WOSSNAME -- June 2010 -- Part 2 of 5
- WOSSNAME --JUNE 2010 -- PART 2 OF 5 (continued)
====Part 2 -- REVIEWS, AND STUFF
07) GOING POSTAL TELEFILM REVIEWS
08) ACTION REPLAY: PTERRY AND THE GUARDIAN BOOK CLUB
07) GOING POSTAL TELEFILM: REVIEWS
7.1 NICE RELATIONSHIP, SHAME ABOUT THE MOUSTACHE-TWIRLING ROBBER
A review of Going Postal, the film
by Annie Mac
When it comes to telefilm adaptations of Discworld novels, it seems
that the adage "third time's a charm" is true. Mob Films' Going
Postal was win all the way. There were quite a few changes from
original-novel canon; some of them worked well, and some
worked...um...less well; but this time around, the Discworld was
well and truly brought to life on our screens. Tamsin Greig was
excellent and very true to Pratchett's description of Sacharissa;
Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart was AWESOME and I want to have
her baybeez; and Charles Dance was almost Lord Vetinari.
Some good points:
* Mise en scene : bella, bella bellissima! They really, really got
it right this time. The lighting was gorgeous, the attention to
detail was a delight to see, the costumes looked right for early-
Industrial Age Ankh-Morpork, and buildings and interiors looked like
they sprang entire out of the pages of the novel -- especially the
Post Office, the Patrician's Palace, and the Golem Trust.
* Casting: largely perfect. Andrew Sachs was so amazing as Groat
that not once did I find myself thinking "Que, Meester Fawlty?" Ian
Bonar is now officially *my* Stanley -- he invested what could have
been treated as a slapstick comedic throwaway character with such
naive enthusiasm and emotional fragility that I nearly cried.
Charles Dance did a very decent Vetinari (if only they'd found room
in the budget for a spot of hair and beard dye; sorry folks, but
Vetinari is simply *not* greying ginger). Adrian Schiller's
performance as Gryle owed much to Max Shreck's long-ago vampire
Count in Nosferatu, and that's not a bad thing.
I've already hailed Claire Foy's and Tamsin Grieg's performances,
but I'll hail them again, with a special mention to Ingrid Bolso
Berdal; her interpretation of Angua had a feel of Lucy Lawless as
Xena, and that feel was a very effective one. Paul Barber (where's
he been since The Full Monty, by the way?) as Dave the Pinhead was
absolutely perfect. So were the Smoking Gnu. And another special
mention goes to Boris...
* Story adaptation: we all knew there was no way the whole story
could be told -- and done justice to -- in a two-parter, and given
that Sky and the Mob are (presumably) trying to balance keeping the
Discworld fans happy with presenting a followable story to newbies,
I think they were right to place the emphasis on Moist and Adora
Belle's relationship. Much as I love the novel, I always wished we
could have seen more of their not-very-romantic romance, and this
version delivered nicely on that front. Some of the new material,
e.g. the running gag with Angua arresting Moist, Adora Belle versus
Boris, and the scene where she tries to tell off the massed ranks of
golems, was effective and added to rather than took away from the
* The Clacks: it was REAL. It WORKED. You just knew it did.
...and some quibbles:
* My biggest complaint by far was the absence of the Grand Trunk as
a corporate entity. I think this was a terrible decision (and I
wonder if this was perhaps the part that Pterry himself was quite
unhappy about even though he loved most of it?). It had two bad
effects: one, we missed out on the whole story of the Grand Trunk
being a faceless monster, an elite cabal plotting behind closed
boardroom doors to grind small honest businesspeople underfoot and
darken and inconvenience the daily lives of all Ankh-Morpork -- in
other words, a mirror of our own real world's problems with big
corporations -- and two, Reacher Gilt was reduced to a scenery-
chewing, moustache-twirling pantomime villain who even reverted to
doing his own murderous dirty work in the latter part of the story.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! Much of the original point of the Gilt
character was that, unlike Moist -- and *like* Roundworld robber-
baron CEOs -- he didn't get his own hands dirty. He ruined lives
from a safe hiding place, behind a Board of Directors (equally
conned by him, for the most part) and a surface appearance of
legitimacy. Having Gilt commit several murders and be physically
threatening to young "Princess" (who was young in the novel, so what
moved them to cast her as an over-21? -- it didn't add anything to
the story) was so at variance with his (superbly drawn in the source
material) character that it interfered with my enjoyment of the
proceedings for a few minutes. I don't have much tolerance for
moustache-twirling villains anyway, which is why, for instance, I've
always preferred the Rani to the Master in Doctor Who, so I think it
would have been so much better if they'd stuck to the original here.
