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Making the GAME OF THRONES ‘Hardhome’ Massacre

The Game of Thrones YouTube channel gave us a real treat with this breakdown of what is probably one of the most epic scenes in the show’s history (take THAT Battle of the Blackwater). What makes it especially unique is that this was new for everyone as the events of the battle were only alluded at in the books – and from now on, the series will be ahead of the books – so everyone came into this scene with fresh eyes.

I think we’d all agree that the final scene of “Hardhome” was less a battle between the living and dead and more an opportunity for the Night’s King to stretch his frosty muscles and show off just how badass he is and his dead-raising capabilities. The combined forces of the free folk of the village of Hardhome and Jon Snow’s Night’s Watch didn’t stand a chance against the Night’s King and his army of the dead. Despite Snow’s defeat of White Walker Iggy Pop (Ha! Iggy Popsicle! I’ll likely be fired for that. I regret nothing!) thanks entirely to the Valyrian steel composition of his sword Longclaw, he and his allies were beaten back with relative ease. When your army doesn’t seem to mind the pain — or lack thereof — of falling off a mountain, there’s little one can do in a fight at that point. This week’s Dan Cave goes into depth about The Night’s King if you’re hankering for more info on our favorite new GOT baddie.

What made this scene work was the suspense it was able to build — mostly due to the director of the episode Miguel Sapochnik‘s choice to reign in the scope of the action and focus in on a few key moments, leaving much of the horror of the monsters themselves — at least to begin with — up to our imagination. A great suspense tactic because everyone’s inner White Walker is worse than anything someone could create for us. Seeing the very practically built palisade bulge and breath with the onslaught of horror behind it makes for more intensity than any CGI monster.

Speaking of the CGI in this scene, turns out there wasn’t much. The scene featured 220 extras, some in various stages of zomb– errr… Wight-ification. The levels of which are described as super-fresh, mid-decomps, green-screen wights. Sure the big, sweeping shots that showed the approaching hoards and storm used CGI, and The Night’s King wouldn’t look as awesome without the electric blue skin and eyes, but practical effects will — for the most part — always win out over CGI. Not only can we usually spot when it’s being used, but the acting against something real often evokes a more emotional performance. It’s why CGI-heavy movies often feel a bit goofy: it’s because we know they were made in a soundstage with a lot of green screen. Jon Snow running into a real burning yurt — it’s a yurt, right? — feels real because it is real. This scene works so well and will be one we consistently remember because of the effort put into that make it more practical and therefore, more personal.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong and we should just Hobbit and Jupiter Ascending the crap out of everything

What are your thoughts on “Hardhome” and how they built the sequence? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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