on 5 November 2008
Rincewind the wizard was never my favorite Terry Pratchett character, but I have to say they did a fine job turning this book into a three-hour film. (Or two TV episodes, whatever.) It had a good cast, including Jeremy Irons and the toothsome newcomer Laura Haddock, who did a fine job in the role as octogenarian Cohen The Barbarian's fair maiden.
Most of all, the dragons, buildings, and space turtles were detailed and beautiful to behold, created on a budget which would have lasted a Hollywood studio through lunch time. We are clearly out of the age where a TV production would have inferior graphics.
I'm hoping they will continue to make films from Pratchett's books, there's a wealth of humor, great stories and outlandish ideas to explore.
A live-action Terry Pratchett movie is either doomed to fail in every way, or succeed in practically everything.
And "The Colour of Magic," adapted from the first two novels in Pratchett's brilliant Discworld series, is more the former than the latter. This one is no "Hogather" -- it has rather slack direction at times -- but it preserves Pratchett's wry satirical sense of humour. And of course, it's all about a mercenary, cowardly failed wizard.
Rincewind (David Jason) is ejected from the Unseen University, on the very day that Twoflower (Sean Astin) arrives with his many-legged Luggage. He's come to the Disc... to "look at it." But after Rincewind tries to con Twoflower, the Patrician (Jeremy Irons) orders Rincewind to be the guide/bodyguard of the Disc's first ever tourist.
After a massive fire sweeps through the city, the two end up fleeing Ankh-Morpork and running into all sorts of weird things -- a very assertive magic sword, a floating island full of see-through dragons, a dramatic dragonlady in a leather bikini, astrozoologists trying to determine Great A'Tuin's gender, the aged Cohen the (retired) Barbarian, druids, and even getting thrown clear off the Disc in a strange spacecraft. And you thought YOU had problems.
Unfortunately the Unseen University is having troubles of its own -- the magical book Octavo is acting weird, and power-hungry Trymon (Tim Curry) is scheming against the Archchancellor. Even worse, a strange red star has appeared in the sky, and the world is facing destruction. The only thing that can save it is the spell in Rincewind's head.
Perhaps it's because it's based on the first, roughest Discworld books, but "Colour of Magic" is not quite as funny or tightly-written as its predecessor, "Hogather." The writing is not quite as complex or as witty, and the direction sometimes feels a bit slack (such as the bar fight scene, or Trymon skulking and schemind around the University).
But despite these drawbacks, "Colour of Magic" is still a vastly entertaining story -- it has a solid plotline and it chugs away nicely after a somewhat sluggish beginning, and blossoms into full-out complexity about halfway through. Once it gets underway it starts to resemble a road-trip through fantasy-land, with our quirky tourist and wizard bungling their way across the Disc.
Along the way there's some fun action (an upside-down duel), humorous dialogue ("You weren't born with a mysterious birthmark in the shape of a crown, were you?"), and a general air of tongue-in-cheekness. Best of all, it's a fantasy spoof -- Vadim Jean preserves Pratchett's clever satire aimed at the staples of your average fantasy: fantasy babes, prophecies, magic swords, retired barbarians, powerful artifacts, and even the idea of reality warping itself to save the "hero."
Jason is wonderfully snivelly and sour as Rincewind, a failed wizard who basically finds himself repeatedly swept up into bizarre, deadly circumstances even though he didn't want to be involved. Astin is even better as the hilariously oblivious Twoflower, who regards every disaster as yet another great adventure ("We're going to run out of world!" "I have to see that!").
And there's a talented supporting cast -- Curry chews the scenery with sneering aplomb, Karen David plays a humorously over-the-top dragon-lady, and Irons has a small but wonderful role as the chilly, efficient Vetinari. And of course, the brilliant Christopher Lee takes over as an increasingly disappointed Death.
"Colour of Magic" isn't as tightly directed as it could have been, but it still manages to be clever and quite amusing.