* Madhav Sharma as Crispin Horsefry: no, no, no. Just did not work
for me. Didn't look right, didn't act right. I know there were time,
cast size and budget restraints at work, but combining parts of
separate characters into one rarely works, and definitely did not
work here for me.
* David Suchet as Reacher Gilt: for all his cachet as an actor, I'm
afraid Suchet has never impressed me, and in my opinion he simply
didn't deliver the true menace of Gilt's wicked ways.
* Richard Coyle as Moist: I still don't know what to make of Richard
Coyle, having seen him as Moist one night and as Tus (the king's
elder son in Prince of Persia) the next. Mostly what I make of him
is that he has a face and style suited to modern relationships-gone-
wrong dramedy, and he doesn't come across believably in costume
drama/fantasy roles. That said, he did give the part of Moist a good
whack, so I can't completely write him off as I do the other two.
* I did miss the presence of Miss Maccalariat and a few other
secondary characters. Though I notice that Gladys the golem was
mentioned in the background at the Golem Trust!
All in all, though, I think it was an excellent production, a
reasonable compromise (pandering to the fans versus playing to a
wider audience), and I hope it made the network Powers That Be happy
because it would be good to have lots and lots of Discworld on the
screen in future!
7.2 PRESS AND BLOG REVIEWS
In The Times, the smarmy, self-important and apparently escapist-
entertainment-hating Rod Liddle, who admits to surreptitiously
inflicting bodily harm on innocent Pratchett or Rowling readers on
public transport, was won over in spite of himself:
"It kicked along, this production, with a modicum of decent special
effects and a rather canny evocation of faux-gothic Dickensian
squalor. Somehow it seems less juvenile to watch this sort of stuff
than read it, and within 15 minutes or so all my elitist snobbery
and pretentiousness had vanished..."
In The Independent, Tom Sutcliffe gives the stamp of approval:
"Those who aren't Pratchett devotees might be pleasantly surprised
by Going Postal, which is so nicely done that it makes a
proselytising case for the author's distinctive imagination... There
are appropriately scary villains, some lovely special effects,
including a tsunami of undelivered letters that pursues Moist
through the corridors of the old Post Office, and just enough real
feeling to make you care about what happens next. One of the opening
credits read "Mucked about by Terry Pratchett", but neither he, nor
they, mucked it up."
In The Guardian, Lucy Mangan was rapturous:
"It's all boundlessly clever, joyful and exuberant. The streets are
lined with fantastical, tottering buildings that seem almost-but-
not-quite to deny the laws of physics, and every performance seems
to cleave to the same principle climbing vertiginously but never
quite going too far and overbalancing. Ian Bonar deserves a special
award for his turn as pin aficionado or "pinhead" Stanley
Howler. A more febrile and endearing mass of nerves, loyalty and pin
love I shall surely never meet. From the giant golem that imprisons
and protects von Lipwig to the tiny clay-coloured beetles that
infest the postmaster's long-abandoned desk, every scene is bursting
with lovingly realised detail..."
