Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

culture

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [2005]

I've had Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2) on my list at Lovefilm for quite a while, and have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading its arrival. I've heard some people rave (in a good way) about it, and others hate it, so I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make of it. I watched it this weekend1 and you'll know which camp I fall into when I say that I'm still thinking to myself, "...and another thing I hated about it was...". I don't think I've seen a film that I've disliked so much in a long time.

Warning: the rest contains spoilers

My first problem with the H2G2 film was the dialogue and jokes, or rather the fact that the best ones in the book were missing in action. It wasn't simply that they cut some out totally (I could understand that with time constraints), but they butchered the jokes, leaving only a bleeding stump to puzzle those who aren't familiar with the book/radio/TV series and infuriate those who are. So, in the first few minutes of the film, when Arthur Dent is lying in front of a bulldozer, arguing with the foreman, Mr. Prosser, who is trying to demolish Arthur's house to make way for a bypass, we get this delicious bit of dialogue referring to the plans for the bypass:

Arthur: I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them. Mr. Prosser: That's the Display Department. Arthur: With a torch. Mr. Prosser: The lights had probably gone. Arthur: So had the stairs. Mr. Prosser: But you found the plans, didn't you? Arthur: Oh yes, they were 'on display' in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the leopard.'

I hate being so negative about anything, but I'm really struggling to come up with even a few positive points from the film. Stephen Fry was very good as The Book (though shamefully under-used), Bill Bailey had a wonderful cameo as the whale (perfect casting), and Bill Nighy was excellent as Slartibartfast. Thank goodness that his line "...it scares the willies out of me" survived the Editor's guillotine. Some of the effects were very good (particularly the factory floor on Magrathea), but good effects don't make a good film. There was also some smart updating of one of the old jokes, when the Heart of Gold receives a recorded hologram2 when visiting Magrathea:

It is most gratifying that your enthusiasm for our planet continues unabated. As a token of our appreciation, we hope you will enjoy the two thermonuclear missiles we've just sent to converge with your craft. To ensure ongoing quality of service, your death may be monitored for training purposes. Thank you.

But these few moments of enjoyment were very few and far between. I wonder what people who don't know the book/radio series/TV series made of it. It seemed to me that because big sections of original plot (along with explanations of why things were the way they were) were clumsily chopped out and replaced with bits of new plot which replaced the explanations with new non-sequiturs, they'd be pretty puzzled by what the hell was going on. And by removing the best jokes and dialogue, they did nothing to endear themselves to hardcore fans, either. If I could understand the decisions they made, I wouldn't mind so much. If I could see that they were trying to make more of an action film, or more of a plot-driven film set in the H2G2 universe, I might not like the results, but I could see why they'd done it. My problem is that I can't understand what the heck they thought they were trying to do.

1 I say "I" because Mr. Bsag gave up after about 15 minutes. In the interests of journalistic integrity, misguided optimism and masochism, I stayed until the end. ↑

2 In another nice cameo, the head and voice in the hologram was Simon Jones: Arthur Dent in the radio series and TV show. ↑

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