A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , ,

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