While Going Postal is an adaptation of the thirty-third book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, it is not necessary to have any background going in. The books cover a wide variety of characters, and there aren’t filmed adaptations of most of them, so Going Postal is approached as a completely stand alone story. Considering that Pratchett’s books sell second only to J.K. Rowling in the UK, and that this film is a fairly faithful version, it would be advisable to watch it.
Going Postal centers on Moist von Lipwig (Richard Coyle, Coupling, The Whistleblowers), a con man who is finally caught by the law. After a (purposely) failed hanging, Lipwig is brought before Lord Vetinari (Charles Dance, Game of Thrones, Bleak House), who gives him a choice: fall to his death, or reopen the defunct postal service. Lipwig chooses the latter, assuming he can easily make some money, then escape again to further his various schemes.
What Lipwig doesn’t realize is that the post office seems to have a life of itself. Millions of undelivered letters fill the halls, and the letters on the letters have the ability to come alive, showing Lipwig the consequences of his past mistakes. You see, while Lipwig thought forging bonds and such were victimless crimes, he has actually destroyed many families. Faced with what he has done, Lipwig has a serious crisis of faith in who he is, and must decide whether he even wants to continue with his bad habits.
Not that he has much choice. To ensure that Lipwig doesn’t take off, Vetinari gives him a golem named Mr. Pump (voiced by Nicholas Farrell, Torchwood) as a parole officer. Mr. Pump knows where Lipwig is at all times, and trying to escape is ineffective.
To make matters worse, there are those who don’t want to see the post office reopen and be restored to its former glory. Namely, Reacher Gilt (David Suchet, Agatha Christie’s Poirot), who runs the Clacks, a message service using light signals. Gilt has paid an assassin to take out the past four postmasters, and has similar plans for Lipwig.
Lipwig is aided in his task by not just Pump, but the old Junior Postman Groat (Andrew Sachs, Fawlty Towers) and young Stanley Howler (Ian Bonar, Hotel Babylon). Promoting Groat, and using Stanley’s obsessive knowledge of pins to invent and revolutionize stamps, Lipwig wins them over. He also hires an army of golems to assist, and soon, business is thriving.
Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. Lipwig falls for a golem-rights activist named Adora Belle Dearheart (Claire Foy, Little Dorrit). Adora is an attractive, but cold, woman, whose father invented the Clacks, but lost them after one of Lipwig’s schemes caused the bank to recall its loan to him. Lipwig realizes he must tell her the truth, but that makes winning her over even harder than before. But Adora holds the key, not just to Lipwig’s heart, but also to beating Gilt and running a great postal service. So try he must.
Going Postal is set in a fantasy world, with werewolves and wizards and trolls. Yet, magic isn’t an essential element to the plot of this story specifically, and more informs the tone, then sets the pace. This is a welcome, novel idea in an age where boy wizards and hunky teen vamps rule the movie theaters and television screens. The characters are unique and interesting, and many have multiple layers. While there are static villains, others, like Lipwig and Vetinari, aren’t so easy to figure out. It makes for a fascinating tale, and keeps one guessing what will come next.
The world created for Going Postal looks amazing, on the whole. The golems may not be the most advanced tech, but the buildings, technology, such as the Clacks,, and other characters who inhabit create in an environment rich in things to see, and with a complete, authentic feel. The attention to detail, from posters on the sides of buildings, to the elaborate costumes, really takes viewers into another world completely. Combining drama, mystery, and humor, it’s hard to believe anyone who watches Going Postal will not be taken in by what Pratchett has created.
The film itself was made for television, and aired in two parts. The total story length is about three hours, easily digestible in one sitting. Also included on the two disc set is over an hour of bonus features, including bloopers, a commentary by director Jon Jones, a five minute introduction by Terry Pratchett, which kind of rambles, deleted scenes, and image galleries.
The best part of the extras are probably the interviews. Cast, crew, and, surprisingly, even fans are filmed speaking about the production, and cover a wide variety of the elements involved. Some are concerned with the design; some with how closely this adaptation sticks to a beloved book. There’s plenty to sift through here, and while not nearly as interesting as the film, a nice companion to view on a separate day.
All in all, Going Postal is sure to leave quite an impression, especially for those brand new to Pratchett’s world. Acorn Media will release this DVD set this Tuesday, September 20th, and I highly recommend checking it out. Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal is also available on Blu-ray, and while I have not gotten the opportunity to examine that edition, would imagine it’s even better.