Mark Watches ‘Going Postal’: Part 1

In the first part of Going Postal, I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Discworld. 

HI. HELLO EVERYONE. I FUCKING LOVED THIS. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I think I’ll start with the same sort of technique I used to analyze The Colour of Magic adaptation just for ease of discussion.

The Cast

I CAN’T GET OVER THIS. I have liked many of the casting decisions before, but I truly think this adaptation nails EVERY character on the screen. Richard Coyle is Moist von Lipwig, y’all. I made a comment early in the video that this character had to have that sort of face to be able to blend in. That was key to his character: How could people forget Moist after they’d spoken to him? Through a brilliant series of disguises and accents, this film shows us exactly how Moist disappeared in plain sight, and that’s when I knew this adaptation was in good hands. Richard Coyle was able to make each one of those characters distinct enough that they looked like separate people, none of whom looked like Moist in the Moist character. On top of that, Moist had to be funny and charming, but also we needed to see that darker, selfish side of him. In the early interactions that Moist has with people like Mr. Pump, Stanley, and Groat, Coyle manages to pull out some sliminess and Moist’s worst tendencies as a person. And we need all that shit! Moist’s journey requires him to go from someone who conned countless people and never thought of the consequences to someone who… well, someone who cares. DEEPLY. Like, I can now appreciate how much work Going Postal did to build what we would later see in Making Money and Raising Steam. 

I’ll touch more on the story elements in a bit. Y’all, Charles Dance as Vetinari? I know Vetinari was described with dark hair, I think? Since everything he wore was all black. But I’m willing to overlook that in a heartbeat because Dance was able to capture Vetinari’s energy, so much so that I wish there were more productions utilizing him as Vetinari. Especially the later books that feature him more! (Oh god, I already want a Moist von Lipwig trilogy with all these characters.) I mean… Angua!!! That scene was so brief, but that felt like her! And Groat and Stanley AND MR. PUMP. OH. OH I AM GOING TO BE SO SAD IN THE NEXT PART IF THEY DO THE THING, AREN’T I. 

The only characters I might have the smallest quibble about are Reacher Gilt and Mustrum Ridcully, but that’s not a casting issue. It’s more of a story one, so I’ll get to that, too, in the final section. But y’all… I’m so impressed. I AM SO THRILLED BY ALL OF THIS. Holy shit, they even managed to capture Adora Belle Dearheart’s chaotic energy. CLAIRE FOY IS SO PERFECT HOLY SHIT. 

The Design

Is this the same studio that produced The Colour of Magic? In a lot of ways, it feels like it is. (And truth be told, I feel like all three of these film adaptations were done by the same people; there’s a wonderful sense of visual continuity between them that can’t just be a coincidence.) It’s just as sharp and expansive as the last one, portraying lots of Ankh-Morpork, as well as the trip to Sto Lat and the town of Sto Lat! Visually, it manages to look like a somewhat familiar European or British fantasy, but those visual tropes are often used not just for worldbuilding, but to craft a story that is in conversation with said tropes. Granted, that’s more apparent in The Colour of Magic than it is here, but I think that is actually a good thing. This novel came way, way later in Pratchett’s career, and the things he chose to skewer or poke fun at had moved beyond sword and sorcery fantasy conventions, you know?

And I also wonder if the team responsible for this was always trying to out-do themselves. Because Vetinari’s palace finally felt exactly like I thought it looked like in the books, especially the door opening to the long fall. And oh my god, the Post Office!!! I loved how endless and labyrinthine it felt throughout this, y’all. Because what this needed to communicate was the sheer scope of a problem that Moist was dealt. Millions upon millions of undelivered letters… what does that look like? How big is the building? How believable is it that four previous Postmaster Generals died here under mysterious circumstances? I just… I love all the choices the team made here. I like the sheer number of letters we see crowded up in every doorway, overflowing out of every room. I love how dark and crowded everything looks… right up until Moist enters the place and begins the process of cleaning it up. I’m thinking in particular of how much literally lighter things get once the main lobby of the Post Office is cleaned up. That scene where the crowd rushes inside because the clacks are down… CHEF’S KISS. Because prior to this, much of what we see of the Post Office is dank and crowded, and then, as the place is revitalized, we see more natural light. I feel like this is maybe leading up to the gold suit??? I hope that’s still happening??? PLEASE? 

In general, the sets felt real. Lived in. Very much like they were in the Discworld! Take the clacks towers, for example. This got the height right, as well as the visual nature of how messages passed from one tower to another, especially since that’s so important to the story as a whole. If you’re not familiar with the books or with the concept of a semaphore system, I think this did it justice. (Plus, those opening credits were cool as hell.) 