I sat down with a large degree of tepidation when this appeared on Sky but they cracked it, it was great and I think I know why.
I hated its forerunner "Hogfather". Hogfather had been one of my favourite books, and I could quote large sections of it, and I believe that this intimate knowledge of the book was the reason that acted version of it failed in my eyes (that and incredibly bad casting).
However, the Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic weren't anywhere near my favourite books, in fact they are the ones that I had read the least. And I think that this is the reason I enjoyed the films - because I was not as familiar with the detail of these two stories I found that I wasn't able to say, in a frustrated tone, "why did they alter that?", etc.
One problem I thought I was going to have was with the casting of David Jason (Frost,Dangermouse,Mr Toad, etc) as Rincewind. Yet Mr Jason so easily became the Rincewind that I had pictured in my mind. His depiction was, in my opinion, wonderful, and this only goes to prove that you need to cast fans of the books in important roles, or at least someone who has had the intellegence to read the relevant books before he takes to the screen. Take note Marc Warren - who after portraying Mr Teatime so badly in Hogfather film, admitted in a Sky interview that he had never read a Pratchett book, had no intention of reading one, and based the character of Mr Teatime on a completely unrelated character played by Johnny Depp in another unrelated film - rather than picking up a book and reading it to see what the character was about and creating his own characterisation. It seems that this is not uncommon with Mr Warren as he appears to base all of the characters he plays on work that others have done).
Mr Jason, according to an interview, had first suggested that Colour of Magic be made into a film 20 years ago, and admitted that he's a long standing discworld fan. His protrayal of Rincewince was book perfect for me.
The first episode was based on the book The Colour of Magic and the second on The Light Fantastic, and I have to say that I truly hope that they make more Rincewind film.
I was so ready to critise the way it was done, the acting, the choice of David Jason for Rincewind, but I can't - it was an outstanding production, a true Christmas surprise, that made me want to read the books again. Well done to all concerned, it was a pleasure to watch.
I LOVE the Disk World series and was very much looking forward to this film. It's a great adaptation of the first two books AND there's an interview with Terry at the beginning, which is almost worth the price of the dvd on its own. The man is seriously funny.
I know that Terry endorsed the choice of David Jason as Rincewind, but I'm sorry, he's just not Rincewind. He gave it his best shot, and David is a national treasure and a great actor - but he just wasn't the best man for the job in this case.
Sean Astin did his best as Twoflower, the Tourist.
The Luggage was excellent, but didn't feature as much as I would have liked.
It was great to see Tim Curry brought out of seclusion to play Trymon, the baddie and all the other wizards were suitably kooky as well.
The Librarian/Orangutan was a leetle bit artificial ... it was clearly a man in a mon (oops!) ape suit, which was rather a shame, but you can't have everything, I guess, and maybe there wasn't an orangutan available for filming.
The scenery was great, the humour was there in abundance and I highly recommend this to all Pratchett fans.
This delightful film brings to life the first two books in Terry Pratchet's massive "Discworld" series, e.g. the eponymous book (Link: The Colour of Magic (Discworld)) and "The Light Fantastic." (link: The Light Fantastic (A Discworld Novel))
For those who are not familiar with these comic fantasy books, they are set on a flat disc-shaped world which is borne on the backs of four gigantic elephants, themselves standing on the back of a gigantic turtle which is swimming through space. They feature a manic cast of wizards, assassins, barbarian heroes, witches, sentient luggage, and parody just about everything imaginable in our world.
Dspite the fact that it covers the first two books, this isn't the first film made from the Discworld stories. The 20th novel, "Hogfather" (link to book:Hogfather: A Discworld novel (Discworld Novels)), perhaps the must unusual Christmas tale ever written as it has Death as the hero and involves a plot to assassinate Discworld's equivalent of Father Christmas, was made into an excellent film a couple of years ago. (Link to film: Hogfather [DVD] ). David Jason, who plays the lead this time, was Death's butler in that film.
