Stop what you’re doing and go see this movie right now. I’ll be here when you get back.

I’ve been a fan of Douglas Adams since about 1983, when I first read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in novel form. At one point, years ago, I could recite the radio series in its entirety from memory (before there was a Tertiary Phase :P), and I could probably still get through quite a bit of it today. This is my context; I am a fan. I adore the story and the way it’s told, even while recognizing that it hasn’t been told the same way twice in any two of its pan-media manifestations.

So it was an effort to keep my expectations in check when I went to see this film. But it rose to them with weightless ease. It was gorgeous and very entertaining. I suspect it might be a bit too anti-formulaic to achieve blockbuster popularity here in the States, with the narration breaking things up as it does. This is an essential part of its charm, though, and what makes it so faithful to the whole Hitchhiker’s œuvre. If you enjoy having your mind blown, you’ll love this movie. Plenty of brain food to gorge yourself on over multiple viewings.

The dolphin opening was fabulous, a very pleasant surprise. The early scenes felt a bit rushed after this, but I’m not sure how much of that is because I knew all the jokes that were cut from the script.

The scenes from the party at the Islington flat where Arthur met Trillian were sorely needed. I was so glad to see them. It is definitely a departure from how I always imagined it going (especially after playing the computer game, in which Arthur quite explicitly doesn’t even begin to stand half a chance), but it adds a lot to the story. When they meet again later on the Heart of Gold, the awkwardness was much more palpable.

I was a little less pleased that they basically ended up together at the end of this movie. Of all the script changes, this seemed the most like a compromise for Hollywood. But I don’t see it as detrimental. Arthur’s more identifiable now that he’s not quite so pathetic. He’s toned down the whole fish-out-of-water thing a bit, too, which I think will also help people get behind him as a protagonist.

I remember reading an interview somewhere (probably either in Salmon of Doubt or Neil Gaimain’s book Don’t Panic) that when he originally wrote the story, Douglas wasn’t comfortable writing women. He said something about adding Trillian mostly to help give Arthur a frame of reference, but then he realized that Ford already filled that role and as a result didn’t develop Trillian much as a character. I think there is a tradeoff there; the movie’s better exploration of Trillian is at the expense of Ford.

I found Zaphod to be the biggest flaw, surprisingly enough. I’ve enjoyed Sam Rockwell in other things, but he doesn’t get this quite right. What’s missing is the nonchalance, the complete fluency with which Zaphod can bluff his way through, even while being utterly clueless. Sam gets the “crazy,” but the “like a fox” part of the equation falls short. Granted, the brain separation can account for this somewhat, but still. I could have dealt with a little less inspiration from Dubya and more from the character as it’s portrayed elsewhere.

Marvin was great, but then Marvin’s easy. He’s such a caricature.

2 thoughts on “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the film)

  1. Good assessment. All the so called purists that say the new version is far inferior is missing the boat. My biggest complaint though was with all the loose ends. I really liked the introduction of Malkovich, but hopefully it’ll be resolved in later movies. I’m not sure what makes a movie a success in Hollywood terms, but opening #1 can’t hurt.

    • Yeah, it did feel incomplete there and left me wanting more. I’m pretty forgiving of that, though, just because I can at least ponder the direction future movies might take it. And I think getting swept along with Arthur’s relatively ignorant point of view helps, too.

      I really hope it warrants a sequel commercially. It must’ve been pretty darned expensive to make, is the only thing.