The late Sir Terry Pratchett crafted an amazing, highly witty world with his Discworld novels. In 2006, there was a two part TV film adaptation of his 20th Discworld novel, The Hogfather. It was produced by The Mob, a British production company and Sir Terry Pratchett himself makes an appearance in a very minor role. Let’s take a look.
The Hogfather is Discworld’s version of Father Christmas or Santa if you prefer. All around Discworld, people are settling in to celebrate another Hogswatch. What the denizens of Discworld don’t know is that the Auditors of reality have approached the Ankh-Morpork Assassin’s guild with a simple contract. Eliminate the Hogfather. The guild sends Mr. Teatime, an assassin with a reputation for coming up with creative solutions. Meanwhile, Death notices the Hogfather’s time running out and decides to take his place in order to strengthen belief in him. His granddaughter, Susan encounters him in the costume and decides to go investigate what’s happening for herself.
Now, since the film’s only three hours long there are bits cut from the book. The Cheerful Fairy. Most of the kids Death encounters in the department store. The Death of Rats goes from frequent appearances to a brief segment and there are other bits cut for time. That being said, they did an excellent job of keeping everything they needed to preserve the integrity of the narrative while also shortening it and making it more stand alone. Since the original has quite a few segments with the wizards that do work best when you’re already familiar with the wizards.
Yeah, there are quite a few funny lines and sequences that aren’t in the film but none of them are absolutely essential for the plot.
The story is very clever. One of the strengths of the Discworld series is that there’s a strange, easily picked up on internal logic to everything, including the magical and other fantastic elements. And that is very much on display. Another strength is that the humour is just incredibly clever with a lot of strong dialogue. Which we also see on full display.
The Discworld novels are full of excellently written, memorable characters. Arguably two of the best are Death and Susan, who are the main protagonists in this story. Which does make it a fantastic choice for Discworld’s first live action.
A big part of why their dynamic works so well is that Death doesn’t quite grasp human customs but knows the theory behind them whereas Susan has a better grasp on the world Death inhabits than most humans but has an imperfect comprehension since she’s spent so long trying to be more or less normal. Yet they are family so they do try to connect in spite of the gap. This leads to a lot of scenes that are really funny but also, in a strange way, quite heartfelt.
I also do really like Teatime as a villain. He’s the type of awkward character who could easily be played up as charming in that awkwardness but that’s coupled with a deep-rooted sociopathy which makes him very dangerous.
Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:
This is a very good looking film. The CG scenery is very clearly CG but it’s very good CG. The backgrounds look fantastic. The effects used for the magical elements are largely pretty subtle and work nicely. The shots are all set up very well.
Acting and Music:
The acting is phenomenal. Marc Warren pulls off Teatime perfectly. Mchelle Dockery is fantastic as Susan. Ian Richardson delivers Death’s lines very powerfully. Marnix Van Den Broeke also deserves credit. His movements as the body of Death are very deliberate and work perfectly for the scenes. Every single casting choice is just immaculately thought out and Vadim Jean’s directing is spot on. The music is superb. Paul Francis and David Hughes deserve a lot of credit.
This is pretty much the perfect film adaptation. The cuts it does make are the ones it can afford. The quality is stellar in terms of acting, visuals and music. It’s difficult to imagine how they could have done it better without making it nearly twice as long and just including everything. Which just isn’t a realistic expectation. So, I’m going to give it a 10/10. It’s pretty much the definitive source on how to bring the Discworld into live action. I would suggest reading the book as well since it does have a lot of funny scenes that are cut for time but definitely watch this if you’re a fan of Sir Terry Pratchett’s.