Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Video review: "Game of Thrones: Season 2"


When it comes to cinematic adaptations of monstrously huge fantasy literary franchises like “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings,” there are two schools of thought. On the one hand are people who think they run too long and are self-indulgent -- the sort of folks who joke about “LOTR” having five endings.

Then there are those like myself who love to see every subplot and nuance of our beloved books captured onscreen with a slavish devotion to detail. For those, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is the nirvana of sword & sorcery fealty.

HBO is taking each book of George R.R. Martin’s series, “A Song of Fire and Ice,” and turning it into an entire season of shows. Ten hours may seem like a lot of screen time, but brevity is not in Martin’s wheelhouse -- the books average around 1,000 pages apiece.

(In fact, the especially plot-heavy third book is going to be split up into two seasons, starting with Season 3 debuting in March.)

Season 2 saw a considerable ramping up in the world war overtaking the land of Westeros, as the death of King Robert Baratheon left the succession to the throne in dispute. Space and the enormity of the narrative prohibits describing it in its entirety. Suffice to say it comes down to the competing claims of three clans: the rich and power-hungry Lannisters, the gruff but noble Stark northmen and the Baratheon brothers.

Characters slide into the foreground and then recede with the ebb and flow of the plot. The key figures in season 2 are Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the brilliantly devious dwarf whose loyalty to his clan goes unappreciated; Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), widow of murdered Ned and mother of rebel leader Robb; Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), scion of a deposed monarchy who bides her time across the sea gathering power, including three dragon hatchlings; and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), a young Stark bastard who finds purpose battling an ancient evil in the northern hinterlands as part of the Night’s Watch.

The show does deviate from the book in ways both big and small, such as Robb Stark’s speedy romance and marriage. But the story takes on a grandiose, epic feel as it builds toward the huge battle of Blackwater.

For true fantasy fans, “Game of Thrones” is a must-see.

It is being released with a host of video extras, including 12 commentary tracks, character profiles, interviews with cast and crew, making-of featurettes and more on the DVD. The Blu-ray edition adds animated histories of Martin’s world, an in-episode guide, hidden “dragon eggs” and more.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 4 stars


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