01/05/2009. Contributed by Phil Jones
pub: Gollancz. 256 page illustrated hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08045-4.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk and www.terrypratchett.com
After 'The Hogfather' appearing on the Sky TV channel, Vadim Jean again has attempted to bring some more of 'Discworld' to the small screen. He both wrote the screenplay and directed 'The Colour Of Magic' with the assistance of Mr. Pratchett himself. 'The Hogfather' wasn't bad and was, in reality, a worthy attempt to create Pratchett's now very well-known world. With 'The Colour Of Magic', Vadim Jean attempts to cram two books, 'The Colour Of Magic (1983) and 'The Light Fantastic' (1986), into two episodes in the same format as 'The Hogfather'.
The story revolves around Rincewind who is, to be fair, a crap wizard. He resides in the Unseen University until he is thrown out after forty years actually never learning or carrying out a spell. He stumbles upon Twoflower, Ankh Morpork's very first and probably last tourist, who has in tow a large chest which has numerous legs which sprout out from under it. Being made from sapient pearwood, it has shall we say a life of its own.
Full of gold coinage, it will if provoked, guard its owner, often leading to the attacker's demise. Twoflower, after drawing most of the attention of the local populous when he pays the tavern owner with gold coins, seeks the help of Rincewind as a guide.
On being paid in advance, Rincewind tries to leg it out of Ankh Morpork but is stopped and put in front of the Patrician who gives Rincewind an ultimatum. Begrudgingly, Rincewind finds Twoflower again and takes up his offer. He finds Twoflower delighted when Rincewind arrives back at the tavern. There's a full-on brawl going on and Twoflower promptly takes photos of the ensuing events unfolding before them.
The two are forced to leave Ankh Morpork when the Tavern owner tries to cash in on his new policy that Twoflower has arranged and it all goes a bit wrong when half of Ankh Morpork starts burning down. Thus, they start on a tour of Discworld encompassing dragons, Trolls and a very old hero, not to mention a trip off the rim edge.
The book itself is beautifully presented with photos, sketches and behind-the-scenes shots from the production. There's an introduction from both Vadim Jean and Terry Pratchett but I feel it would have been good to see a few more 'extras' included.
So what about the script? Well it does a fair job of trying to squeeze two books into a short series. There are plenty of bits missed out, but the overall story and major scenes are there. Fans will probably quibble over what should and shouldn't have been included. There is a downside, though. We are ironically left with long stretches of dialogue which are there to convey the story along but doesn't on the whole add to the characters.
This is especially apparent with scenes involving the wizards in the Unseen University. I read the script before watching the finished episodes and my fears were played out. There are quite a few scenes which fall flat because they just serve to tell the story and you loose all sense of character. That is to be fair what really drives Discworld books is rich entertaining characters and I think, somewhere along the line, Vadim Jean has lost this. With the drive to cram in so much, I personally think it's really upset the pacing and feel of the original books.
The other problem is that the first two books were probably not the best choice as really Pratchett was just finding his feet and Discworld had not really totally gelled until a few more books into the series. Apart from Death, I would have to say as well much of the humour falls flat. Having watched the episodes, this wasn't helped by what can be only described as poor acting. There is a superb cast, but the acting is, to be frank, abysmal. I think with better acting and direction, this script could have been lifted to something special.
I think at the time of writing the script, the visualisation was there. Unfortunately, conceptualisation and the final product didn't match up. The script with some faults is a reasonable attempt to capture these two books. Perhaps over-verbose at times and truly not grasping the feel for the characters only served to hinder the actors.
As a book, this is visually well put together. The script is OK but nothing special. I think the problem is that we've been waiting for so long as fans of 'Discworld' that we jump at any attempt to bring it to the screen. I've yet to see anyone really capture 'Discworld' and its characters. Fantasy can be brought to the screen in a truly impressive manner, but I'm afraid this isn't it. 'The Hogfather' as an adaptation was better, I only hope that with 'Going Postal' we get a better final result.
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