A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 309 – The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic – January 3rd, 2011

After watching Hogfather the other night we went looking to see whether it might be worth buying this. After all, we did greatly enjoy Hogfather and this has the same director, Vadim Jean, who also worked on the theatrical adaptations of Pratchett’s novels. So we bought it and it arrived today and Andy very much wanted to watch it, so here we are. It’s actually a movie adaptation of the first two Discworld novels, The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, with the stories being melded together. It makes for a rather long movie, over three hours, but given that it involves the same two protagonists it works okay.

I will admit here that it has been well over ten years since I last read either of the books this is based on. Andy loaned them to me early on in our relationship, possibly even before we’d officially started dating. We traded a lot of books and movies back when we first met, sussing each other out for geeky tendencies and interests. I hadn’t read any Discworld yet at that point and so he handed over his British copy of the first book (you can tell because it’s The Colour of Magic) and I loved it. Alas, since my reading habits tend towards the voracious, sometimes old favorites are merely treasured, not re-read over and over. And I remember very little in the way of specifics. Maybe this is a good thing, as it means I’m not liable to get upset over plot changes. And I’m sure there were some! That’s how these things go, especially with two books being stuck together like this. I just don’t really recall enough to nitpick at it all.

While I’m being honest, I might as well say I’m actually not terribly into reviewing this movie. It was fun and all, and it had some flaws, but I was neither thrilled nor horrified by it. I liked it fine and I’m not in a frothy fangirl rage over characters not fitting my exact mental images of them or anything. I’m just not bursting to effuse about it either. I’m finding it difficult to muster up enough to put a review together, though that might be due to the 3+ hour running time. Still, I feel I should say something, as I did enjoy it and silence might imply that I didn’t.

First of all, I have absolutely no complaints about the two protagonists. Rincewind as portrayed by David Jason isn’t exactly what I envisioned (I always pictured him as a bit of a beanpole though I couldn’t tell you if that’s canon or not off the top of my head), but his actual acting in the role is fun. He’s a thoroughly reluctant main character and Jason does a swell job with him. I love Sean Astin and he was a ton of fun as Twoflower. He definitely had the whole enthusiastic tourist thing down and I greatly enjoyed his eternal optimism even if there were moments when I couldn’t help but think of Samwise Gamgee. And then on the other side of things there was Tim Curry as Trymon, the antagonist. I think we all know I love Tim Curry by now, and he does love to play a villain. And then in some roles with less screen time were Christopher Lee as the voice of DEATH (awesome), David Bradley as Cohen the Barbarian (super awesome and exactly like I pictured him) and Jeremy Irons as the Patrician. Now, Jeremy Irons? Is perfect as the Patrician. I adored him. He was fantastic. He was everything I wanted. And he had Wuffles.

So yes, the major characters? Well cast and well played. Unfortunately the plot felt meandering at best. I don’t remember thinking that with the books and I didn’t feel that way about Hogfather, though it was comparable in length. I think it likely stems from the melding of two books. It means that all the introduction-to-Discworld stuff has to be worked in alongside the beginnings of the big plot and Twoflower does the tourist thing and sees all sorts of places and there’s the dragons and the druids and they go over the Rim and then they get captured and it feels like it should be a lot more episodic. Instead of having been done in two 1.5+ hour long segments perhaps it should have been in smaller bites. Or done as two distinct pieces. I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want it streamlined as I think it would lose a lot of what makes it so distinctly Pratchett. But it’s just not the way I’d really like it. There’s something missing in terms of dramatic tension and plot cohesion. I had a lot of fun watching it, but something was missing. Not enough to make me dislike it, just enough to make me feel bad about not jumping for joy when there was a lot about it I loved.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Color of Magic

January 3, 2011

The Color of Magic

After watching Hogfather last week I went onto a bit of a Discworld kick. I’m re-re-reading my favorite Discworld book (The Night Watch) and I hit Amazon to get a copy of I Shall Wear Midnight. And I sent away for this as well – the followup to Hogfather – an adaptation of the first two Discworld books. It has been many, many years since I read The Colour of Magic (yes, I own a hardcover copy of the book in the proper British) and The Light Fantastic. As I watched this tonight little bits and pieces of the books kept floating to the surface, and most of the important bits that I do remember were faithfully re-created here for the screen, but these books are a little odd when taken as part of the greater Discworld universe. They’re really more proto-Discworld books than full Discworld. Terry Pratchett had invented the physical shape of the world in his mind and hashed out some of the rules, but it wasn’t quite populated yet. The better Discworld books hold up a sort of warped mirror to our own world and teach us something about ourselves and how we think and what (and why) we believe. These early books were more clearly spoofs of established fantasy archetypes. They still had the wry humor, but they didn’t have the power of later books.

Still, you have to start someplace – and one of my only complaints about Hogfather was that people unfamiliar with the book would probably be quite lost because some of the characters (particularly Susan) were not introduced at all and kind of assumed a familiarity ahead of time. Since this made for TV adaptation starts right at the very beginning of the series this is an ideal way to be introduced to the world and the characters.

Rincewind is the worst wizard on the Discworld. Twoflower is the first tourist to visit the glorious twin cities of proud Ankh and pestilent Morpork. Together the two of them are destined for trouble. It’s a great dynamic of course since Rincewind is an utter coward and wants only to flee from trouble, while Twoflower is the boy who doesn’t know fear and when confronted with certain death is likely to stop and take a pictograph. Together the two of them spend the entire movie going from one perilous scrape to another, with the fate of the entire Discworld resting on them because of a powerful but mysterious spell which has taken up residence in Rincewind’s head.

I will admit that when I first had a look at previews for this movie I was not immediately taken with the casting. It’s one of those situations where what you picture in your head doesn’t at all match what is on the screen. But as the movie progressed I came to quite enjoy the job that the actors did bringing these classic characters to life. David Jason as Rincewind is hilarious. Once I got used to him not sounding like Eric Idle (who played Rincewind in a pair of impossibly frustrating Discworld point-and-click adventure games) I really came to love the blend of world-weary-pragmatism and utter cowardice that Jason gave to the part. Sean Astin is the perfect Twoflower really. He just captures that wide-eyed wonder and obliviousness to all danger so well. Tim Curry’s hammy manic energy is wonderfully suited for the role of the nasty villain Trymon. (Really, I’d watch anything with Tim Curry in it. Have I mentioned that we own a copy of the Worst Witch? On both VHS and DVD?) The real stand-out performance for me though, and the character that most perfectly matched my vision of him from the books, is David Bradley as Cohen the Barbarian. Not only does he steal every scene he’s in, but it’s as if a character from the books just walked onto the set – he’s absolutely perfect!

I really enjoyed making another trip to the Discworld tonight. Oh, the movie isn’t perfect (for example the heavy reverb they use on Christopher Lee as Death made it very hard to understand many of his lines) but it’s still filled with moments I loved. It was great sitting here in anticipation of some bit I remembered well from the books (such as the heroics of the Luggage) and then seeing it in the screen. It gave me a thrill every time. Now I’m really looking forward to seeing how the adaptation of Going Postal is.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment