22 October 2010 | lordman
Best out of the three adaptions
I must admit that I am quite surprised about the negative feedback the third movie based on Pratchett's works has received. There are many reasons for my surprise, which I will introduce in the following short review.
Going Postal is a story about a master con-artist who faces the gallows but it given a second shot at life as master of Ankh Morpork's run-down post office. To save the post (i.e. his own life) and win over the principled Golem-rights-activist Adora Dearheart, he has to employ all his conman wit to beat the owner of the telegraph-like "Clacks" in a business race evoking industrial-age competitions like that between Westinghouse and Edison, where showmanship and publicity were far more important than the actual product.
Talking about the product, this movie is well-acted and well-presented. It is based on one of Pratchett's newer stories and evokes a more urban industrial Steampunk feel than its Fantasy (Colour of Magic) and Faerie Tale-based (Hogfather) predecessors.
Still, for a friend of solid acting, solid backdrops, and more substance than metaphor, this may qualify as the best of the bunch.
Someone pointed out that the film lacked the "magic" of the other adaptions. This is all but true, yet, the lack of a fairy-tale air allows the narrative to flow much better. This time, you know precisely what you are looking at. After the somewhat confused and heavily-altered adaption of Colour of Magic, it is a relief to see a certain solid quality in terms of serious movie features returning to the series.
Let's face it: a TV-based production never does well when it relies on special effects more than it does on good actors, a decent script and solid direction. This was a mistake all too obvious in Colour of Magic, and is one not repeated here. Certainly, the visuals still to a perfect job at bringing Discworld to life, mostly due to the enormous attention given to them. However, they never feel overtaxed with their task, which makes it easier to suspend your disbelief in this adaption than in the other ones.
Of course, the movie is not for everyone. Especially those expecting a fantasy-fest will be sorely disappointed. This is fantasy only in the broadest sense, i.e. it takes place in a world quite fantastic and (maybe not quite to) unlike out own. If one wanted to exaggerate, it is - as Discworld always was - to fantasy what Daybreakers is to vampire fiction - a satiric subversion of the tropes.
It should be noted that the film is staffed mainly with rather less known actors - and this is a good thing. Although one might miss the presence of the likes of Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons and even Sean Astin, these are not exactly C-list actors either. You will be surprised how many of them you have seen before. I have graded some of the initial performances below. Please note that the 9 is not an average but a measure of the entire film relating to other reviews.
Plot: 10/10 - The best adaption yet, the changes within which are less noticeable than in Colour or Hogfather. Visuals: 7/10 - Clearly a TV production, but made with love. Not in over its head, unlike the previous adaptions. Special kudos for the sets (even though there is much subtle CGI involved), which are beautiful. Audio: 8/10 - More subtle, fitting. Certainly did not have a huge budget, but everything fits.
Richard Coyle as Moist: 8/10 - I was skeptical at first, but Richard Coyle makes for an energetic and sharp-witted scoundrel. An excellent fit for Moist Von Lipwick.
Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart: 7/10 - She plays the role very much to the expected degree, and while her on-screen chemistry with Coyle is great, her performance is a bit too much "by-the-book" for my taste. Still, Claire Foy displays a lot of charisma; a more courageous performance might have been in order, though.
David Suchet as Reacher Gilt: 5/10 - Suchet plays Gilt very much as a commedia dell arte "scaramuccio", the scheming, conniving, but ultimately inept villain, always with a top hat and twirl-worthy beard. Oh, and the eyepatch. This is actually precisely what the role demands and he delivers. Still, there is not crowning moment in his performance, he just "gets it done", which is a pity given that his character is the only one standing up to Lord Vetinari.
Charles Dance as Vetinari: 7/10 - Charles Dance is not Jeremy Irons, that is for certain. It is also for the better, as Irons' performance in Colour, while memorable, was also very much unbearable on the longer run. Good thing it was so brief. Dance does a solid job, and gives Vetinari a very human, while inhumanly competent, face.
Steve Pemberton as Drumknott: 10/10 - I have singled out Pemberton as Drumknott because it is hard not to like his take on the character. Drumknott may just be Vetinari's right-hand-man and therefore destined to an existence as living piece of backdrop, but Pemberton really gives the devout assistant a depth which, I believe, is quite true to the spirit in which the character was conceived. He is not a footstool, although trained as one, and actually immensely able when tasked. However, he does not show this openly but rather gives subtle hints at his capability. Of course, this is (probably) not in the script, but mainly conveyed through Pemberton's acting. He nailed this part.
All in all, if the Sky1-Productions continue in this vein, we will not have to fear another disappointment like Colour. Expensive actors a good movie do not make. Great overall style and love and care, that's more like it.