Discworld on Screen

To take a different direction for Summer in Discworld this week, I thought I’d look at the movie adaptations of Discworld books.  Books-to-movie adaptations are always a bit chancy, but on the whole Discworld seems to have fared well.  They’ve all been TV miniseries which allows more screen time, and that usually means a more accurate rendition.  And Terry Pratchett seems to have been heavily involved, which also helps!

I don’t have quite enough to say about any of them for a full review, so let’s do a round-up instead.

The Color of Magic: This is a two-episode miniseries (three hours) that covers The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, which makes sense as they’re a continuous story.  As far as I can recall it’s pretty accurate to the books, with some decent effects.  There’s an impressive cast, including Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons and Christopher Lee (as the voice of Death).  The most fun, though, was Sean Astin in a role not too far from his hobbit character.  This is fun, although don’t expect too much, as it is based on two of the weaker Discworld books.

Hogfather: If you need a new Christmas movie, this is excellent in a weird sort of way.  The Hogfather, Discworld’s Santa equivalent, has gone missing, and Death is trying to fill in.  Pretty soon Death’s granddaughter, Susan, who just wants to be normal, gets pulled into the mess.  Meanwhile there this a lunatic who makes assassins nervous, and he’s just a little too interested in the Tooth Fairy…  I particularly love Susan (played by Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) and Marc Warren as Teatime is wonderfully creepy.  Both are excellent portrayals from the book.

Going Postal: This is wonderful, though it does diverge farther from the book than most.  Moist’s character is a little simpler (with a more straight-forward path from jerk to honorable), and some of the funniest bits are left out (including Grout’s trip to the hospital, and most parts involving the wizards).  However, they also play up the romance and Miss Dearheart’s character in a way that I think works very well, and much of the rest of the book is faithfully represented.  Barring the slight simplifying of Moist, the characters are all brought to life well, and even if the Post Office didn’t quite fit my vision of a building stuffed with letters, it got close at times!

There are also two animated miniseries:

Wyrd Sisters: I’ve only seen the first episode of this one, which was enough to convince me that it’s following the book practically line-by-line.  Since I just read the book in the last month, I thought I’d better wait a while before I watch a movie that’s such a close retelling–it’s like rereading something immediately.  Still, that kind of faithfulness is something I generally approve of, so if you want all those great Discworld jokes, you’ll do well here.  Don’t come looking for brilliant animation–it’s decent, not terrible, not approaching Pixar or Disney either.  It looks like a Saturday morning cartoon, but at least the depiction of characters seems to be pretty accurate.

Soul Music:  Similar animation, but also similar faithfulness to the book–and it has Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.  There’s a lot that’s fun here, especially the Death of Rats!  I also enjoy Death and Susan as characters, and they’re the major focus for much of this.  This is earlier chronologically than Hogfather, if you have any interest in watching things in order. 🙂

All of these are available on Netflix, and all but Going Postal are streaming.  If you’re going to just watch one, watch Hogfather or Going Postal, but I think any would be a good time.  And if you watch any live action ones, keep a close eye out for Terry Pratchett in cameos!

6 thoughts on “Discworld on Screen

  1. mlatimerridley

    I hadn’t seen the animated mini-series, but the others are brilliant! Really love the Hogfather!! Great Christmas movie. Death is brilliant!

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