nothing but read for the remainder of the day. I finished that book in just eight hours of reading, writing a live blog and a full review by the time the day was done.

That did not happen with George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Yes, I went out to get the book early in the morning, and I returned home and spent most of the day reading. However, this is not a book that can be consumed properly in a single day (at least for me), and it’s also something that I feel less comfortable evaluating as I read along. A few people have tweeted asking me for my opinion, but this particular book sort of confounds our traditional evaluation methods for literature.

This is mainly because the book is functioning as a chronological sequel to one book and a narrative sequel to another: despite coming after A Feast for Crows, it is picking up from A Storm of Swords. While I reread the end of A Storm of Swords to refresh myself on where we last left these narratives, there are nonetheless parts of A Dance with Dragons that pick up on story threads that were vaguely referenced in A Feast for Crows, which draws attention to the parallel narratives unfolding.

I don’t raise these as flaws so much as complications, especially to trying to offer initial impressions. While I am certainly enjoying the book, I sort of hesitate to make any broader statements given the myriad of variables within the current narrative structure. However, since many of you have asked for some thoughts on the novel and because shutting off my critical instincts for an entire 1100-page tome is nigh impossible, I plan on dropping in with some daily thoughts on my progress. Nothing evaluative, and nothing too complicated, but just a dialogue.

One ground rule, though: do not, under any circumstance, discuss or even gesture towards things I have not yet read. I’m going to include the page number that I am on, and I don’t want any details or even vague references to future events. I don’t even want “Oh, just you wait” style comments. I realize this could limit discussion, but I want to try to remain spoiler-free for the book, and I currently know extremely little about where the story is heading (or, rather, I know only what the book has led me to believe).

[Note: Spoilers for A Dance with Dragons, up to page 306, after the jump.]

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A Final Forecast: Five Stories to Watch in the 2011 Emmy Nominations

5 Stories to Watch in the 2011 Emmy Nominations

July 12th, 2011

After numerous failed attempts at writing about why I was struggling to write about the Emmy Awards, which will go down as a meta fail of epic proportions, I’ve decided just to write about the Emmy Awards now that we’re only two days away from the nominations.

These are the five stories that I’m most interested in heading into the awards, the situations that have the most potential to surprise, infuriate, or otherwise stir emotion within my person. They are not predictions so much as they are a forecast, one that I sort of hope will get to my ambivalence towards this year’s awards in the process (although that might send me back into the spiral that I’ve found myself in for the past few weeks all over again).

1. Playing the Game of Thrones

While I think that Game of Thrones is worthy of Emmy consideration, I don’t know if I’m actively rooting for it over other competitors: while it has some strong acting contenders, and will definitely compete in the craft categories, I think there is tough competition in the drama field in terms of both acting and in terms of series.

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Now What?: Advance Screeners in the Digital Age

Advance Screeners in the Digital Age

March 31st, 2011

It is hardly a secret that television critics often receive advance screeners of popular television programs: after all, the role of the traditional critic has been to produce pre-air reviews of programs, which would necessitate seeing the program in question before publication.

However, we live in an era where the awareness of screeners is cultivated through more than simple logic: through Twitter, engaged users know when networks are sending out particular programs, as journalists/critics/bloggers often tweet when a screener package arrives (sometimes even taking pictures if the packaging is particularly novel). It’s like a wave if you’re following enough of these professionals, as various unboxing tweets fill our feeds.

In the interest of full disclosure, although this won’t be a surprise to those who follow me on Twitter, I’ve had my fair share of screeners this year; currently, for example, I have received considerable chunks of new series from Showtime and HBO, including United States of Tara and Game of Thrones. I point this out not to brag, although that seems like an inevitable byproduct of this discussion. Rather, I share in order to express my central dilemma, which is quite simple:

What, precisely, am I supposed to do with them?

And I figured I would turn the question over to you.

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The Atemporality of The Pillars of the Earth and its Impact on Game of Thrones

The Atemporality of The Pillars of the Earth and its Impact on Game of Thrones

July 23rd, 2010

I have never read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, but I have a feeling that it would be a very different experience than this Miniseries.

I don’t necessarily mean that as a slight, even if it may read as one for fans of the book: I can’t know whether or not the miniseries, co-developed by Canada’s The Movie Network and American cable’s Starz, bastardizes Follett’s epic tome, but I do know that the story has been given a linear form which I can’t imagine exists in the original novel. Of course, considering the talent in front of the camera – with Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Matthew MacFayden, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Pill, Donald Sutherland and Gordon Pinsent in prominent roles – the miniseries is watchable, and has moments which hint to a greater depth which the series’ pace simply can’t indulge as often as one might like, but in the end one can’t help but feel that this is a miniseries produced by individuals who have too little faith in television as a medium for telling complex stories, choosing to boil down a narrative which would have likely been more engaging had it been left in its original form.

I think this is partially the result of the limitations (or the supposed limitations) of a plot-driven miniseries like this one, but it raises concerns about another upcoming adaptation, HBO’s Game of Thrones, which on paper would face similar problems. That being said, I think that the approach being taken with Game of Thrones is set to face the challenges of adapting this material, while I feel like Pillars of Earth cuts its losses at an early stage and fails to take off as a result.

