Tolkien with Tits

I know I’m late for the party, but I’ve got an excuse.

I’ve been aware of the phenomenal success of George R.R. Martin’s books, but haven’t got round to reading any of them. So many books, so little time! Neither had we watched the TV adaptations, largely due to not having a Sky subscription. (Other pay-to-view networks are available.) But I was tempted by a super-cheap offer on a boxset of Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, so we settled down to watch it.

We were both impressed by the variety and depth of characters, the broad sweep of the intertwining plot threads and the sheer imagination that went into its creation. This is fantasy on a grand scale. But it’s still fantasy – and we all know that doesn’t sell unless it’s a well-established brand like Tolkien or Dr Who. Fantasy is for kids – so how has Game of Thrones become so popular with grown-ups?

In a word – sex. I don’t know how much is in the books, but the programmes are liberally strewn with naked boobs, buttocks and, um, bits. Then there’s the incest and other unsavoury practices. Is this what it takes to sell fantasy to a 21st Century audience? Do adults only tolerate fantasy if it has adult content?

Hubby and I discussed the nudity factor of the programmes. He suggested a lot of it wasn’t gratuitous because the sex was relevant to the plot – which I agree, it is. But if that’s the case, why so much more female nudity than male? I reckon there must be a dozen naked boobs for every shirtless chest seen onscreen. I have no doubt the skin on show is meant to appeal to the male audience. I don’t have a problem with this, I just like to be clear about it.

Having said all that, I enjoyed these series more than most drama broadcast on telly this year. It’s grown-up fantasy with all the ingredients of good TV storytelling. The top-flight cast sparkles, from known actors like Sean Bean, Aiden Gillen and Charles Dance to relative newcomers like Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke. It’s clear where the huge budget has been spent – on costumes, special effects and locations, as well as the cast; but there’s also some wonderfully written script and very black humour. If you’re not put off by the flesh and the strong language, then it’s entertaining, multi-layered entertainment. Characters to love and hate, scenery that makes me want to move to Northern Ireland and genuinely unexpected twists.

I might even get around to buying the books.

Review: The Hunger Games DVD

I loved this book when it came out, although the sequels weren’t as good. So I was looking forward to the film, but didn’t get chance to see it at the cinema.

The best bits of the film are the elements from the book – the basic premise, the characters and the plot. Special effects are nicely unobtrusive, serving to advance the story rather than take over. For once, the plot has been trimmed sensitively to fit the film, although a lot of the nuances would be hard to understand if you hadn’t read the book or at least heard more about the setting beforehand.

The violence from the book had been sanitised to make it more acceptable to a squeamish 21st-Century audience. There wasn’t enough dirt and squalor in District 12 for my mind, either.

Casting was largely good. Katniss looks too old, which I’d expected as it would be hard to find a sixteen year-old who could carry this part. Haymitch looks too young – although Woody Harrelson is the right age group and plays him fairly well. (Too trim and I wasn’t convinced by his alcoholism.) Donald Sutherland is perfect as President Snow and I look forward to seeing more of him in the next two films.

Overall, a good film.

Personal Score: 4 stars