We had a "morale event" at the theater today, attending the opening of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Given the review that I wrote about a while back, I wasn't expecting very much. I wanted to be wrong about what I had read, as Adams' difference in perspective.
To quote one of my friends, "I expected it to be funnier..." We had a good crowd at a fairly packed showing, and the crowd wasn't laughing very often.
I'm not going to write at length about this - well, I *intend* not to write at length, but we'll see how the post goes. I'm writing this from memory, so I might get some things wrong. If you've never read the books, there are spoilers here. Note that you can safely see the movie and not know what's in the book, as there is major divergence.
A few of the things that bothered me:
- The fact that Arthur has met Zaphod before is introduced before the earth is destroyed, when Arthur is pining for Tricia. We even see the party scene where Zaphod shows up. Doing this ahead of time totally ruins when Arthur and Ford make it onto the Heart of Gold. You're supposed to be surprised when Arthur meets Trillian there, and more surprised when we find out that Arthur already met Zaphod. This version, it's nothing. No laughs.
- One of my all time favorites scenes - Arthur and Ford make it onto the Vogon ship, Arthur asks where they are, Ford says "we're safe. We're in the servant's quarters of a Vogon Ship" (or something like that). Arthur responds, "Ahh. Obviously some definition of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of".
In the movie, they cut off the last line. What kind of comedic genius includes the setup for a joke, and then omits the punchline?
- Airlock scene. Ford and Arthur are going to be tossed into space, and die. In the book, Ford, "but wait, what about this switch? No, wait, we are going to die..." There *is* no switch - Ford is still making jokes despite the fact that he's about to die. That's funny, and it's funny that we get introduced to a way out, but it's just a fake.
In the movie, Ford plays with some gizmos and switches, and then says they're still going to die. That's not funny.
- The guide is introduced before we see the actual device. "Don't Panic" is, inexplicably, on the back of the book, so in the setup show, you don't see it until the end of the introductory setting. You've seen the front. It doesn't have words. You've heard the narration. I says they're there. Ugh.
- Arthur and Trillian. There really is no romantic subplot in the book, but it's a major part of the movie. Not funny, nor very well done.
- Zaphod's head. Zaphod has a swivel head that comes out and is annoying. Very annoying. The whole point of the second head is that it doesn't do anything. Having it be a plot device ruins the surrealism. Similarly, with the third arm.
- President of the Galaxy. No mention of why the president of the galaxy exists, nor any mention of the quest to find out what's really going on.
- Zaphod's motivation. Zaphod is doing all this why? Well, we really never get a good idea of his motivation. He wants to visit deep thought. The storyline that his brain has been modified, and then when he finds out that he modified his own brain, that's surreal.
- Zaphod's mannerisms. I don't think of Zaphod as being from Texas. In the books, he's far less obnoxious and far more cool than in the movie.
- No fairy cake or brownian motion
- When the philosophers come back to deep thought to get the answer, the dialog is rewritten to get rid of any interest, and there's a big crowd. Huh? One of the motivations for the philosophers is to find an decent question to go along with the answer, so that people will be satisfied. But that only works if the people didn't know what was going on.
- Bulldozer scenes misses the part where Ford convinces the bulldozer operator that Arthur doesn't really need to be there, and Arthur to leave. This is weird, so we presume that Ford is different in some way. In the movie, Arthur just gets up because Ford asks him to. The filmmakers just don't get it.
- Only 1:50. I think that included previews and credits. So, it's not like they were under pressure to cut out dialog.
- "It's unpleasantly like being drunk. What's unpleasant about being drunk? Ask a glass of water."
That's the sort of writing where Adams is truly brilliant, that shift in perspective that is not only unexpected, it's bizarre in some hard-to-describe manner. But no, we couldn't find time to put that into the movie...
- Marvin is, for some reason, less funny. Not sure why.
There are more, but I'm getting depressed.
What was good?
Well, the sets were well done, as were the creatures and the effects. Slartibartfast was well done. The guide graphics are well done.
The worst part - it's pretty unlikely that anybody will be drawn to the books after such a poor movie...