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The Colour Of Magic

 
 
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The Colour Of Magic
cast: David Jason, Sean Astin, Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons, and Brian Cox

director: Vadim Jean

184 minutes (12) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Despite Terry Pratchett's self-deprecating remarks, in his DVD introduction, about the form, structure, and plot, or lack thereof, of his first Discworld novel The Colour Of Magic, it was something of a revelation; and by its sequel, The Light Fantastic, abandoning the traditional structure of chapters for tempting 'scene-breaks', a move that incensed Late Show leprechaun Tom Paulin, the formula was intact. The books acknowledged the wealth and tradition of fantastic literature while feeling free to make fun of it, and a fairly catholic range of other targets as well. As Pratchett signifies in the opening paragraph of one of the books, the Discworld is a mirror of other worlds; our world obviously.

There have been a fairly successful series of animated adaptations of some of the Discworld novels and a live-action Hogfather in 2006; another book, Going Postal, is in production for 2009, cleverly cashing in on the Hooper Report into Royal Mail and the Universal Service Obligation.

Rincewind (David Jason) is a failed wizard at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University. The reason for his ineptitude is that he has been possessed by one of the powerful eight spells from the magical Octavo and consequently all other spells are too frightened to stick. Kicked out of the University he is press-ganged by Ankh-Morpork's Patrician Vetinari (Jeremy Irons) to be a guide to the Discworld's first tourist, Twoflower (Sean Astin), from the powerful Counterweight Continent.

Rincewind and Twoflower have a variety of adventures that take them from Ankh-Morpork and back again, in the best traditions of fantastic quests. In the course of their adventures Rincewind discovers that his possession of and by the magic spell makes him pivotal in rescuing the Discworld from an approaching star that seems to presage the destruction of their world.

As in all the dramatisations of the Discworld novels I was disappointed that the elephants that support the Disc on the back of the Giant Turtle A'Tuin were shown as static, where surely they parade around in a circle hence the geographical notion of a Hub?

Alongside the story of Rincewind and Twoflower is the parallel tale of the murderously ambitious wizard Trymon (Tim Curry) and his attempts to become Arch-Chancellor of the Unseen University. Rincewind eventually has to return to Ankh-Morpork facing the unknown dangers of the approaching star and the crazed Trymon. Rincewind and Twoflower are aided in their quest by the legendary warrior Cohen the barbarian, played by David Bradley, Argus Filch from the Harry Potter series, and Spooner in the revival of the late Harold Pinter's No Man's Land at The Gate in Dublin.

The second part of the production is superior to the first in that the action seems to some purpose. This version highlights the rambling structure that Pratchett alludes to in his introduction, but whereas in the book that was a source of great charm here it is cause for some impatience. Pratchett anticipates however that there will be howls from purists among his fans, who inevitably imagine characters and events in a personal way. Much that happens seems to no purpose, the abbreviated encounter with the dragon-riders serves only to have the heroes flying over the Circle Sea on a notional dragon in order to usher in their adventures in the kingdom of Krull. In fact, all of the frenetic incidents that come packed with jokes and can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace in the books are here forced to clatter on driven by slapstick, mugging and the opportunity for TV CGI.

The cast do their best, particularly Sean Astin, but there is little for David Jason to get his teeth into and Jeremy Iron's Patrician is a shameless rip-off of Jonathan Pryce's Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen.

There is a cornucopia of DVD extras. The aforesaid introduction from Pratchett, interviews with Pratchett, Jason and Astin, deleted scenes and the inevitable not-very-funny blooper reel. Best of the bunch though is the Discworld Tourist Guide. Presented by the Unseen University librarian in the style of flaky Open University broadcasts from the early days of BBC2 this comprises eight short films covering everything from geography of Discworld to entertainment.
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