It was inevitable that, after Hogfather won a BAFTA in 2007, that more adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s hugely successful Discworld series would be on the way, with the only speculation remaining amongst fans of the series being which book would be chosen for the follow-up.
The legions of fans on websites and message boards were answered when it was revealed that a two-part film would be broadcast over the Easter weekend. Covering the first pair of Discworld books – The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, it stars David Jason – a veteran of Hogfather – as well as Sean Astin and Tim Curry. The first episode – covering the events of the first book – received a world premiere on Monday night at the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair, and the red-carpet event was attended by Jason, Astin, director Vadim Jean and the author himself, Terry Pratchett.
First things first: Discworld devotees will be delighted with how this TV adaptation has turned out. It’s faithful to the plot, broadly speaking – some scenes are left out for narrative and time reasons, but that was to be expected – and the world of Ankh-Morpork, the mythical Wyrmberg and the rest of the Disc is spectacularly created on-screen thanks to some stellar special effects.
Casting is also pretty well handled. David Jason brings an unmistakable passion to the role, and Sean Astin – despite conceding to have little knowledge of the books before taking on the gawdy shirt of Twoflower – was obviously enjoying himself. Christopher Lee was the voice of death – sadly not matched by the cheap-looking special effects – and we were told, beforehand, to watch out for The Patrician: a superb cameo by the legendary Jeremy Irons, whose voice dripped off the screen.
In fact, the special effects were a bit hit-and-miss throughout. The world was fabulous – but the legged luggage, arguably the star of the books, was slightly amateurish, which sadly robbed it of some personality that the CGI team had obviously tried to inject. Scenes riding horses and dragons looked a little too blatantly green-screened, too – but it’s nothing that’ll detract from your enjoyment of the film as a whole.
The plot, symptomatic of Pratchett’s earlier books especially, is a little weak – there’s little tying the various events together, as excellent as they are, beyond the vague connections holding everything together. This, though, could just be because of the amount left out of the final script, which leaves just the major points behind – Rincewind is guiding Twoflower, and the magical Octavo isn’t too impressed with Rincewind’s expulsion from the Unseen University. A trailer for the second part of the series was aired after the main film, and promises much more – with the myriad of loose ends tied up and more action to be expected.
Lack of plotting aside, there are plenty of spectacular and enjoyable moments. Jason – who did most of his own stunts, commendably – partakes in an upside-down sword fight with Liessa in the Wyrmberg, and the edge of the world is well portrayed, looking epic enough with water tumbling over the side, like an endless waterfall. There’s even an attempt to put the titular Colour of Magic – 8th in the Rimbow, rather than the usual seven – on screen, although it’s merely an ethereal glow.
Tim Curry is also a decent pantomime villain as Trymon – the magician who will climb his particular career ladder by killing plenty of other wizards. The episode with the magic sword is also pretty entertaining, although it does feel slightly out of place in this fast-paced and slimmed-down adaptation.
Nevertheless, fans of the books should be heartily pleased with the job Sky have done bringing The Colour of Magic to the small screen – it’s authentic, looks great (barring a few dodgy effects) and the enthusiasm with which the cast have dived in is reflected in their performances, which are full of life and verve. It’s well worth a look over the Easter weekend, and it’s available in HD too – so don’t waste any time and get to Discworld as quickly as you can.