He's a hero, isn't he?
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 04/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A live-action Terry Pratchett movie is either doomed to fail in every way, or succeed in practically everything.
And "The Colour of Magic," adapted from the first two novels in Pratchett's brilliant Discworld series, is more the former than the latter. This one is no "Hogather" -- it has rather slack direction at times -- but it preserves Pratchett's wry satirical sense of humour. And of course, it's all about a mercenary, cowardly failed wizard.
Rincewind (David Jason) is ejected from the Unseen University, on the very day that Twoflower (Sean Astin) arrives with his many-legged Luggage. He's come to the Disc... to "look at it." But after Rincewind tries to con Twoflower, the Patrician (Jeremy Irons) orders Rincewind to be the guide/bodyguard of the Disc's first ever tourist.
After a massive fire sweeps through the city, the two end up fleeing Ankh-Morpork and running into all sorts of weird things -- a very assertive magic sword, a floating island full of see-through dragons, a dramatic dragonlady in a leather bikini, astrozoologists trying to determine Great A'Tuin's gender, the aged Cohen the (retired) Barbarian, druids, and even getting thrown clear off the Disc in a strange spacecraft. And you thought YOU had problems.
Unfortunately the Unseen University is having troubles of its own -- the magical book Octavo is acting weird, and power-hungry Trymon (Tim Curry) is scheming against the Archchancellor. Even worse, a strange red star has appeared in the sky, and the world is facing destruction. The only thing that can save it is the spell in Rincewind's head.
Perhaps it's because it's based on the first, roughest Discworld books, but "Colour of Magic" is not quite as funny or tightly-written as its predecessor, "Hogather." The writing is not quite as complex or as witty, and the direction sometimes feels a bit slack (such as the bar fight scene, or Trymon skulking and schemind around the University).
But despite these drawbacks, "Colour of Magic" is still a vastly entertaining story -- it has a solid plotline and it chugs away nicely after a somewhat sluggish beginning, and blossoms into full-out complexity about halfway through. Once it gets underway it starts to resemble a road-trip through fantasy-land, with our quirky tourist and wizard bungling their way across the Disc.
Along the way there's some fun action (an upside-down duel), humorous dialogue ("You weren't born with a mysterious birthmark in the shape of a crown, were you?"), and a general air of tongue-in-cheekness. Best of all, it's a fantasy spoof -- Vadim Jean preserves Pratchett's clever satire aimed at the staples of your average fantasy: fantasy babes, prophecies, magic swords, retired barbarians, powerful artifacts, and even the idea of reality warping itself to save the "hero."
Jason is wonderfully snivelly and sour as Rincewind, a failed wizard who basically finds himself repeatedly swept up into bizarre, deadly circumstances even though he didn't want to be involved. Astin is even better as the hilariously oblivious Twoflower, who regards every disaster as yet another great adventure ("We're going to run out of world!" "I have to see that!").
And there's a talented supporting cast -- Curry chews the scenery with sneering aplomb, Karen David plays a humorously over-the-top dragon-lady, and Irons has a small but wonderful role as the chilly, efficient Vetinari. And of course, the brilliant Christopher Lee takes over as an increasingly disappointed Death.
"Colour of Magic" isn't as tightly directed as it could have been, but it still manages to be clever and quite amusing."
Long-time Pterry fan
Rev. Otter | southeast Alaska, USA | 07/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"i'm going to presume that you, like myself, are a long-time Discworld reader. if you're not familiar with the plot of the first two books, or Terry Pratchett's writing, or the themes and characters of Discworld, you should skip this. although the movie would be a good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with Discworld lore, this review is specifically for veterans of the books, if not the previous adaptations (Wyrd Sisters, Soul Music, Hogfather).
the plot(s) of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic were carried over mostly intact. some specific scenes or events are left out or glossed over, but i think it was an acceptable adaptation.
