Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Review)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The classic work by Douglas Adams finally comes to the silver screen. Twenty years or so it took, with pitfalls all the way. It was originally a radio play, then a book, then sequels, miniseries, video games, and towels followed. Finally, after years of stalling, the movie has been realized. Douglas Adams died, but the film continued onward. He did manage to contribute a lot toward the script before he left us. I myself read the books in high school years ago, but had not read them recently, so they were not fresh on my mind. I did not want to constantly compare the film to the books, so I stayed away from them until after the show. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or HG2G as the slang goes (Or even H2G2, which is being used as well as typos rapidly expand their stranglehold upon the English language) the movie has some big shoes to fill and big expectations to meet.
Is this a perfect translation from print to film? Of course not. The miniseries was like four or six hours long, and that barely contained everything. To make a two hour movie, you will have to understand there will be things left on the cutting room floor. In addition to that, parts of the plot are radically changed, new characters pop up, and the ending is different. Does this make the movie bad? Is it horrible because of the changes? Now I am one who usually dislikes change, however, many of the changes here are warranted, in fact, several of them help make things easier to translate, or help bring the book to a wider audience. People seem to be screaming bloody murder over the changes. The changes are not the issue. The issue is the entire film as a whole. This film is not exceptional. It is fairly well forgettable. That is the major flaw with HG2G.
Flawed films can be good. This film starts out with a swing and a miss, and that causes the rest of the film to be forced to rush to catch up. That spoils a good twenty minutes to half an hour, which isn’t helped by some of the slowness caused when they are still on Earth. Before that, the extended opening sequence with the cabaret dolphins song sung while action shots of dolphins swimming and jumping was a terrible choice to lead off with. The song is played in it’s entirety, and is far far too long. The sequence drags on, and brings down the rest of the film, the viewer is annoyed at the dragging, and then the film sticks around Earth, as the action doesn’t start until they leave, anyway. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect hitch a ride off Earth, seconds before it is destroyed by interstellar aliens known as the Vogons. Ford Prefect is an alien himself, and is played by Mos Def in this version. Eternal everyman and eternal loser Arthur Dent is represented by Martin Freeman. After some Vogon poetry, the pair are picked up by the ship Heart of Gold, staffed by perpetually depressed robot Marvin, (body by Warwick Davis, voice by Alan Rickman) self-kidnapped President of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and girl who Arthur hit on once Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). Sam Rockwell shines as Zaphod Beeblebrox, it’s one of the highpoints of the film. Marvin’s quips are gold as well, though they both are few nuggets of gold in the muddy stream of this movie.
As is a bad kept secret, Earth was a giant computer created to find the ultimate question, for which the answer is “42.” Earth was blown up a few minutes too soon, so the plan went to waste, and the superintelligent mice who ran Earth are scrambling to get their answer, which may well be inside Arthur’s brain. Before the mice have their day, they visit a planet to see Humma Kavula.
John Malkovich’s Humma Kavula was created for this film by Adams himself, showing that even Adams agreed that some things needed to be changed. His character helps move parts of the plot along that wouldn’t translate well into film, yet also creates a few plotholes in the end, when his story arc seems to have abruptly stopped. How much is liberal editing and how much is Adams being inconsistent? We shall probably never know the full story. I say strap in and enjoy the ride!
There is a vast amount of complaints with this movie and what it changed and what Adams would want. Adams seemed to hate this franchise. He seemed to be tired of his fame depending entirely on this, and vastly wanted to be known for other things. He was disappointed in his Dirk Gently books doing bad, and getting the same questions for 15 years or so about these books. His bitterness even translated into print medium, where book #4 was a deliberate paycheck book that was phoned in, and in book #5 he killed everyone off. It would be perfectly fitting, if in a desperate act of revenge, Adams intended this film to be a disaster. He would have taken great delight in the story collapsing in on itself, and the ultimate revenge would be taking a giant dump on the superfans, the people who made his life difficult. The book and series was full of symbolism and wit. The film took pains to include as many catchphrases as possible, but anyone looking for symbolism here would be better off searching for Atlantis or Seatopia. The people I feel sorry for are the people who seemed to think this was one of the most important events in their life. They’ve waited for years, and the big day arrives, and the movie is a complete letdown. And they leave the theater mad. I could feel the rage upon exit. Sure, people clapped, and laughed at things that didn’t deserve it, but there was an undercurrent of hate, of nerd rage, and the theater was simmering up, just on the brink of boiling over when the credits started to roll. The audience was slightly skewed to the never go outside segment of society. Now I am no stranger to these people, I’ve been to Star Wars midnight shows, I’ve been to cons, I’ve even played competitively in Star Trek card games (and I was damn good, too) yet some of these people made me sink in my seat just to be in the same theater as them. There was an obvious lack of social skills in the theater that night. I do not pretend that I am some great super cool person (just look at what kind of website I’m running) but I do like to think I have some social graces, or some decency. I feel sorry for these people not for what happened to them at the show, but for the fact they allowed themselves to get into the situation where a movie could make or break their life. Are some people really that eager to grab onto something so intangible, that seems like such a bad idea to grab onto, yet they just can’t help themselves? My experiences with the human race both in this movie and in the real world lead my to the saddest answer of all, yes.
Sam Rockwell was awesome, though! So was Marvin, and the planet building scenes. Also the potential “Screw You” from Adams would be cool if real.
Changes may have altered the characters. Not knowing how much was Douglas Adams.
Everything else, including the opening song. The audience was ugly as well, yeesh. Baths, people. Baths.
Rated 6/10 (Home, Lots of Vogons x3, Announcement, Don’t Panic)
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