BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

By • Sep 13th, 2005 •

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This was a tough one for me. I was an avid fan of Douglas Adams’ original BBC radio series, the much more complex books which spawned as a result, the audiotape version (which differed again from both) and the resultant TV series (which differed yet again). For every incarnation Adams rewrote his story. So, as this new adaptation is supposedly based on a screenplay and detailed notes by the late Douglas Adams himself, with additional help from Karey Kirkpatrick, we should not be surprised that a movie version would yet again rewrite everything that has gone before – and it does… but you can’t help wondering how it would have turned out if Douglas had been around to oversee it.

As a condensation of the story/stories, which it obviously has to be for the format, a lot of it works. A lot of character interplay is tossed aside yet the basic relationships, though rushed, remain fairly intact. Freeman is okay as the bewildered Earthman Arthur Dent who is ripped from his mundane existence, yet is never as astounded or astonished or ‘What the f***ing hell is going on!!!’ enough to merit credibility or elicit any sympathy. He seems quite happy to go along with everything that happens to him. He is a deserved loser. Rockwell doesn’t exude any of the charisma necessary for his character to have become a Galactic President, and simply plays it for laughs; Ford Prefect, an important character in previous incarnations, is totally unexplored and fades into the background, and there is an entire, and totally unnecessary, subplot, designed to insert the presumably available big name John Malkovich, the sole purpose of which seems to be the introduction and retrieval of a mysterious gizmo called a Point Of View gun, so that some of the characters can fire it at each other and experience each other’s said Points of View in a WAY too long sequence toward the close of the movie. Adams would never have laboured a point, or a joke, in this way.

Bill Nighy’s Slartibartfast is a laugh, and the planet building sequences are suitably impressive. The relationship between Arthur and Trillian, before now unrequited, is developed more than it has been before and there are also some nice nods to previous efforts with the ‘original’ Arthur making an appearance as the ‘Ghostly Head’ and the TV series Marvin standing in the queue of various aliens having to deal with Vogon bureaucracy. The Vogons themselves are also wonderfully realised by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop and the voice talents of Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter series (Uncle Vernon), Sleepy Hollow, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear) and members of the BBC’s League of Gentleman cast, amongst many others.

It was also disappointing to see a movie of THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE with so many of the GUIDE segments, which were the funniest bits of the books and the previous series, excised, but I realise that these would have been inappropriate and would have slowed down the action in some segments. One of my favourites, the explanation of the translating Babel Fish, does however turn up as an extra entry in the special features.

Whilst the makers’ enthusiasm and love for Adams’ work is beyond question, as evidenced by the material in the special features, there still seems to be something lacking. What non-aficionado’s will make of it is anyone’s guess as so many characters and premises are introduced at a rate of knots, and being forewarned is definitely a help. On the whole though, and on second viewing, it’s not too bad, and an almost happy compromise between British eccentricity and Hollywood demands.


Special Features:
Making Of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Additional Guide Entry
Deleted Scenes
Really Deleted Scenes
Sing A Long
Audio Commentaries
Set Top Games – Marvin’s Hangman
2 Disc Set

Director: Garth Jennings

Cast:
Martin Freeman Arthur Dent
Stephen Fry Narrator/The Guide
Mos Def Ford Prefect
Sam Rockwell Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zooey Deschanel Trillian
Warwick Davis Marvin
John Malkovich Humma Kavula
Bill Nighy Slartibartfast
Alan Rickman Marvin (voice)
Helen Mirren Deep Thought (voice)
Richard Griffiths Vogon Jeltz (voice)

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