THE COLOUR OF MAGIC
The most high-profile of these was Vadim Jeans tv mini-series adaptation of Hogfather (2006) for The Mob Film Co and RHI Entertainment. Terry Pratchett oversaw the script, taking the amusingly nebulous role of Mucked About by Terry Pratchett (which he retains here). The Colour of Magic was the second of Vadim Jean, The Mob and RHIs Terry Pratchett adaptations. Most of those concerned returned with Going Postal (2010). (Pratchett can be seen in the role of one of the astronomers at the very start and end of the show indeed, he is the one that says the closing line).
The Colour of Magic is adapted from not one but two Terry Pratchett books, The Colour of Magic (1983) and The Light Fantastic (1986), which were the first two Discworld novels published. Vadim Jean and Pratchett trim some aspects of the books the visit to Bel-Shamharoth, which was intended as a parody of H.P. Lovecraft; the meeting with Deaths daughter; the visit to the mysterious shop in The Light Fantastic; and the venture into the Dungeon Dimensions and expand other aspects such as Trymons schemings in order to draw the two books out into a single narrative. One surprise is the elimination of all mention of octarine, which means that the title the colour of magic now does not make sense.
It does not make any difference what order one reads the Discworld books in though the characters weave in and out of different stories, they can all be read independent of each other. (For instance, though Hogfather was filmed first, the Librarian is a fully developed orangutan there, whereas we only see his transformation from a human here). On the other hand, it was puzzling seeing Hogfather as first choice of these Terry Pratchett tv adaptations. It makes more sense doing The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic first as these are the earliest of Pratchetts books. By the time of Hogfather (1996), which was Prachetts twentieth book, his writing had become a good deal more sophisticated. Indeed, by the time of Hogfather, Pratchett seemed to be about the point that Woody Allen was in the early 1980s and seeking something that lay beyond writing jokes and gags. Though containing a requisite number of gags, Hogfather was a much more serious Terry Pratchett book and contained some interesting speculations about myth with Pratchett trying to create a pagan alternative to Christmas and Santa Claus. In its sophisticated swing of ideas, Hogfather was certainly a challenging work to bring to the screen as the first of a series of Pratchett adaptations. By comparison, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are much more knockabout Pratchett works where the emphasis is on lightly spoofing a number of fantasy conventions and nothing deeper than that.
Terry Pratchett makes digs at various fantasy cliches. The Wyrmberg scenes, which never quite come to life as they should, were intended by Pratchett as a spoof of Anne McCaffreys Dragonriders of Pern books. There are parodies of magic swords and a virgin sacrifice who proves less than grateful after being sacrificed from her intended fate. Cohen the Barbarian, an aging warrior who struggles on despite suffering from arthritis and losing his teeth, is clearly construed as a parody of Conan the Barbarian. (There is an amusing lampoon of the famous line from the Conan the Barbarian (1982) film where Cohen is asked: What is good in life? to reply Good dentistry. Soft lavatory paper). That said, surprisingly few of Terry Pratchetts numerous puns appear in the script the odd one with Sean Astin making lines about (literally) returning from Deaths door or with Death noting Ive had another near-Rincewind experience. Most notedly, the mini-series has (for logical reasons) been excised of the extensive joke footnotes that appear throughout Pratchetts books, something that Pratchett elevated to an art form.
The Colour of Magic is undeniably uneven. Vadim Jean throws up a number of funny scenes particularly during Sean Astins arrival in Ankh-Morpork and at the Broken Drum. On the other hand, a number of other scenes drag somewhat Tim Currys various schemings around the Unseen University go on longer than they need to, while David Jasons encounter with a talking magic sword is never particularly funny. Some scenes like Rincewind and Twoflowers arrival in the land of Krull and ending up as the chelonauts feel like they never get enough screen time. This makes interesting contrast to Hogather where Hogfather seemed packed to the gills with more ideas and things going on than it could handle, The Colour of Magic, though it is based on two books, seems much looser and more laidback, even at times padded.
One major plus about The Colour of Magic is that it has been made with a lavish budget clearly a much bigger one that Hogfather had available to it. It shows up in a much more expensive and expansive look. There are some very nice, richly detailed sets. The effects team do a sterling job in coming to the party, creating some magnificent dragon and troll effects. The most magical scene is the climactic moments where we see the baby turtles with elephants and discworlds on their back too being birthed from the suns and one of them coming up to rub nose with ATuin. It is a scene that holds a beautiful sense-of-wonder magic.
David Jason, a long staple of British comedy, does a reliable comic turn as the likeably cowardly Rincewind. (David Jason also appeared in Hogfather where he confusingly played the similar but entirely different character of Deaths assistant Albert. Nigel Planer, who played a wizard in Hogfather, also plays the different character of an astronomer here). The Colour of Magic also features the ultra-annoying Sean Astin indeed, he gets the headline position on the cast list even above David Jason who plays the central role of Rincewind. Up until he appeared as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, Astin was just another has-been teen actor trying to make a living for whom the latter half of the 1990s had been fairly much a dead zone. Lord of the Rings proved a major boost to Astins profile and he has not been slow to exploit it, taking roles in a host of other fantasy works that have attempted to use him as a touchstone to reach the same audience. (When it comes to the Lord of the Rings castings, there is also Christopher Lee who inherits the role of Death from the late Ian Richardson). Jeremy Irons does a surprise turn as the Patrician and steals the show with a wonderfully subdued sense of almost absent-minded menace in his two scenes on screen.
(Nominee for Best Special Effects at this sites Best of 2008 Awards).