Comedic author Terry Pratchett is often described as
the Douglas Adams of the Fantasy world. Douglas Adams-lite would
however be a more accurate description . . .
Unlike his science fiction counterpart, the prolific
Pratchett - 36 Discworld novels have been published thus far! - never
reaches the dizzying heights of the
Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, eschewing the over-the-top Monty
Python-inspired metaphysic speculation of Adams in favor of a more gentle
ribbing of the fantasy genre and its many conventions.
As inventive and clever as they are, Pratchett's books
are good for the occasional giggle, but they will never have you
clutching your sides out of hysterical laughter. It is somehow all too
measured and, well, British for that.
The same can also be said of this mini-series made for
British television. It may be good for the occasional chuckle, but is
never as consistently funny as one might have hoped. Part of the problem
however lies with the series itself and not Pratchett's source novels as
the editing and comic timing seems a bit off at times.
The scale of the sets and special effects may not match
those of big screen efforts such as Stardust,
but aren't bad as far as TV productions go. Gone are the days when it
feels as if you're watching a pantomime by your local neighborhood
amateur theater group when it comes to literary adaptations bearing the
dreaded made-for-British-TV label. (The BBC production of
Chronicles of Narnia is a good
example of this, so - come to think of it - is the original TV version of
Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
On the plus side, it is always a joy to see actors such
as Tim Curry (here at his grinning campy best) in action. The rest of the
cast also include such noted British thesps such as Christopher Lee and
Jeremy Irons (both criminally underutilized alas).
THE DISCS: The Colour of Magic's two
episodes are actually two full-length 90 minute long movies when one
thinks about it. The first episode chronicles The Colour of Magic,
Pratchett's first Discworld novel. Episode two is an adaptation of the
1986 sequel, The Light Fantastic, which is any case a direct
continuation of the previous book. It is most likely preferable not to
take it all in in one three-hour sitting.
Both episodes are contained on the first disc while all
the special features are on the second disc. We must be getting old, but
we found the selections on the menus to be on the somewhat eligible side -
the text is too small and the font too fancy.
The short featurettes dealing with Pratchett's Discworld
are on the unfunny and dull side. We can only imagine the most dedicated
Pratchett fan actually sitting through them, and if you purchase the
single disc version you won't be missing much to be honest.
WORTH IT? If you're new to Pratchett's Discworld
universe, but too lazy to bother with actually reading the books
themselves, then this adaptation of The Colour of Magic being the
first book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is a good place to start.
It is a decent introduction to Pratchett's fantasy flat world borne aloft
on the backs of four giant elephants, which in turn are standing on the
back of a giant turtle floating through space. (A major issue that
concerns the theologians of Discworld is "what is the sex of the turtle?")
The storyline involves the Discworld's first tourist (played by Sean Aston
of Lord of the Rings) and a useless wizard named Rincewind acting as his
hapless tour guide.
RECOMMENDATION: Pratchett's legions of dedicated
(and slightly cultish) fans may fume that the books are better. They
will be right too, but there are worse ways to waste three hours of your
life than checking out The Colour of Magic.