The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Review by Ees
Creator: Douglas Adams
Screenplay: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick
Starring: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Warwick Davis, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell
Rating: Imperial Star Destroyer Popular Crowd Pleaser
*** Contains minor spoilers, especially for those who haven't read the books. ***
I've read all five books in the (increasingly inaccurately named) trilogy, and loved every word. Every time water falls from the sky, I think of Rob McKenna and his 231 types of rain. Whenever someone says, "two heads are better than one," I think of Zaphod Beeblebrox. It's a pity nobody says, "three arms are better than two," so I could think of him then, as well. My house number is 42, which is, of course, the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. I suppose you could say I'm a fan.
I'm also something of a purist when it comes to movies based on books. It is for this reason that I was a bit worried when I saw some of the trailers and the cast list for THGTTG. Zaphod appeared to have only one head, Ford wasn't British, Marvin was ... short ... it didn't seem quite right. I resolved, in spite of my misgivings, to keep an open mind.
Two minutes in, I was scared. This wasn't supposed to be a musical ... was it? A few minutes later, I felt much better. The singing dolphins were, in fact, an introduction. Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) was exactly as I'd pictured him; the epitome of ordinary...ness. Just as we're getting used to watching this ordinary man go through his morning routine, his existence, and, indeed, the existence of the entire planet, changes rather drastically. It's a lot like the book and the game, which made me a bit more comfortable.
Ford Prefect's (Mos Def) role wasn't as fleshed-out as I was hoping it would be, but he was still entertaining. One of my favorite quotes from the movie is some Ford-Arthur interaction:
"I think I'm a sofa."
"I know how you feel."
I wasn't thrilled with Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), partly because of his rock-star-cowboy attitude (I dunno, I just pictured him differently based on the book) and partly because of the way his second head was presented. I understand the reasoning (having to double-shoot / green-screen / CG the second head for about a third of the movie would have upped the budget and the production time), but I was disappointed nonetheless.
As for Trillian, (Zooey Deschanel) she annoyed me at first, but won me over by the end of the film. Then there were some random characters, like Questular Rontok, (Anna Chancellor) who had a much bigger role than she should have, and the two "supreme beings" who questioned Deep Thought ... whose names don't even appear in the cast list. (That bugs the heck out of me, because I know I've seen one of them before, but I can't look her up because I don't know her name.)
Oh, and I can't end the cast section without mentioning Marvin (acted by Warwick Davis, voiced by Alan Rickman). He should have been taller, and should have looked a little less like I-DOG, but the voice and attitude were right on target. Alan Rickman plays the perfect morose, depressed robot.
On with the plot, shall we?
It departed from the book. Boy, oh boy, did it depart from the book. There were connections, there were references, but on whole, the plot had little to do with the book. Strangely, I wasn't bothered by this. The comedy (especially the bits involving the Improbability Drive on the Heart of Gold) was fantastic (see the aforementioned sofa quote), with a good balance between verbal quips and sight gags. The plot, while a bit dull, was supported by the humor and a few subplots from the book. There were a lot of loose ends and unexplained references (my sister asked me afterwards, "What's with the towels?") that may have confused folks who hadn't read the book, but hopefully they'll be inspired to pick up a copy to help them figure everything out.
You know, with all the issues I've been pointing out, you'd think I hated the movie. I think that, despite the problems, I liked it because it preserved the sense of absurdity that made the works of Douglas Adams so popular. Instead of being a loyal conversion from one medium to another, it was more of a giddy homage to a master of comedy. I think Douglas would have enjoyed it.
In memory of
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