This time Jason plays Rincewind, an incompetent student at the "Unseen University" which teaches wizards. Many years ago Rincewind had done something very foolish for a bet, as a result of which he becomes unable to learn any more spells. At the start of the film a ruthless wizard called Trymon, brilliantly and sadistically played by Tim Curry, has Rincewind expelled from the University. Through an ironic and amusing series of events, Rincewind is ordered by the Patriarch of the city, played by Jeremy Irons and made even more sinister than Curry's Trymon, to act as guide and protector for Discworld's first tourist, Twoflower (played by Sean Astin.)
This takes him all over the Discworld, through a series of madcap events which usually only narrowly escape being fatal, and to the centre of the great events which are unfolding in the life of the discworld ...
The most challenging part in the film, given that the late Ian Richardson completely stole the show in the previous Discworld film as the voice of Death, falls to Christopher Lee who takes that role in this one. It isn't such a meaty part this time, but he does get to deliver one or two of the funniest lines in the film.
Terry Pratchett himself was involved in the making of the film, reads an introduction which comes as an extra on the DVD, and gets a cameo part as "Second Astro-zoologist"
The story is zany, ridiculous (it's supposed to be) and very funny, the acting is first rate throughout (Jason, Astin, Curry, and Irons in particular are brilliant). Special effects are likewise excellent.
If you are a Discworld fan, you must see this, and it's reasonably true to the spirit of the books. If you like zany comic fantasy, you also must see it.
If you enjoy this film and have not already read "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" I strongly recommend that you also read the books.
on 17 October 2010
I adore Terry Pratchett's books and recognise that translating them to film would alway to be a challenge - what can compare with the product of his writing and your own imagination? But Hogfather worked well and Going Postal wasn't too bad, considering it seemed rather low budget, especially in the special effects of creating the golems. But The Colour of Magic simply does not work.
Maybe Terry Pratchett is a great David Jason fan, or vice versa, but, as Rincewind, Jason is totally miscast. Rincewind is tall, gangly, rather despicably self-centred and cowardly. David Jason is, as always, David Jason - cuddly, slightly muddled and loveable. In no way a realistic Rincewind (I have to admit too that his Albert was, for me, the low point of The Hogfather - too much David Jason, not enough Terry Pratchett.)
And Sean Astin as Twoflower the tourist? Who on earth thought of that? What, he played a (passable) hobbit therefore he is indispensible in filming fantasy novels? Pleeease! Dreadfully weak in characterisation. And isn't Twoflower meant to be oriental?(Interesting Times, his return, ends up with terracotta warriors!) Or did the powers-that-be think that casting him as oriental would lay them open to cries of racism? Wussies!
I woud love to say that this enthralled me - but I can't. It simply left me unsatisfied and very disappointed.
on 7 November 2008
I preordered this DVD as soon as I heard it had become available, and just received it in the mail yesterday. It doesn't seem to be available at Amazon here in the states yet, so I'm extremely happy that I have a region free DVD player.
As a blind Discworld fan, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered audio description on the Hog Father DVD. The Colour of Magic also has audio description, but somehow, it just wasn't quite as good, best example, the credits were never read, so apart from David Jason and Sean Astin, I couldn't readily place any of the other characters. I read that Nigel Planer was in this, but it took my mom reading the credits for me to figure out that he was the arch astronomer. Never-the-less, I was extremely greatful for the audio description that was provided.