...as was Keith Watson on Metro:
"Corrupt bankers, the mindless adulation of progress, the absurdity
of `victimless crime'; this was Pratchett aiming two barrels at
a galaxy of pet hates including, delightfully, missing
apostrophes all gathered around the yarn of conman Moist von
Lipwig and the accursed Ankh-Morpork post office. And he was well
served with a richly rendered visualisation of Discworld, from
avalanches of unsent letters to a menagerie of curious characters,
that made for a Delicatessen-style visual feast. And you could have
a lot of fun wondering where Dickens and Tolkien ended and Pratchett
began, such was the weight of literary influence. But it went deeper
Paul Connolly in The Daily Mail:
"Pratchett novels have always acted as gentle satires of our world,
but Going Postal, the latest of his novels to be filmed by Sky was,
by Pratchett's standards at least, monumentally angry. Porcine
bankers, the celebration of corporations, the moral vacuity of the
concept of victimless crime and, er, the incorrect use of
apostrophes, were all fed into the novel that was the source for
this Sky adaptation... Part of the glory of this fabulous chunk of
entertainment was that Sky eschewed CGI in favour of lavish sets,
constructed with lashings of sparkling invention. Going Postal
looked amazing. Luckily, everything else about the production was
Jane Simon in The Mirror:
"Sky has said it's trying to build a reputation for drama, and it's
certainly going the right way about it. This adaptation of Sir Terry
Pratchett's 33rd Discworld novel concludes tonight and it's a
gloriously-realised, filmic vision of the fantasy universe..."
In the Scotsman, Paul Whitelaw, who's not read any Pratchett novels:
"Their latest offering, Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, boasts a
typically stellar cast including Charles Dance, Timothy West, and
David Suchet looking like an ageing member of a German metal band.
It's a good look for him. But the star turn belongs to Richard Coyle
as a likeably pugnacious conman given a chance at redemption through
the unlikely vessel of a dilapidated Discworld post service..."
An uncredited reviewer in The Express:
"Sky may not have the resources to churn out top home-grown drama on
a routine basis, but when it does decide to throw its weight behind
a production, as it's done for this latest Terry Pratchett
Discworld adventure, then it certainly does it in style..."
On Den of Geek, Gaye Birch goes for an in-depth analysis of the
story and characters as well as the production:
"Ankh-Morpork is a much more solid, but less intimate city-state
here, filmed in Budapest in stone and brick buildings and streets.
There's not a pub in sight within city limits that I've seen so far,
and that element may be missed by those expecting the milling about
of shopkeepers, stall owners and animals in the close quarters seen
in the prior films. Another change that's noticeable is the absence
of Jeremy Irons' softly lisping Vetinari. I thought his gentle
menace in The Colour Of Magic was great, but I'm equally happy with
Charles Dance in the role, who effortlessly shows, with a glaring
glance and calm, even tone, that he's a man in a powerful position
and to be feared... For all the changes from the prior films, once
you've settled into the new look Ankh-Morpork it's easy to
appreciate the stunning performances of each actor..."
Editor's note: The Guardian also notes that Going Postal topped the
ratings for multichannel programmes:
08) ACTION REPLAY: PTERRY AND THE GUARDIAN BOOK CLUB
Late last year, WOSSNAME published links to a video of Sir Terry
Pratchett in discussion with John Mullan, professor of English at
University College London, for the Guardian book club.
The Guardian Book Club covers one book per month, with three weeks
devoted to an author and his latest work and the fourth devoted to
readers' responses. Below are links to the original video, a
downloadable mp3 of the session, and various pages covering the
discussion by sub-topic. This is all very well presented and worth
another in-depth look!
"And, of course, as this is a Discworld book, it means that the
wizards have to find something to squabble about. Mr Dibbler must
try a new scam, Lord Vetinari must plot, in his Machiavellian way,
towards a better world, and boy must meet girl or at least drift
gently towards her..."
For a series of video clips from the session (located on the right-
hand side of the page), go to:
To download the session as an mp3 (53 minutes, 35Mb), go to:
Week one: jokes in Unseen Academicals
Week two: rules in Unseen Academicals
Week three: magic realism and characters
Week four: readers' responses
The book club's reaction to Unseen Academicals
End of Part 2 -- continued on Part 3 of 5.
If you did not get all five parts, write: interact@...
Copyright (c) 2010 by Klatchian Foreign Legion