Aug 22 2011

Camelot v. Game of Thrones

I love King Arthur.  In fact, I love King Arthur so much, that when one of my critique partners and I agreed to get tattoos when we found literary agents, I already knew what tattoo I would get.

King Arthur's burial cross. The inscription reads "Here lies interred on the Isle of Avalon the renowned King Arthur."

So when Starz debuted Camelot, I was really excited.  Number one, I already liked Jamie Campbell Bower for being a mischievous incarnation of Gellert Grindelwald (Dumbledore’s ex-boyfriend and erstwhile wand-thief.)  Number two, Camelot promised to capitalize on the actual, gritty history of Arthur and Dark Ages Britain, something that other retellings had either ignored (Merlin, which I LOVE, so I’m not bagging on, but they clearly went the anachronistic fantasy route, and Clive Owen’s King Arthur, which came close but missed the mark.  [Sorry, Jerry Bruckheimer, but Arthur Castus lived in the second century, not the fifth.])

But despite the potential, and despite the fact that the actor playing Kay is seriously good looking, I’m not hooked.  It’s not the melodrama that bothers me–obviously, I adore Merlin and it’s all about camp–and it’s not the sex or violence, though I feel like both are deployed a mite gratuitously.  It’s something about the production quality, which feels a little less painstaking than that of Game of Thrones.  It’s something about the acting, which feels forced and overdone at times.

I am going to hiss dramatically at you.

It’s something about the fact that so far, none of the characters have any of the audience’s sympathy.  Arthur I’ll allow some leeway because the show will probably showcase his maturation as a central arc.  But Merlin is inscrutable and without humanity; Morgan is frustrated and isolated but so ambitious that it’s impossible to feel sorry for her; and Guinivere’s most memorable attributes are her…well, let’s just say that they are very perky attributes.

Game of Thrones, on the other hand, takes its careful time making sure you care about each character and understanding their motivation.  The acting is effortless and sincere–Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey stand out as the most brilliant here, but all the actors, even the children, are wonderful.  The set design, the costumes and the CGI elements all blend together without a flaw.  To me, some of the Camelot costumes look a little…Hot Topic-y, especially Morgan’s, but somehow Game of Thrones pulls off the Kingslayer’s golden armor and a skinny blond girl in leather chaps.  It’s all in the execution.

Man, my sister is so hot.

And speaking of execution, Game of Thrones has Sean Bean.

Sean Bean.

That's right, I was Lovelace, Sharpe AND Boromir.

So even though both are gritty medieval epics with lots of blood, mud and sex, Game of Thrones is the clear winner to me.  It breaks my heart because I love Arthurian legend so much, but I have to be honest.  I’ll still watch Camelot, but I’m not going out of my way to recommend it to other people or lead a Joseph Fiennes Emmy campaign.

Plus, I’ll always have Merlin.

Dreamy sigh. Oh muscley Arthur.