Game, Box-Set & Match
As ‘Game of Thrones’ shifted from a smutty sub-‘Lord Of The Rings’ knock-off into a nuanced and sweeping epic with moments that outdid anything you can see on film right now, the cry of ‘Just one more!’ could be heard across the land. How did this immensely complicated niche-market show become the most watched series of all time?
It was written with a beginning, middle and end by a single writer.
George RR Martin first came onto my radar when I reviewed ‘Fevre Dream’, his excellent novel of Mississippi riverboat gambling vampires. Sure, he’s a pulp writer, but there’s no disgrace in a story well told. Sword ‘N’ Sorcery was never my cup of tea, but when the series passed the novels the show writers were able to follow Martin’s storylines without being locked into the dialogue, and the writing quality soared. This happened most noticeably in Series 4.
When the White Walkers attacked the Wildlings I wished Ray Harryhausen could have seen the scene – it was what he’d been seeking to achieve all his life. What’s interesting is that film is now desperately attempting to play catch-up, with appalling nonsense like ‘Gods of Egypt’. TV finally has the upper hand.
Friends at Paramount and Fox tell me that they’re marooned between reboots, sequels, prequels and brands. In the terrific ‘Sleepless In Hollywood’ Linda Obst points out that Hollywood is not making anything new – ie. the audience must already be familiar with some element of the film. Which is why we’re getting yet another remake of Tarzan. Disney is remaking its cartoons as live-action features because they have copyright on those, but can only use existing elements, so the upcoming live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will be like ‘The Jungle Book’, a CGI carbon of the old cartoon version – and so we move ever further away from the source, as the appalling ‘Alice in Wonderland’ films have done.
Meanwhile, box sets are happy to explore unchartered territory – although worryingly the next highly touted HBO series is based on an old movie – ‘Westworld’, in which robots go wrong.
For now, though, box sets are like those gigantic movies from the sixties, big, brash and a bit bum-numbing, while Hollywood films have set their sights on overseas markets, undemanding children and people who can tolerate Adam Sandler.
Perhaps some film exec in Hollywood will read a book again and discover why stories work when they’re untampered with. Who knows what wonders they’ll discover?