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Color of Magic, The

Genius Products // Unrated // July 14, 2009
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted August 11, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
"I often don't know where my luggage is!  That's what being a tourist all is about." - Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist.
Originally broadcast in England and earning a very limited theatrical release in the US, The Color of Magic is an incredibly fun miniseries.  Created by the same team that was responsible for the first live-action adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel, the entertaining Hogfather, this movie goes back to the first discworld books and adapts both The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic.  Filled with humor, parodies and light-hearted jabs at fantasy staples, this is a great movie that the whole family will enjoy.

Rincewind is a student at Unseen University, the main school for magic on the Discworld.  The Discworld is exactly like it sounds:  a flat, giant disc that travels through space on the backs of four mighty elephants that in turn are standing on a giant turtle, the Great A'Tuin.   As the story opens Rincewind is being kicked out of school.  After 40 years of studying he's failed to pass a single course of even memorize a spell.  There's a reason why he's the worst magician on the disc, but it's little consolation to the old man.
About the same time as Rincewind gets the boot, Two Flower appears in the city of Ankh-Morpork, the most wretched city on the Disc.  He's something unusual; the Disc's first tourist.  He comes from the exact opposite side of the disc, in Agatean Empire on the Counterweight Continent.  It's called the Counterweight Continent since it balances out the other side of the disc, even though the continent is very small.  The rumors are that it's so small because the whole continent is made of gold but that's totally wrong as Twoflower tells Rincewind soon after they meet up.  In the Agatean Empire gold is just a very, very common metal. 

Twoflower, wonderfully dressed in a bright flowered shirt, Bermuda shorts, socks, and sandles, has brought with him his Luggage, a box made out of Sapient Pearwood.  There are maybe two small wands on this side of the disc made out Sapient Pearwood, so a whole chest is incredible.  The box is very loyal to Twoflower and will follow him anywhere on a dozen tiny legs, and it's filled with hundreds of solid gold coins.  Since the coinage of Ankh-Morpork has about "as much gold in it as a liter of sea water" the tourist, without realizing it himself is very, very rich.
After Rincewind helps Twoflower with some advice, the tourist hires the failed magician to become his guide, and pays him two gold coins a day, the first four days in advance.  The job is a little more difficult than Rincewind imagined though, as Twoflower has no idea what danger is, and they soon find themselves in a bar fight, burning the town down, riding dragons, being stalked by Death himself, fighting a troll the size of a small mountain, meeting the legendary Cohen the Barbarian, and finally having to save the world.
I read the books that this series was based on years ago and immediately became enamored of both the story and author Terry Pratchett's sense of humor.  This movie does a good job of capturing the feel of the books as well as the comedy in the situations Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves in.  They did leave out some minor situations, which is a little irksome, but the program was long enough as it was and I'm not surprised that things were cut.  They also made a wise decision in merging the first two books into one story.  The first book is basically a series of comic vignettes that are strung together.  It's incredibly funny, but there's not much plot.  The second book, The Light Fantastic, was built on a solid story about what happens when the great turtle A'Tuin finds itself on a collision course with a star.  Spreading that plot out a little created a solid foundation to sprinkle the shorter comic scenes from the first book. 

"If complete and utter chaos was lighting, then being tied to you is like being on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armor and shouting 'All gods are idiots!'" _Rincewind to Twoflower.
The acting was generally very good.  Sean Astin was absolutely perfect as Twoflower.  He's just as I imagined him to be; wide-eyed, naïve, a bit out of shape, but full of enthusiasm.  I thought David Janson did a good job as Rincewind, though I though he played up Rincewind's selfishness a bit too much and he made the character seem almost cruel at times. 
There were two people who stole every scene they were in however.  Tim Curry is wonderfully evil as the ambitious magician Trymon.  He has a lot of fun with the role, and even his most dastardly deeds are amusing.  It's hard to play a comical character who is a murderer, but Curry seems to do it with ease.  The other actor who was magnificent was Christopher Lee who was the voice of Death.  The role was played by a life-size skeleton in a black robe holding a scythe, and Lee's wonderful voice gave the character a menacing touch (he is Death after all) while still being terribly funny.  My favorite exchange of the movie involved Trymon who summons Death for some information and then allows him to go back to the party he was attending:
Trymon: I hope it's a good party!
Death: I think it might go downhill at midnight.
Trymon: Why?
Death: That's when they'll be taking my mask off.
The DVD:

This film, which consists of two one and a half hour segments, comes on one DVD in a standard keepcase. There is no insert.
The 5.1 English soundtrack was clean and clear.  Good use was made of the soundstage and they came up with some neat audio effects that worked particularly well.  For example, Death's voice echoed and the reverberated sounds were thrown to the rear speakers.  It filled the room with his voice and made the character sound even more menacing and powerful. 
Filmed (and broadcast) in HD, it's too bad that this wasn't released on Blu-ray. In any case the 1.78:1 anamorphic picture looked wonderful with a very good level of detail and nice strong colors. The blacks were spot-on and the whole image just looked wonderful. A nice looking DVD.
There is no bonus material.  Extras that appeared in the region 2 edition, deleted scenes and an intro by Terry Pratchett among others, are sadly missing from this disc.
Final Thoughts:
This was a very enjoyable film.  The creators did a wonderful job of bringing Terry Pratchett's world to life.  Funny and engaging, this is a movie that the whole family can enjoy.  Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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