I love the costuming throughout this, too. Vetinari’s long black coat! THE ENTIRE DESIGN AROUND ADORA BELLE. Moist’s many colorful outfits! THE WAY MR. PUMP LOOKED! Like… he genuinely had the appearance of a golem made out of clay. Oh my god, and Mr. Gryle? That was such an interesting interpretation of a banshee. I liked it! I think they made him gross and terrifying, and since we got to see Otto (briefly), there’s a clear differentiation between him and a vampire. And Miss Cripslock! Oh, I loved the design around her, too. Everything here felt so thoughtful, y’all, so clearly intentional from a production standpoint. The people making this clearly read Going Postal and enjoyed it. 

The Story

And nothing demonstrated that better than the adaptation of the book into this teleplay. I’m completely in awe of how many things this captured from the books. Not just direct lines, not just plot twists and turns, not just names and costumes. To me, this captured the essence of Going Postal, even if some things weren’t exact copies! It managed to hit most of the major beats that made the book so enjoyable to me. In essence, this had to be about two things:

1) Moist’s journey of self-discovery and understanding that his “victimless crimes” bullshit was… well, bullshit

2) The complete evisceration of libertarianism and the rejection of privatized industries/utilities. 

I think it absolutely sells the first one and may need a bit more work on the second, but Moist’s journey? Oh, it’s all there. The opening scenes were composed with such glee, y’all. We get to see Moist con people over and over again, and it was presented in a way that you often see in stories about con men. It’s almost like… wow. He got away with it. Those fools! Well, I would never fall for a scam, so this is kind of fun to watch! Except very quickly, the weight of what Moist has done crashes down on him, he’s nearly killed, and then he’s tasked with re-opening the post office.

Somehow, this film still had to achieve the monumental task of having Moist face the ramifications of his actions, and using the “magic” of the letters was so fucking brilliant, y’all. And I suppose this is more of a design thing, but the choice to have those memories unfold both in a silent film style and to show the perspective of the victims? INCREDIBLE. Moist has to get to a point where he begins to “feel” things. It’s what sells the Adora Belle / Moist relationship, but it’s also crucial to his journey. 

Largely, that’s why I loved this. This all seems to understand the point of Going Postal, even for the side characters. We get to see Groat respected as a postman. We get to see Stanley develop a new hobby in stamp collecting while also contribute brilliantly to the updating of the stamp system. The Golem Trust is given importance within the narrative, even if there is a lot of the smaller stuff left out of the film. And I still can’t get over how well written and acted Vetinari is! Here, he IS the Patrician, the tyrant who isn’t a tyrant, the person who sees all in Ankh-Morpork while overseeing everything, too. 

There are some significant changes to the story, of course. I don’t recall Gryle revealing he was behind the murders at this point? Actually, I know that we knew Gryle was behind it, but doesn’t Moist figure that out later and then send the evidence of it on the clacks? But I don’t know that this is important to keep as-is in the adaptation. This first half was paced brilliantly! Everything moved at the proper speed, and it never felt rushed or two slow, so maybe this will leave more room for the development of the Reacher Gilt / Moist competition.

Which I’m hoping for if only because Gilt’s characterization here is a little slimier than I expected. I remember wondering early on if Gilt was a reference to John Galt, and by the end of the book, it was so obvious that Pratchett was sending up Ayn Rand and libertarianism as a whole. Gilt is spoken about by other characters as an uncaring, amoral businessman, but the way he’s played (and the way his lines are written), he felt a little too much like a mustache-twirling villain. Like, gross for the sake of it? Which is odd, because the whole backstory of Gilt and the Dearhearts IS front-and-center, you know? It’s like the adaptation got all the textual stuff right, but then Gilt himself is slightly off from that?

To a lesser degree, that was also why the appearance of Mustrum Ridcully was odd. I recall it was a much different wizard who helped Moist determine what was happening with all the undelivered letters. But the choice to have that character deliver the news in a no-nonsense manner was… odd? Because that didn’t feel like the Ridcully to me, so it was a strange thing. They could have just made up a wizard instead of using one of the most recognizable ones from the book?

But honestly, this just feels like nitpicking, since I really, truly loved this. I am SO excited to see what other parts they’ll get right, though one of them (MR. PUMP, NO) makes me nervous. I want to see the gold suit! The trip to Uberwald! THE SMOKING GNU!!!!

The video for “Part 1” can be downloaded here for $1.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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