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Doctor Who – “Victory of the Daleks”

“Victory of the Daleks”

April 17th, 2010

On the one hand, writing this review seems a little silly: I know very little about the Daleks beyond their general appearance and their robotic cadence, so I can’t really tell you how “Victory of the Daleks” works in terms of returning the alien race to the world of Doctor Who. However, on the other hand, the whole point of this episode is a sort of rebirth, a Dalek renaissance designed to reassert the function of this particular arch-nemesis, so while I cannot judge the story for continuity I can judge how well the episode sets up the Daleks for their likely return in subsequent episodes.

“Victory for the Daleks” replaces last week’s futuristic setting with an historical glimpse into the London Blitz, and does not really switch up much else: the formulaic structure of the series is readily clear but also fairly effective, managing to continue to throw in some small characters beats and some fun standalone elements within an episode which primarily continues the series mythology.

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The Malorian Enigma: Starz’s Camelot and the Misguided Adaptation

Earlier today, Starz announced their plans for Camelot, a ten-part series that offers a new version of the Arthurian Legend. As someone who studied a great deal of medieval literature in my undergraduate career, even writing my honours thesis on the relationship between the medieval romance (Malory’s Le Morte Darthur) and science fiction (in the form of Battlestar Galactica), this is intriguing to me. I am always happy to see my academic interests crossing into my critical pursuits, and so I am very much looking forward to seeing how Camelot comes together.

However, I first heard this news through Twitter, where the gist was “modern retelling of Arthurian legend” without any further details – Twitter is wonderful, but it’s also vague, so I sought out the press release to get more information. However, when I was reading that press release, a few alarms went off in my head which I feel need to be addressed. First and foremost, Starz claims that this will offer “a wholly original approach to the timeless Arthurian legend,” which is the sort of statement that makes me raise an eyebrow. Shortly after, I discovered the passage that truly makes me apprehensive about this series:

“Camelot” will be based on Thomas Malory’s 15th century book,” Le Morte d’Arthur” – still considered the definitive work on the subject. But that’s only a starting point; “Camelot” will weave authenticity into a modern telling of the Arthur legends that is relatable to contemporary audiences.

What’s funny is that, based on the way this information is being reported, I had presumed that this would be a “contemporization” of the Arthurian Legend, placing it within a 21st century setting similar to how NBC’s Kings transplanted biblical stories into more contemporary political and social structures. However, based on this claim from the press release and the fact that the series will shoot in Ireland, it seems as if the “modern telling” and “contemporary audiences” points refer to the story rather than the setting, which is actually far more problematic for me.

A few years ago, I wrote a paper for a seminar on the Arthurian legend where I investigated the reasons that the most defining qualities of Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (there’s all sorts of disagreement on the spelling, so I just stick with what I know) have never appeared in adaptations of the text. For those who don’t know, Malory’s text is a sprawling tome which has no clear central narrative, which is why no one is crazy enough to try to adapt the book “as is.” However, while some films have claimed to use the text as a source, they do so in a highly selective fashion: rather than trying to capture the essence of the text, which focuses on chivalry and honour within the context of Arthur’s kingdom, they tend to take plot elements and characters and craft a more linear and more “modern” story of love and loss. The paper was fairly short, and unable to cover the breadth of the subject of Arthurian adaptations, but I’ll post it after the jump anyways in case anyone is really interested in the subject at hand.

However, I think Camelot represents the perfect example of the way in which Malory is used within adaptations of the Arthurian legend. They evoke the name because it is, in fact, still considered the definitive work on the subject, which offers the adaptation a certain degree of legitimacy. The problem is that they admit that Malory is just a starting point in the same sentence, and then go on to pretty much state that they are only using Malory for the strands of “authenticity” that they will work into a “modern” and “relatable” tale of, most likely, melodramatic investigations of adultery and heroism, a reductive translation of Malory’s story.

Television as a medium is more capable than film of capturing the qualities which make the Morte a fascinating text, capable of giving attention to the substantial range of characters and even potentially being able to bring stories considered tangential to the “main narrative” to life in ways which are impossible in the more linear model of feature filmmaking. I think if someone really sat down and decided to tackle Malory’s text as a serialized, non-linear narrative, there is the potential for a sprawling and epic investigation of the value of chivalry, honour, kinship and morality within a complex series of events which challenge those values.

However, while HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s somewhat-medieval fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones, seems driven by writers focusing on the televisual qualities of the text at hand, it seems like Camelot is being conceived in a way which suggests that there is something about Malory’s text which is emphatically not modern, and which is entirely unrelatable to audiences. As such, it isn’t really an adaptation of Malory at all, but rather an interpretation of Malory’s basic plot – likely focused on the love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot and Guenevere – within a modern context (probably similar to The Tudors, as the projects share some producers).

What emerges may well be an entertaining television series, but I can’t help but feel that it will be missing the point: if you’re going to bring the Arthurian Legend to life in our modern television era, and if you’re going to claim Malory as a source, this is a fantastic opportunity to tackle the elements of the text which made it definitive and have largely been lost in subsequent reimaginings. Instead, their goal seems to be the same old attempt to make something old hip and relevant by ignoring what made it so interesting at the time and instead looking at what is popular or trendy within popular culture – I’d be glad to be proven wrong, but somehow I think that I’m still going to be waiting for the Malorian adaptation that is truly possible in this day and age.

After the jump, my paper entitled “Attempted Screenplay: The Honour of Le Morte Darthur and the Failure of Film Adaptations,” if you want to read more about the unique qualities of Malory’s text that present a challenge to would-be adaptations.

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