i have no problem with Twoflower being "American." it works, it really does! i don't remember it saying anywhere that Agateans *look* Asian. but Twoflower's gormless optimism? Sean Astin nails it!
i *do* have a problem with Rincewind. for one, he seems too old; i know that's also a minor complaint, but he didn't look much younger than Cohen. my bigger gripe is that Rincewind is supposed to be a runner (away), not a eye-roller. less befuddled muttering, more screaming for help in 87 languages. too much of his faux-exasperation falls flat
since i mentioned Cohen, i must say they did him justice. mostly. i mean, you can *clearly* see his teeth while he's complaining about not having teeth. but his mannerisms and fight scenes are spot-on!
what else? oh, the Librarian. one of everyone's favorite characters, they must have gotten him perfect, right? nope, it's an unconvincing guy in an ape suite. i'm presuming they had reasons not to use a *real* orangutan, but the costume simply didn't work, in my eye. put a man in an ape suit and it still moves like a man, not an ape. it would have been less unreal (eg, more fantastic) to use a CG orang, or a Henson-esque puppet.
Death seemed better actuated (physically) than in Hogfather, but some of his lines sound more like Marvin from HHGTTG than Death. for easy example: "I WAS AT A PARTY, YOU KNOW" sounded more like a complaint than a reproach. still, "I THINK I JUST HAD ANOTHER NEAR-RINCEWIND EXPERIENCE" is worth the price of admission =)
finally, the Luggage. its movement was perfect! it trundles around in a bouncy gait, often chasing people around in the background. i wish its homicidal nature had been more on display, and they never did show its mouth ("lots of big square teeth, white as sycamore, and a pulsating tongue, red as mahogany") but its "expressions" and reactions were subtle and brilliant.
all in all, i enjoyed The Colour of Magic more than Hogfather. i also feel more comfortable recommending it to non-fans as there's less background to know and hidden context to be aware of.
i can't wait for Going Postal, the next adaptation. oook!"
Good Effort at Early Pratchett
James D. DeWitt | Fairbanks, AK United States | 07/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Color of Magic was the very first Discworld novel, published in 1983. The Light Fantastic: A Discworld Novel, a direct sequel, and the second Discworld tale, was published in 1986. Pratchett's writing and plotting are better by several orders of magnitude in his later books. And the later books are less overtly satiric. The highly episodic nature of these first two novels must have made them tough to script. But, over all, this is a decent effort at a difficult task.
The casting is generally good. Sean Astin is quite good as Twoflower, the Disc's first tourist. He was a controversial choice because Twoflower is from the Discworld's equivalent of China in the hearts of Pratchett fans, but Astin brings such strong skills to the role that it all works well. David Jason as the failed wizard - excuse me, "Wizzard" - is less successful. He's simply too old. And the script down plays Rincewind's strongest trait: cowardice. This is a man who knows how to say "Don't kill me" in a hundred different languages. Jason just doesn't fit the character. Jeremy Irons is superb as the Patrician. David Bradley as Cohen is at once not old enough and too old. He is obviously much younger than the 92 years Cohen claims. He tries to "act" older by being slower in fights, something that would surely have killed Cohen long ago if it were right. Tim Curry is completely right as the power-hungry, scheming Trymon, a larger role in the movie than in the books.
Another problem is that Color of Magic/Light Fantastic cries out for a big special effects budget. Let's just say that The Mob, the movie's producers, didn't have Peter Jackson's budget. Except, perhaps, for the Librarian, they do reasonably well with what they had, and the final few scenes are especially good.
Still, even a so-so Pratchett movie is still a Pratchett movie. If all of the jokes aren't there, and some destinations skipped or somewhat changed, there are enough laughs to remind you why Pratchett is a world treasure.
Reportedly, The Mob will make Going Postal next, a much later, much better written Pratchett novel. I look forward to it, but in the meantime Color of Magic, if flawed, is still great fun. And the flaws may just be, like octarine, the color of magic, a pigment of my imagination. Recommended."