Going Postal: Americans Need More Terry Pratchett, Please!
Posted 10.26.10 by reelz
Emily Whitten, probably the most passionate Deadpool fan we've encountered, gives us her take on another fan universe that could use a little more representation on this side of the pond. As co-founder of The North American Discworld Convention, she is an advocate for getting author Terry Pratchett's movie-adapted books onto American screens
Okay, look: I'm not going to deny that I'm a HUGE fan of author Sir Terry Pratchett (OBE; winner of the Carnegie Medal; freakin' knighted by the Queen of England for "Services to Literature;" best-selling adult fiction author in the UK; etc. etc. the list is pretty much endless). But even if I had never heard of the man, I am confident I'd still have enjoyed the latest Discworld1 TV movie.
The third in a series produced by The Mob Film Co., Going Postal is a gem of a film - with a fun and fast-paced plot and a thread of antagonistic romance moving it along; a charming lead actor and excellent supporting cast; and a gorgeously, grittily authentic-feeling set, watching the film is a bit like eating an entire box of delicious chocolates; but with none of the bad aftereffects.2
You have to love a film that sets up the plot (crafty con man Moist von Lipwig, played by the amazingly charismatic Richard Coyle, is caught and publicly hanged, but secretly saved and given another chance at a straight life by the ruler of the city) with the city's ruler telling Moist: "You see sometimes, when a man has made such a foul and tangled mess of his life that death appears to be the only option, an angel appears, and offers him a change of life. ...I should like you to think of me as that angel. I am offering you a new life -- and a job." He then tells Moist that he may accept the job or choose to step out a nearby door "and you will never hear from me again." On the other side of the door, of course? Is a yawning, bottomless abyss. As Moist peers into it, the ruler continues, with perfect calm: "You see, the really interesting thing about angels...is that you only ever get the one" - and then waits patiently for Moist's decision.
Thus Moist is given the choice of death or revitalizing the ruined city postal system. When he accepts the job, he finds himself up against a parole officer who never needs to sleep; a post office filled to the brim with years worth of undelivered letters; a couple of extremely odd coworkers; a woman against whom his legendary charms seems to fail utterly; a rival correspondence system (based on the real life semaphore) that takes business really seriously; and -- oh yes -- people are turning up dead.
Sounds like a fun ride to me! And it plays out that way, and in such a way that people who've never read a single Pratchett novel can still appreciate. So if this is the case, why hasn't the film (aired on UK TV in May of this year and released on UK DVD in August) made its way over to the US yet? It can't be because Americans couldn't possibly enjoy a British film like this - I'm an American born-and-bred, and I loved it! Is it merely that the Gods of Marketing don't see enough money in it? Perhaps.3 But it seems to me that this is the way in which Americans get cheated out of a lot of quality TV, or at least cheated until someone in marketing finally sits up and says, "Oh, Spaced? Black Books? Going Postal? You actually want to see them on TV, and own them on DVD? There's money to be made here? Well, ok then, here you go; five years late." And I don't want to wait five years for my Pratchett films. So, what do we think, guys - why does it take so long for us to get any quality films from other countries like the UK, and what can we do to change that? And most importantly, what can we do to change that before the next Terry Pratchett adaptation (because there is definitely going to be one, oh yes there is, and I can't wait) is made? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
by Emily S. Whitten
co-founder of The North American Discworld Convention
Convention website: http://www.nadwcon.org
1 Pratchett's long-running fantasy series, which takes place on a flat world that rides on the backs of four elephants that stand on a giant turtle that swims through space. Yes, you read that right.
2 And at this point I am going to try to forestall any complaints from fellow Pratchetteers who are at this very moment exclaiming, "But they took my favorite bit(s) out! They changed that plot point! The book was so much betterrrrr!!" by saying that yes, I 100% agree that a Pratchett novel, with its layered storytelling, its clever wordplay, its footnotes on footnotes, and its subtle commentary, is irreplaceable; but that doesn't mean that they can't still make a damn good adaptation of one of his stories if they try, and I think they have done so, within the limitations of the medium, here.
3 After all, a lot of this does come down to marketing - Sir Terry's books were at first generally mis-marketed here, and only began to really garner U.S. attention after HarperCollins took over with a new marketing strategy about twelve years ago.