Mark Watches ‘The Colour of Magic’: Part 1

In the first part of The Colour of Magic, Rincewind would very much like to not do any of this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Discworld.

Hello, hello, my Discworld friends! Thank you for your patience. I had every intention of doing more bonus posts last year, but I have literally not been off deadline for various projects since the end of July. I knew that my schedule wasn’t going to necessarily open up in any significant way for a while, so I thought it best to just make this part of the regular schedule sot hat it would get done. AND HERE WE ARE! We have made it to the next Discworld adaptation, and in order to easily discuss it, I want to split my review into three parts. LET’S DO THIS.

The Cast

Primarily, adaptations are fun to do for Mark Watches because I think it’s a fascinating form of creation. How do you take what someone else has created and bring it to a different medium? Because Pratchett’s work succeeds so brilliantly within the written realm, there’s the extra challenege of representing his themes and his literary style in a visual way. Like the puns! So many of those puns just can’t work in a script or in dialogue! 

But I’ll get to the story elements later. First, I want to talk about the characters and the cast who represents them. As a whole, I think this was done remarkably well, and there are some very neat things the cast is able to pull off. Since both the books this film is based off of (SO GLAD THAT WASN’T SPOILED FOR ME!!!) focus so heavily on Rincewind and Twoflower, I needed those two to be incredibly strong. I really did end up loving David Jason and Sean Astin as Rincewind and Twoflower, respectively. The choice to make Twoflower functionally American is fascinating! I know that I had previously expressed concern about Twoflower possibly fulfilling unintended stereotypes if he was meant to be Asian. I know that’s a simplification of the matter, so having him be American still fulfills the notion that he is “foreign” to Ankh-Morpork. That being said: the writing in this script could have still avoided potential stereotypes, I think. Twoflower feels less like a fool here, but rather, he and Rincewind represent fascinating manifestations of hope and cynicism. Which isn’t to say that the book doesn’t give us those same notions; I think this is more a case of how this film has me re-contextualizing what I read all those years ago. Either way, I really believed the dynamic between these two. Rincewind was still completely obsessed with running away from his problems, and he was completely uninterested in being a hero, which is exactly why he’s such a funny character. Twoflower had to see the world through a very rosy lens, unknowingly waltzing from one disaster to another. And yet, Astin was able to make Twoflower a deeply caring character, too! I like that both of the protagonists are layered as they are in the books, and I think the actors behind them helped bring that to life. 

TIM CURRY? AS TRYMON? YES. ABSOLUTELY. Because why not make the antagonist a little bigger and a whole lot more power-hungry? This is more of a story comment perhaps, but this script felt aware of fantasy tropes in the same way the book was. Tim Curry plays Trymon as desperate and violent, as a wizard committed to constantly scheming his way to the top. But I loved the back-and-forth between him and the Archchancellor, particularly since Galder Weatherwax was written in a way that made him fully aware of the plot to oust him. The constant scheming is a lot more fun that way, and I also think it makes the change in the Archchancellor’s death more powerful, too. I did remember correctly that the Luggage killed Weatherwax in the book. Here, though, he consistently thwarts every one of Trymon’s attempts on his life, which makes that shove shocking. Trymon didn’t sneak around, he didn’t backstab Weatherwax, and he didn’t use magic.

In the end, he just pushed. 

James Cosmo does wonderful work here, for the record, and I also want to take time to yell about how good he is in His Dark Materials, too! (Which I am planning on catching up on for myself as soon as I’m done writing this.) It is a good thing that he speaks so frequently in the script, because I do think the other wizards are underdeveloped, unlike how they were in Hogfather. Granted, I don’t think the wizards had anywhere near the same personality or distinction at the start of the Discworld series, so I also understand why they blend together.

Then there’s Jeremy Irons, who I actually didn’t recognize (or, rather, couldn’t quite place) when I watched this. He portrays Vetinari in a fascinating way. I Don’t recall seeing the Patrician as slimy as he is in this film, but it’s also been six years since I read the book. The latter portrayals of Vetinari as a cunning strategist come to mind more easily. Here, Vetinari feels more like he’s… I don’t know. He’s definitely not a villain, but he isn’t remotely likeable. He’s just kind of creepy, you know? At the same time, I think I got MAYBE five whole minutes with him, so perhaps I’ll feel differently about his portrayal by the end of the second part. I definitely don’t hate it, but it’s… a little strange? I’m not quite sold on it. 

I’m super into Christopher Lee returning as Death, since I believe he was Death in the Soul Music adaptation I saw? (Well, saw two parts of, that is.) And Karen David! Who I recognized from GALAVANT!!! I knew she looked familiar! Her brief appearance as Liessa was fantastic. Which gives me a perfect segue to the next thing I want to address.

The Design

I LOVE THE DESIGN OF THIS MOVIE. I assume based on quality–both of the cinematography and the digital effects–that this is much newer than Hogfather. I think that clarity helped a lot in terms of making be prefer how the Discworld looked in this adaptation. It’s about as close as TV could get to how I imagined Ankh-Morpork in my head. The crowded buildings! The grime! I felt like I could SMELL the city! The costuming was top-notch, and in particular, I adored Rincewind’s outfit, Twoflower’s flowery shirt, and the ridiculous Wyrmberg costumes. Visually, they felt like tonal matches to Pratchett’s world, even if they weren’t necessarily the most literal of interpretations. But hell, they felt pretty close, you know? (I do admit to feeling uncomfortable with the Arch-Astronomer’s costume and design. That was a weird choice, wasn’t it?)

The entire time I was watching this, I felt like I was on the Discworld. Truly. Like, the sight of Wyrmberg alone was fucking incredible. An upside-down mountain! They nailed that! And look, it’s not easy to capture this kind of visual language when adapting a book to a film, but I feel like this is one part the people behind the camera truly succeeded at. 

The Story

In general, I actually think that’s the case for the somewhat-streamlined adaptation of both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. There are definitely changes to the source material here, but where those cuts happen feel necessary for the medium. I missed the framing device of the gods playing a game with Rincewind and Twoflower. It’s a very funny aspect of the first two books. At the same time, this story DOES capture that tone. Both Rincewind and Twoflower feel like they’re adrift in a story in which they’re not in control. That’s especially the case with Rincewind, who just cannot seem to die whenever he wants to. He can’t escape being a hero even though he despises it. 

There’s some shuffling around of things to set up the second part, too, and I certainly didn’t mind those. Trymon has a meatier role here, but who is gonna complain about Tim Curry being onscreen more??? There are also story elements that didn’t show up until The Light Fantastic that needed to be in the first half, and that’s just smart editing. I admit to missing Bel-Shamharoth, and unless that just happens out of order, I think the visual reference of the sign is all we’re going to get. Did I miss Li!ort? Or Hrun? Or were they not in this either? I guess I should wait to comment on that, since it’s entirely possible I’ll see them in the next part.

The only thing I wanted to comment on in regards to the script as a whole is that while I can see where the book was pared down, the pacing of this first half is odd. It’s not the order of events; I actually believe they captured that beautifully. Perhaps this was just my own perception, but did it seem like some of these scenes stretched a little too long. As if there were a lot of unnecessary pauses or drawn-out bits of dialogue? That surprised me, given that the story is so streamlined in the first place.

Maybe that’s just me. Regardless, I had a great time watching this, and I really hope this is leading to A’Tuin babies. And Cohen! Is Bethan in this adaptation? OOOOH, I can’t wait to see.

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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