Mark Watches ‘The Colour of Magic’: Part 2

In the second part of The Colour of Magic, Rincewind and Twoflower must return to Ankh-Morpork to save everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Discworld.

Welcome back, friends! As a whole, I found this to be pretty fun, and it’s been a surreal experience to see so many things adapted faithfully in this medium. Like… I spent a significant portion of my life reading the Discworld books. Six years! That’s six years spent thinking about Ankh-Morpork, wizards, witches, trolls, dwarfs, magic, and some damn fine storytelling. Watching Hogfather was a treat because that adaptation captured the point of the story so well, and plus… Death! Susan! Binky! Teatime! The wonderful monologue about the necessity of belief! This adaptation, however, imagines Ankh-Morpork in a sharper sense, and I don’t just mean that it’s newer. Though there is a softness to the cinematography in that film? Anyway, one thing I noted on video was just how wonderful it was to see various far=flung parts of the Disc. I think that as Terry’s books progressed, they tended to feel more and more focused, but in the first two volumes, we were flung from one location to another while following Rincewind and Twoflower. Even though there are things missing here—like Bel Shamharoth or the gingerbread house or some of the passing characters—this still captured that chaotic sense of Twoflower and Rincewind from the books. 

What I remember of their dynamic is largely present here, too. The refuse-to-be-the-hero protagonist forced through circumstance to accompany the charmingly-ignorant-and-hopeful tourist. But what comes of their partnership? What happens after the two of them travel together? If there’s one thing this adaptation does extremely well, it’s this friendship. I actually felt myself getting sad during the final moments of this film, and I have to credit both David Jason and Sean Astin for completely selling these characters. They earned that moment! This adaptation earns other things, too, like seeding the personal growth of Rincewind from a wizard who couldn’t due anything to one who actually accomplished incredible things, including two uses of magic after having NEVER done them before. 

So, I know this isn’t exact in terms of putting everything in from the books. Like I said, there’s a decent amount missing. But as I’ve written before, I like to look at adaptations not as literal reproductions but as spiritual successors. Does this hit all the beats that I needed it to? Did it understand the source material and find a way to make the same points? Largely, yes! I think this still felt like both books, even without certain excursions or characters. Would I have liked to see Rincewind in the Dungeon Dimensions? Sure. At the same time, merely hinting at the awful things Trymon saw when he spoke the seven spells of the Octavo that he had was pretty damn effective. Plus, what was more important to me was that Rincewind, always so reluctant to ever be involved in saving the world, actually manages to do just that. The big cathartic moment of revealing what the star is paid off well here, too, both from a story perspective—there are bits of foreshadowing laid out in the script!—and a character one. I loved that Twoflower wanted so badly to take a photo of the birth of all those baby A’Tuins, and instead of making fun of him, Rincewind got to speak that whole bit of narration from the book!! The bit about poets and daffodils! Ah, there really was so much of the book in the script.

I will say that I do appreciate the effort to make space for the humor of Pratchett’s writing style. I remember commenting on some visual puns and wordplay from Hogfather, and there are some wonderful things in this, too. Like that motivational poster in Unseen University. Y’all, that might have been my favorite detail in this whole adaptation!!! At the same time, I know it had to have been a challenge because… well, how do I say this without sounding obvious? Like, it’s absurd to say, “Oh, Pratchett’s books rely so much on the written word,” because… DUH. YES. OF COURSE. THEY’RE BOOKS. But what I mean is that what is funny in a written sense isn’t funny in other mediums, you know? Thankfully, some of the narration and the dialogue in the script is able to give us Pratchett’s wordplay or his zingers. But it was never going to be direct, was it? Instead, there’s almost a meta-narrative surrounding what can’t make it in. Like, the whole bit about Twoflower wanting to go to the Temple of Bel Shamharoth. That whole bit was left out, but then this script makes his story about the interpersonal conflict he has with Rincewind when he realizes Rincewind lied to him about it. That was genuinely interesting, and I think it did a wonderful job of peeling back who Twoflower was as a character. Hell, in that moment, he felt less like a joke and more like a whole person.

The second half of The Colour of Magic, though, still had the same pacing issue as the first. I’ve been trying to parse what it was that made me feel this again, and I admit it’s been a little hard to nail down. It’s certainly not a case of “nothing” happening, because the two central plot lines were pretty jam-packed. It’s just that there were moments where I felt like the script just… lingered? Maybe a tad too long? Weirdly, one of the best examples of it was the very final shot: I have no idea why we needed to see the ship slowly leaving the Ankh-Morpork harbor for no other reason than to close on… Bethan and Cohen? They weren’t even the central characters of this film, so why did that go on as long as it did? To a much lesser degree, I sensed this happening throughout, and I experienced multiple moments where I wasn’t sure why were were getting so much of one thing without another. Like, why introduce Herenna but not the entire thing that makes her character interesting in the books? Why did we go to Death’s realm but not have the scene with Ysabell? 

Granted, I don’t know the complicated arithmetic that went into choosing what stayed and what wasn’t going to make it into this adaptation. I also admit that I feel like I don’t quite have the words to explain what this felt like at times. I suppose it was occasionally like a Greatest Hits of The Light Fantastic? Like, it hit all the major beats for the most part, but the smaller and lesser-known bits are also what made it so memorable for me all those years ago.

It’s going to be interesting, then, to see Going Postal, which doesn’t tread in all the normal fantasy tropes we see skewered here. That book is VERY different from both The Colour of Magic and Hogfather, since it represents the latter half of the Discworld series so well. I’m also EXTREMELY excited to see who is playing Moist von Lipwig and Vetinari and Adora Belle. And Mr. Pump! And is Reacher Gilt going to be as horrific/terrible as he is in the book? Y’all, I think that’s the adaptation I’ve been most excited to see, since I loved Going Postal so much. So: Onwards to more Discworld!

The video for “Part 2” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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