Hitchhiker’s Guide Review, Part Two

April 29, 2005

First off, let me explain something. I love Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (hereafter referred to as HHGTTG because I’m lazy). I love the original radio play. I love the books. I enjoyed the TV show once (haven’t watched the whole thing complete because of the Dr. Who style effects).

I say this to point out that I’m a big time fan – not a disinterested movie reviewer like your run-of-the-mill newspaper reviewer. I’m sure there are some reviewers that go into a movie expecting to not like the movie. I’m not one of them.

So, to get it out of the way – this movie rocks. It is WONDERFUL. Outstanding in its field. To be ursurped by only Revenge of the Sith – maybe. Well, probably.

First off, there was a set of previews which was a bit unusual for a preview showing. One of the previews starts off with Wonderful World just like this preview and it takes full on 30 seconds for me to realize that it isn’t a preview for HHGTTG but a preview for ‘Chicken Little’! They had intentionally parodied the first trailer for HHGTTG and it worked great. That was fun – I laughed out loud and long at that.

Oh, this is the first time I’ve seen the new THX opening with audio blurbs from movies over the last twenty or more years. A snippet from the pod races in The Phantom Menace was very recognizable. It will be interesting to see if the DVD has this or the standard breaking glass opening that makes my son cover his ears.

*** WARNING! ***

From this point on, there will probably be plot spoilers! Read but don’t complain that I gave something away.

The movie starts off with a wonderful song, “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish” which was just delightful. It was also very unexpected and made me laugh out loud. The lyrics are synchronized to leaping and performing dolphins and at the end of the song the dolphins take off to parts unknown. Get used to the idea of me laughing out loud since it happened a great deal during this movie.

I’m sure that on repeated viewings I’ll catch all of the in jokes that are supposed to be permeating the movie, but one of the first ones that made me smile is Mr. Prosser, the foreman of the crew that is supposed to knock down Arthur’s house. There is no mention of the internal dialogue that is in the book but he *looks* like the umpteenth decendant of Ghengis Khan might look like. If you hadn’t read the books, you wouldn’t have picked up on it, it was that subtle. I’m sure that some that have read the book wouldn’t have caught that one…

Many of the memorable lines are here – many are not. Earlier today on NPR the topic was the HHGTTG movie and the producer mentioned that this is a movie version of the story and not a direct word for word recreation. Deal with it if it upsets you…

Look for Douglas Adams nose as the temple in the new side story of going to visit Zaphod’s presidential rival. Trillian gets captured and the crew has to travel to the Vogon homeworld to rescue her. Some great gags about original ideas and bureaucracy here. The juicer to give Zaphod a bit of mental ‘zest’ was silly but fun.

The other bit mentioned on NPR is that they didn’t write this stuff – Douglas Adams did. Before he died, he had reworked the script and that is what was used for the movie – in fact, Douglas had removed some memorable bits that the director and producers put back in. Have a listen to see what I’m talking about.

Another new but welcome bit is that Trillian and Arthur like each other! In the books, it was a chance meeting at a party but no real spark – here they like each other and if it wasn’t for Zaphod’s interference they might have made a go of it. I was always a bit sad that Arthur had to wait until Fenchurch to find someone who really cared for him – however, that makes for a bit of reworking if they make enough sequels to get to that point.

Much of the commentary in the book is missing, but the guide and narrator provides for some. Stephen Fry is outstanding as the guide – the explanation of the babelfish produced peals of laughter in the theater. I was surprised at how easily the guide and the narrator fit into the movie.

Casting is great – Zooey is just fabulous as Trillian and Arthur fits well. Mos Def isn’t quite weird enough for Ford; he does a fine job but I was just expecting a bit more desperate confidence. Zaphod is delightful with the Multiple Personality Disorder, especially after he has to leave his second head as collateral. Alan Rickman is great as Marvin’s voice; it is too bad that Warwick Davis’ voice didn’t pan out but an interview with him indicated that he was okay with the change. Apparently they considered using the original Marvin’s voice but opted against it.

If you’ve read the book then all of the silly bits in the movie will be familiar and you’ll love them. I won’t even pretend to approach this from a neophyte’s perspective – however, I will comment on what my wife thinks about it when she sees it.

The Vogons are amazing – Henson studios do a fantastic job as always. It is great to see a movie use actual props and in camera effects and not rely on CG for everything. Don’t get me wrong – there are eye-popping CG effect that left me speechless but they are where they are needed and not overused.

The movie leaves it very open for a sequel which makes me happy. I really liked these characters and this incarnation of them – I want to see MORE! I think that they struck a fine balance between pleasing the majority of fans and introducing a whole new group to the wonderful world of Douglas Adams.

If I get the chance, I’m going to go again, perhaps on Saturday morning when no one else is up. Supposed to rain anyway so I won’t be doing yardwork.

Final word? Go see this. You won’t be disappointed.

Let me know what you think about it if you get the chance…


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