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April 30, 2005
Movie Review: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Last night, I went to a film opening for the first time in years to see the new version of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The books have long been a favorite of mine; I've read and re-read the five-book trilogy enough times that the characters are easily recalled from memory, as well as my own personal characterizations of them. Unlike most books, however, a film version of HGG would necessarily mean making a more coherent narrative in order to be successfuly -- so I went to the cinema knowing that the film would take certain license with the original material.

I was not disappointed.


Now, fans must understand that the film version takes liberties with many elements of the books. In fact, when I say that the movie takes liberties, I mean that if the film version dated your sister, not only would you be tempted to take the film out behind the gym after school and beat the living hell out of it, but your father would almost certainly get his shotgun and arrange for some abrupt nuptials. These liberties bear some similarity to those which gave the Yanks such a naughty reputation in Britain during WWII.

However, keep in mind two important facts: Douglas Adams wrote this version himself, and it really does make for a better movie experience. For instance, the movie puts much more emphasis on the sexual tension between Trillian and Arthur Dent and provides a completely separate resolution for it. (It's actually the central point of the film, inasmuch as it has any point at all.) Elements of the first three books drift in and out of the movie, but only the truly initiated will notice it. Zaphod's mission only gets about halfway accomplished in the movie, while Arthur manages to save Earth much more quickly -- and deliberately -- than in Adams' series. Adams created a completely new character, Hamma Kavula, for the film, which John Malkovich chews delightfully as only he can.

Put aside all the changes. The characters remain as vivid and absurd as ever, especially Zaphod, as played by Sam Rockwell, and Marvin the Paranoid Android, voiced brilliantly by Alan Rickman. Zooey Deschanel would not have been my first choice for Trillian, but she does a terrific job, and Mos Def completely surprises me as Ford Prefect -- he's hilarious. The center of the movie, the Guide itself, provides plenty of absurd laughs not only from the narration of the entries (taken straight from Adams' book) but from the Star Trek: TNG style of animation used.

Even the First Mate, who doesn't find British humor and science fiction all that interesting, enjoyed the movie. She especially liked Marvin and his morose commentary, as well as the complete lack of objectionable material. My favorite parts involved the Vogons, which are fleshed out almost exactly as I'd imagined, and the Heart of Gold spaceship. Take a light heart and an open mind, and you'll be singing the theme song "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" all the way home. Don't be afraid to take the entire family to this one.

UPDATE: Should have been Marvin the Paranoid Android; I should have known better. I've corrected it now.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 30, 2005 9:35 AM

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» Movie Review: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy from Cigar Jack's Cigar Blog
Link: Captain's Quarters. Now, fans must understand that the film version takes liberties with many elements of the books. In fact, when I say that the movie takes liberties, I mean that if the film version dated your sister, not [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2005 10:10 AM

» Finally! The Hitch-hiker's Guide... from Epoch3 Blog
At some point during the 1970's I discovered Douglas Adams, and my sense of humor hasn't been quite the same since. An example of his wierd outlook on life could be summed up in a section of one of his Hitch-hiker's Guide books. The hero, Arthur ... [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2005 12:48 PM

» Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy from My View of the World
Even has a review of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I can't wait to see it, I think I'm going to see it tomorrow. I am a long time Doug Adams fan, I have read all 5 books of the "trilogy" (more than once) and have heard the audio books ... [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2005 9:29 PM

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