The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been done so many times, in so
many arenas, that it is hard to figure if there is a real reason for this
movie to be coming out. Particularly because it has been years since
the story of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and their towels
has really been in the public eye. Douglas Adams, the genius behind the
series, died at only 49 just four years ago. The Hitchhiker's Guide
has been made into a radio series (still its best incarnation), been the
subject of four novels (and a book of the radio scripts), was a television
series on the BBC, been performed on stage. It wouldn't surprise me to
find that there was an opera, ballet, or maybe a puppet theater which told
the offbeat, very British story.
one place it had never made it, though, was onto the big screen. Until
now. I wish I could say it was worth the long wait (the original radio
series is now 27 years old), but it is only partially. The problem
with the new film is an odd mixture of faithfulness to the source material
and a lack thereof, making the movie too watered down for the hard-core fans
and too quirky for the casual fans.
the Hitchhiker's Guide has been tweaked for each variation, so it
should not be too surprising that it would happen again. However, the
early passages of the movie, which are rather faithful to the original
storyline, are by far the most enjoyable. As the story strays farther
and farther afield from its source material, the film loses its footing.
all the other versions, the film starts out with a nebbishy Briton called
Arthur Dent (played by Martin Freeman of the original UK version of The
Office) who wakes up one morning to find out that his house is scheduled
for demolition to create a freeway bypass. While he is laying in front
of the bulldozers trying to halt progress, his best friend, Ford Prefect
(played by rapper Mos Def, an odd casting choice which works surprisingly
well) tells Arthur that he is not from Islington, he is
actually from a "a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse."
He has been working as a roving reporter for The Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy, and he has just heard some outer space chatter that the
Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
Dent thinks he has gone mad until a humongous spaceship comes down over the
valley and announces the destruction is imminent. Ford takes Arthur
along as he stows away on the ship.
film has quite purposely created dinky special effects and kind of cheesy
sets, which is true to the spirit of the tale and yet at the same time will
totally turn off the audience that just wanders in because it is a space
tale. At the same time, they have done a bit of a short-hand, Cliff
Notes take on Adams' words, often cutting off a joke after the first punchline but ignoring the one or two more that Adams backloaded onto them
to make the whole situation funnier. For example, when Arthur and Ford
are in a bar and talking about the potential of the Earth being destroyed,
but Arthur is still more concerned about his house being demolished,
there is a big crash. In the movie, Arthur just yells, "My house," and goes
running off. This is missing the whole joke. In the original Arthur asked what that was, and Ford
says, "don't worry, they haven't started yet." When Arthur calms
down, Ford continues, "It's probably just your house being knocked down."
skipping of jokes seems rather epidemic here, they seem to shorten many of
the jokes I don't know if it is to save space and time, but it's
distracting for the hardcore fans and leaves the casual observer not getting
the best bits.
the other hand, on rare occasions they stretch the joke too far, as well.
In the intro, in which it is explained that the dolphin was more intelligent
than man, they come to the punch line ("So long, and thanks for all the
fish") and instead of moving on, they turn it into an awful pseudo-Broadway
show tune that is amusing very briefly, but then goes on and on long after
we got the point.
in the long run, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has some great
moments, but it will probably disappoint the cult of the series and at the
same time somewhat perplex the uninitiated.
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: May 2, 2005.