A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 570 – Going Postal

Going Postal – September 21st, 2011

After watching the television adaptations of both Hogfather and The Colour of Magic, Andy and I were excited to find out that an adaptation of Going Postal was in the works. I do have to wonder what the thought process has been when choosing which of Pratchett’s many Discworld books to make into movies. I mean, I can’t imagine that it’s a matter of an effects budget, since Hogfather has a number of effects needed. And it isn’t that any one particular sub-group from Discworld is being followed. Hogfather is a Death book and The Colour of Magic is Rincewind. Going Postal is one of a number that focus on Lord Vetinari and the goings on in the city of Ankh Morpork, but not necessarily on Commander Vimes and the Night Watch, since they have their own set of stories. And aside from The Colour of Magic being the start of the entire series, these other ones aren’t so much. So how did they get chosen? No idea.

Not that I have anything against Going Postal! I really quite like it. But it does have a whole hell of a lot of characters who are introduced in other books. Here they’re just… there. Already. Unintroduced. I suppose it doesn’t much matter. I can’t imagine that these adaptations are really being aimed at the uninitiated who’ve never read any Discworld books. I suspect we’re expected to know who Chancellor Ridcully is and why there’s a vampire doing photography for the local paper. We’re supposed to know that the blond city watch officer who growls at our lead character is a werewolf. We’re supposed to know how Ankh Morpork works. I suppose this does make for a good stand-alone-ish adaptation, since the main characters and plot aren’t directly dependent on knowing all the rest of the canon. In that light, I’d love to see Pratchett’s Small Gods done, but only if it’s done extremely well.

Anyhow, we join the story at its beginning, meeting main character Moist von Lipwig and learning a little bit about how he’s a con man and good at it until it catches up to him and he finds himself being hanged for his crimes. The thing is, Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh Morpork, is a clever man. And he wants a new Postmaster to get the post office back in shape. How better to do that than hand it over to a man used to getting money out of people for very little in return? He puts Moist in charge and sets a guard on him (a golem in this case, which makes it difficult for Moist to slip away) and then it’s up to Moist to figure out how to do it. What Moist does is introduce stamps. And in the book I remember this being a fantastic part of the story. I remember it being a fairly large part too, figuring in throughout the book. Maybe I’m misremembering it. Maybe I inflated it because it tickled me so much. But in the movie it comes up, and then the perforated edges show up, and then… It’s not so big a deal for the rest of the story.

Sadly, it’s been a while since I read the book. Long enough that I’m not entirely certain what’s been changed and how. Oh, I know things have been changed, but the specifics are a little lost to me. The overall plot, with Moist and the post office and the Clacks (a sort of semaphore tower system that Pratchett has described as the internet if the world didn’t have computers or electricity) and all that? Yes. That is the plot. Moist is charged with reopening the post office to compete with the Clacks because the Clacks monopoly on communication has allowed it to take a dive in terms of quality and service. So, it needs competition and the post office is it. It’s the details I’m not entirely sure of. I remember Adora Belle, whose father was involved in the creation of the Clacks system. I remember Stanley the post office assistant and his pin collection (he soon turns his focus towards stamps – once they exist, that is). I remember the mail becoming alive. I remember the gold hat and suit Moist ends up wearing. And like I said, I remember the stamps. But I’m sure there are changes.

I’m going to have to reread the book to pinpoint the big differences, let alone the little ones. Overall, however, I didn’t think the plot suffered from anything that was altered. I could wish for more stamps and more post office weirdness, but the story of Moist rebuilding the post office and creating interest in it and making it a viable alternative to the Clacks? Yeah, that worked for me. I do have to admit, I’m not entirely sold on the Moist and Adora romance plot, but I don’t recall being terribly fond of it in the book either. Both characters? Yes, I like both characters. I just don’t really care if they get together. What did occur to me as the movie went on was that it was a bunch of little episodes in the development of the post office under Moist’s leadership and the storyline meandered a bit. But to be honest? I don’t really mind.

I get the impression from poking around online that I am going to be somewhat lonely in this opinion, but I absolutely loved the casting for this adaptation. I realize that Vetinari’s accepted look is less ginger, but Charles Dance had the perfect delivery for him. I did enjoy seeing David Suchet as the villain of the story, Reacher Gilt. Ian Bonar was wonderful as Stanley and I did quite like Claire Foy as Adora. And then there’s Richard Coyle as Moist. Maybe it’s that I’m biased towards him, having loved him in Coupling, but I really did enjoy watching him in the lead here. I’m sure other people have other opinions, but none of the casting really bothered me in the least.

The biggest issue for me here is that there’s a lack of a certain Discworldish flavor in the movie. Certainly, the creation of the stamps and the Clacks hackers and Lord Vetinari are as Discworldish as I could want. But the thing I love about the books is that they’re absolutely chock full of reminders that this world has much of what our world has or had, but done their way. The “computer” at the Unseen University (full of wizards), for example, with its parts powered by ants and label reading “Ant hill inside”? That’s a classic piece of Discworld humor and worldbuilding. And I don’t really know that this movie showcased what makes Discworld what it is. Fun as it was, it was lacking a certain something that makes Discworld special. And that’s a shame, because otherwise I really very much enjoyed it.

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September 21, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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