Is third time a charm? A look at the “Going postal” movie.

going_postal_film

It’s no secret that we, at MTS writing, are great fans of Terry Pratchett’s work. We noticed that so many people out there haven’t seen the “Going postal” movie (based on the book of the same title) simply because they got disappointed with previous screen adaptations of Discworld novels. That’s why we’re reviewing such an old movie – it doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. 

Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld series for long has been labelled as the books which can’t be adapted to screen. They are special and their tales are told in an unique way. But the first attempts to prove it wrong had been taken in 1997, when Channel 4 produced two cartoons: “Soul music” and “Wyrd sisters”. Although animation was quite crude, voice cast and storyline presented itself on a very high level. But we had to wait almost another 9 years to see the Discworld characters being played by the real actors. In 2006 The Mob released “The Hogfather”. It was… good. Reminded more of a theatre play than a movie but the level of acting was decent. Then in 2008 the Mob went to the lengths of producing “The colour of magic”. It was designed to be a blockbuster – high budget (£7m) and famous stars (Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons, Sean Astin) should guarantee it. What went wrong then? No idea. On its’ own ground the film could stand firmly. As an adaptation of a Discworld novel – not so much. So when in 2010 “Going postal” came out, produced again by the Mob and broadcasted on the Sky One channel, many of the fans passed on it, simply expecting it to be not good enough. Were they right?

What is the story? Meet Moist von Lipwig (his parents were loving, but not very bright). A conman and master of disguise. The man who can convince you that piece of glass is a real diamond and sell it to you accordingly. But as everything good comes to an end, his swindling days are over when he’s being caught and hanged… almost. Just to wake up in Lord Vetinari’s (a tyrannical ruler of the Ankh-Morpork city) office and to hear an almost unthinkable offer. Vetinari gives him a choice: death, or (and here our con man’s blood runs cold at the very thought of it) an governmental, daytime job. Moist can see a third option: escape. It turns out it’s not so easy when your appointed parole officer is a golem – a creature made of clay, who needs no food and no rest, and can march all day and night, holding in one enormous hand a human, and in other his kicking horse. So Moist is doomed to became the postmaster of the Ankh-Morpork post office, and raise it up to its’ previous glory. Which is not an easy task, when his staff consist of only two people (one under the age, one way over the age), rooms are literally filled with undelivered mail (with a mind of its’ own), and competition never sleeps.

Charles-Dance-Vetinari

I must say that for the first half the movie sticks faithfully to the book; more changes had been applied in the other half. Obviously, silver screen has its’ rights. The alterations are not so dramatic to get upset, unless someone is a psycho fan and wants everything to be literally like in the book.

Let’s say a bit more about cast and I will start, accordingly to the status, from Lord Havelock Vetinari, played by Charles Dance. I must say when I heard that in “Colour of magic” that character is going to be played by Jeremy Irons I was full of expectations, and sadly got disappointed. Here I expected nothing and got pleasantly surprised! Charles Dance, with that look of a cynical mastery on his face, with the posture and the voice of a born ruler, he is just perfect Vetinari. Yes, people accuse the filmmakers that actor’s hair colour doesn’t match. But – who cares? With all the great acting he doesn’t need to dye his hair black to be completely believable.

Main protagonist, Moist von Lipwig, is played by Richard Coyle. It’s another fully convincing (like almost all in the movie anyway) performance, full of charm, wit and unbelievable energy. He is the man you could buy the glass for a price of diamond from, and still be happy with the bargain. One can only wonder why it takes Adora – Moist’s love interest – so long to fall for him.

moist_von_lipwig_adora_dearhart

Claire Foy plays Adora Belle Dearheart, a cynical girl working in the Golem Trust, always surrounded by the smoke of cigarette she never puts down. Her performance had been praised by Sir Terry Pratchett himself, as he’d been present on the set as an advisor. We can also see him in a small cameo at the end of the movie. The only casting choice which surprised me was of David Suchet in the role of Reacher Gilt. His portrayal of the ruthless pirate-like owner of clacks company – post office’s competition – is quite far from the one we know from books. Does it mean it’s not good? I would never say that about any of Suchet’s performances and his Gilt is actually quite enjoyable. The scenes where he loses his temper (unlike cool Reacher from the book) are probably his best. The duo of Mr. Groat and Stanley, played respectively by Andrew Sachs and Ian Bonar, also deserve an applause, the same like practically every member of the supporting cast. I personally love two of the minor scenes: in the Dave’s pin shop and in the Offler’s temple. It takes a great actor to voice lines like:

“But the true sausagidity goes to Offler. He eats the… essence of the sausages. While we priests eat the earthly shell.”

with completely straight face.

Most of the film’s extras has been played by real-life Discworld fans, who were invited to take part in the project. That’s actually a very adorable touch.

The budget of “Going postal” is quite low and that shows. The CGI is sometimes on an embarrassing level. The movie was filmed in the Hungary instead of England (probably cheaper). And yet it got something, what the previous productions are lacking. Charm. Believability. An healthy dose of nonsense. It’s really like the post office itself – not jazzy or trendy, a bit old fashioned, but gives you about the same nice, warm feeling, like the postcard or letter delivered by the postman.

trio

 

M. R.

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