First up was the advance screening at Harper Collins of episodes 1 & 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is going to be unleashed on the real world of cable TV watchers on Sunday night.
Let me say from the outset that this ticks all the boxes. It has stunning visuals, lots of snow and wolves, gorgeous fur coats that never seem to get muddy, spooky armour and (according to my teen son, particularly innovative shields), a Draco Malfoy equivalent platinum blonde bad boy, a feisty sword wielding little girl, a brooding unproven bastard son, pouty lipped women, muscly men (who are frighteningly unimaginative when it comes to sexual positions), complicated relationships between rival houses of power, scary dark skinned warriors from ‘across the narrow seas’ and a so-far-unseen unspeakable evil beyond the wall in the wintery wastelands of the north. Oh, and we get to see Boromir again – I mean, Sean Bean, looking suitably older and craggier since his last incantation in Lord of the Rings. Clearly Game of Thrones has all the elements and it is going to be big, big, big, just as it was in the UK and the US.
As I say, epic stuff. Inevitably however, it did leave me with a taste for the real thing, and by that I mean, the books. As big as the screen version may be, it has come to us via the creative mind of the author, George RR Martin, and it is his books, which culminated yesterday in the release of the tome A Dance with Dragons, which are the stuff of legends. The books, and there are now five of them in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, are grand epic fantasy of the tense, surging, insomnia-inflicting kind. Colossal, intoxicating complexity, staggering – all those words and more. See the HBO series definitely but I defy you to read the first book, Game of Thrones, and not come back for more.
Game of Thrones was first published in 1996. Six months later another fantasy novel snuck onto the shelves, although this one was aimed at an altogether younger audience. Seven books, and now eight movies later, JK Rowling’s (what is it about fantasy authors and initials?) Harry Potter juggernaut has blitzed all records. Last night was the midnight screening of the final, final movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
HP has made a big impact in my house. My kids have grown up with Harry. They read all the books on release day (well, from book 3 on release day). The books remain their go-to comfort books – when all else in life fails, re-read Harry Potter. They have gone to all the movies, dressed in character, on opening day. The fact that my daughter can dress as Mrs Weasley from pieces entirely sourced from my own wardrobe is sadly true.
As for last night’s movie, the reports back at around 3am this morning were of laughing, crying and a very very satisfying conclusion and, and … it is never quite the same as the book. The movie is to the book is what fast food is to fine dining. If you want the complexity, the humour, the irony, the cruelty, the ends all tied up, the references – in other words, if you want the real thing – you have got to read the book.
Want to test out the theory? I have a stack of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to sell at rrp of $22.99, each of which comes with a free movie pass. Yep, the book plus a movie pass for 23 bucks. Go ahead and indulge but you better be quick. This one is not going to last.