Anyone who's followed my posts in the last few months would know that I've been obsessively trying to read Terry Pratchett's entire Discworld series of fantasy books. So when I saw that the British miniseries of the original book "The Color of Magic" was airing on some obscure channel called Ion, I had to watch it.
The miniseries aired last year on British television and was made by the same people who adapted the Discworld XMas novel "Hogfather" two years earlier. In actuality the miniseries adapts "The Color of Magic" and the sequel "The Light Fantastic." It's the story of the cowardly wizard Rincewind, who is tossed out of the Unseen University for wizards because he can't remember any spells. The reason for this is that years ago he touched the ultimate magic book, the Octavo and one of the spells beamed itself into his head for safekeeping. That's something to remember for later.
Upon being tossed out into the street, Rincewind comes upon Twoflower, a new breed of creature called a Tourist. Twoflower has come from the remote Counterweight Continent to see the sights of the metropolis Ankh-Morpork, including a traditional bar brawl. Rincewind soon realizes that Twoflower, despite his vast fortune contained in the magical walking Luggage, is bad news and tries to take off. Unfortunately the city's leader, The Patrician, decides that Rincewind would make an excellent tour guide and makes him an offer he can't refuse.
Once Twoflower introduces the city to the concept of fire insurance--and half the city burns down--he and Rincewind head out to see the rest of the Disc. This involves Rincewind and Twoflower escaping from one dangerous situation after another like a sanctuary for dragons and an island where the inhabitants are building a spaceship to discover the sex of the turtle that moves the world around.
Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, the Octavo is getting restless and it soon becomes clear why: the world is on a collision course for a red star and doomed to burn up in approximately two days. The only way for the world to be saved is to get that magic spell out of Rincewind's heads, which the wizards seek to do by any means necessary.
I read the first two Discworld books a few months ago so it's not entirely fresh in my mind. I think, though, the main highlights of both are included in here. Some of the more minor situations and characters have been cut out to keep the miniseries down to only four hours--more like three hours without commercials.
With more of a budget this certainly would have been a lot better. The effects are a step above the average Sci-Fi Channel original movie, but they're a far cry from the average summer blockbuster. Though the cast includes veteran actors like Sean Astin, Tim Curry, and Jeremy Irons (not to mention the voice work of Christopher Lee as DEATH and Brian Cox as the narrator) it's all pretty hammy. From a pure geek standpoint the casting of David Jason as Rincewind seemed to be a mistake because for one thing he's too old and another his voice is kind of annoying. Really, Rincewind wouldn't be able to outrun so many troubles if he were that old. (The casting of Sean Astin as Twoflower was also a mistake from the pure geek standpoint because in the books Twoflower is from the Discworld's equivalent of China, though you have to appreciate the irony of having a Hobbit involved in the film.)
At the end I think Vadim Jean, who adapted and directed the movie, nices things up a little in the relationship between Rincewind and Twoflower--I don't recall any tearful goodbyes in the book, but maybe it's just my faulty memory. Still, for fans of the book it has enough of the source material that it's fun to watch. Non-fans would probably be less than impressed.
There have been rumors of a real theatrical version of "The Color of Magic" but at this point I think they remain rumors, so this will have to do.
That is all.
My score: 2.5/5 stars