Thursday, July 17, 2008

Terry Pratchett's 'The Colour of Magic' (TV adaptation)

I managed to catch up with some of those movies and TV programmes that I'd recorded-but-not-yet-watched when I was on holiday recently. So I've now completed Smallville series 7 (generally fine, but got silly towards the end), Lost series 4 (interesting but a bit annoying) and I finally got around to watching the TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett's 'The Colour of Magic' which was on Sky at Easter time.

Having seen last year's 'Hogfather' adaptation (it was OK, but not nearly as magical as the book) I was vaguely intrigued to see what they would do next, and was a bit disappointed to discover that they'd picked one of TP's weaker books to adapt. 'Why didn't they at least go for 'The Light Fantastic', its a better story?' I wondered to myself.

But now that I've watched it I know that the TV adaptation is a blend of the first two Discworld books, 'The Colour of Magic' and 'The Light Fantastic', which (a) means that the source material is better than simply doing TCoM alone, and (b) means that more has to be chopped out to fit to a 4 hour running time (including adverts).
So, it was OK. It was faithful to the story, with all the wackiness still intact, but once again the witty narrative that drives all of TP's books along (particularly the early ones) is missing. I'm not sure how this could be translated from the page to the screen, but I'm sure it could have been done somehow.

I'm not sure what I would have thought of the story if I hadn't read the books. The plot jumped about a bit and there were many parts of the story - which were emphasised and developed in the books - which just had to be briefly mentioned in passing. So the sub-plot with Cohen and his troll teeth 'din-chewers' happened, but it was stripped of all its humour. The bit where Twoflower explains the concept of insurance to the publican happened, but was stripped of any real meaning. The bit where Treymon reads all the 8 spells and his mind collapses happened, but was stripped of all the horror of the 'nameless things' that take him over, and so on. So yes, it ticked all the boxes it needed to tick, but without knowing the story first, I'm not sure it would play very well. Sadly the sub-plot with the magical shop and the cursed shop keeper was dropped.

Or maybe it was fine if you saw it without having read the books, maybe its only because I know the gems that have been cut out that I'm a little bit disappointed.

But. The biggest problem I have with this adaptation was the casting. As I'm sure is clear to everyone, David Jason is not Rincewind, clearly Nigel Planer should have been cast in that part. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong. Likewise, Sean Astin is not Twoflower. Tim Curry, on the other hand, was perfectly cast. And the Librarian was great.

So it was fine, looked good, ticked all the right boxes but was a bit muddled and soulless. But I will watch the next one when they do it. But why, oh why are they not doing 'Mort', 'Wyrd Sisters' or 'Guards! Guards!' next?

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At 2:22 pm, Blogger David Meldrum said...

I read some of the books a few years ago, but not this one...we gave up after half an hour. We undersatnd Pratchett's style, we just thought this was a really poor and over-expensive piece of television.

At 2:29 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

The main problem - I think - with adapting 'The Colour of Magic' for the TV is that the best things about the book are the concepts and ideas and the worst thing is the story.

For example, the idea of the luggage that walks about on lots of tiny legs is brilliant, and is entertainingly described over several pages, but on screen it just looks a bit odd and the relish of the storytelling is entirely lost.

However, I must say that the TV adaptation did improve a bit after a shaky start. But I guess you'd switched off by then...

At 1:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the next one they're making is Going Postal, which was announced at the Colour Of Magic premiere. I was actually a bit upset about this, because Going Postal would be a wonderful film, in the right hands. The problem is I'm not persuaded the current team--Vadim Jean as writer/producer and the Mob film company--is the right hands. We'll see, though.

At 11:19 am, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Sigh. Going Postal was one of the weaker TP books. But I suppose it is more of a TV show type story - there's less intereting stuff going on the descriptive narritive.


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