Thursday, March 13, 2008

Movie Review: The Hogfather

By request, I'm responding to this article.

I touched on this movie before. I guess I didn't review it properly because it had aired in England and my copy wasn't what you'd call "legal". But now the DVD has been released in the United States.

The author of this article bases his complaint on the low budget nature of the film. I honestly don't know what the budget for this movie was. There's a documentary on the storming of Normandy coming out this summer where the beach rush was recreated using only three actors and a computer. Three days of shooting and they made hundreds of people running across the beach and scaling cliffs. You can't tell it from a Spielberg flick with hundreds of extras. Budget has little to do with anything these days if you know what you're doing.

The Brits are masters of low budget. Classic Dr. Who looks like they spent more on tea than on sets but they still got me to hide behind the couch. The play "Our Town" uses only a ladder for a prop. A good story and a good actor can cover any budget shortfall.

The point is that it doesn't really look low budget. The writer says "I should note that my 8-year-old son ran screaming from the room in terror after 15 minutes." That right there should tell you what a good job they did with it. It wasn't even Death or the Boar/Santa that did it. It was just a creepy actor with a milky eye.

Any problems with this film had more to do with time constraints than with a money shortage. Or, perhaps even just an inherent problem translating this particular book to film.

Take the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". It was a brilliant radio show that became an equally brilliant book. However, adapting it to the screen was hindered by the fact that so much of the humor is involved with the descriptions and the narration. Similarly with "The Hogfather" there's background and explanation needed for certain things. The wizards of unseen university lose much of their quality babble. The relevance of a shower built by Bloody Stupid Johnson is lost completely. Without the descriptions the whole scene is shot. You can piece together the Assassins Guild but why do the Auditors want Santa dead? Why do all these other imaginary creatures suddenly come into being? Why does Death take the role of Santa/Hogfather? How is this Susan girl Death's granddaughter? Some of this is explained or at least hinted at but it's done very quietly. Really, that's my biggest complaint. The whole movie is done quietly. Go ahead. Crank the volume. It doesn't help. It's still quiet.

The thing is that the movie is directed toward the huge Discworld fan base. Most people watching it are gonna know the story already. If you didn't know who Jesus was you're not gonna understand Mel Gibson's "Passionate Beating of Some Skinny Guy". The movie ends with the deceased walking around naked with holes in his hands. It looks like a prequel to "Night of the Living Dead". The fans of "The Bible" are gonna get it but the rest aren't. Same story with "The Hogfather". If you're not a fan you're gonna struggle.

For the problems this movie had I'm still looking forward to the next one. A "The Colour of Magic" movie is in the works.

That's right, I compared a Discworld book to "The Bible". I could probably also make an arguement that the Discworld books have a better message.

Now go read my last post on this movie.

And if you want to look into Discworld books I'd suggest starting with "Mort". The books don't have to go in order. Starting at the beginning is a mistake. "Mort" is one of the best jumping off points.


Mike Rhode said...

Yeah, I thought it was better than the review too. It's just British, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Four friends, only one of whom had read a Discworld book, all loved it and had no trouble following it.