I have now watched this DVD 3 times, and have also reread The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic books. Surprisingly, reading the books again was quite a struggle. I won't say they were bad, exactly, but as a previous reviewer said, they're the discworld books I'm the least familiar with. Before I reread the books, I mistakenly thought that The Colour of magic hadn't been quite as faithful to its source material as Hogfather was, but now that I've watched it multiple times and reread the books, considering the fact that this movie was trying to cover 2 books instead of just one, I think they did an admirable job. Once again, as with Hogfather, I noticed that the actual text from the books was used as much as possible, and the majority of the parts that were cut out of the books to make the movie weren't at all missed, at least not by me. Personally, I would have liked it if less time had been spent on the scenes with the wizards at UU, and more time put into Rincewind and Twoflower's adventures. For example, the driads weren't mentioned at all, and the whole sending of 8 section was left out. It was mentioned, though, so I definitely won't complain about that, especially since there are so many book to movie adaptations, most noteably for me those of Stephen King novels, that are far less true to their sources.
In spite of the very minor complaints I have regarding this movie, I have no trouble rating the movie as a whole with 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. I'm primarily giving this movie a 5 star review for one reason, however: David Jason. His portrayal of Rincewind, at least in my humble opinion, was simply spectacular! based on the way he sounded in the Discworld audio books, I was never fond of Rincewind. While Nigel Planer more often than not did a great job reading the discworld novels, he made Rincewind sound like a weird cross between Neil from the Young Ones, Eeyore and Marvin the paranoid android. In contrast, David Jason brought Rincewind to life for me, capturing perfectly the perpetual state of terror that I always imagined Rincewind would be in. Consequently, the character of Rincewind became much more likeable to me.
Bottom line: The Colour of Magic was well worth the money I paid for it, and I'm already looking forward to watching it again.
on 9 September 2015
We all know the old saying, "It'll never be as good as the book". To be fair, doing a page-for-page, word-for-word adaptation would be a hell of an undertaking. That said, this is a charming and faithful adaptation of the first 2 Discworld novels with a brilliant ambiance, cast and score. Sir David Jason brings the cowardly and inept wizard Rincewind to life, a brilliant foil for Sean Astin's Twoflower and, of course, Sir Christopher Lee providing the voice of Death. Spot on. Thrills, laughs, homicidal luggage, an orangutan librarian, murderous wizards, dragons and a barbarian hero old enough to be your great-grandad.
The DVD itself features an introduction from Sir Terry Himself, giving the creator's insight into the film; a class act all round.
Great for established fans or a fine introduction to the series for new explorers of the Disc.
... and I think I know why. You see I watched this with a degree of fear, the thought of David Jason as Rincewind made me shudder, but they got it right. Even former hobbit Sean Astin was well suited to the role of Twoflower.
I loved the Hogfather, it was one of my favourite books but after the film I found I couldn't bring myself to read it. That film failed in my eyes. The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic, on the other hand, were never my favourites, in fact, they are probably the books I know least well. And I think this was the key.
Because I don't know these books as well as the others I enjoyed the interpretation.
I found that David Jason played his part well. We learn in the interviews that he wanted to play Rincewind over 20 years ago and is a Terry Pratchett fan, which only goes to show that you should hire people who know the books, or at least read them (Marc Warren take note - just passing them in the airport is not good enough).
Overall a great interpretation and a wonderful surprise - I actually picked up the books and read them again.
on 29 August 2009
After the first rate adaptation of "Hogfather", this was a serious disappointment. The direction was too plodding and I actually felt quite bored of it all by about half-way.
It might have helped if the characterisations were more convincing. As much as I admire David Jason's acting ability, by no stretch of the imagination can he play a "Rincewind-type coward". His acting persona (with the exception of Granville in "Open All Hours") is that of a self-confident Jack-the-Lad thumbing his nose at authority, perfect for Albert in Hogfather and all the other roles he plays, even as Inspector Jack Frost. To accept him as Rincewind needs too much suspension of belief.
The other disappointments for me were Tim Curry (who did not come across as a really serious schemer) and "Lord Vetinari" who, I felt, did not project the underlying menace that Terry Pratchett so successfully brings out in his writing.
Whereas I have watched "Hogfather" several times and will undoubtedly watch many more times, "The Colour of Magic" has been consigned to "the Archive" after its first outing.