Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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...

Comments (15)

  1. Darron says:

    I disagree with the last statement. I am a techie, and had never read this book. (don’t ask… long story) But I saw the movie today, thought it was unbelievable. I’m buying the book tomorrow morning. I think it made a fan.

    (My wife agreed. We laughed very hard, and so did the rest of the crowd in Atlanta at my theatre).


  2. I rather enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t exactly the same as the books (I’ve read them all many times), but it was worth going out to see.

    I rather appreciated the small tributes to Douglas Adams… and (according to others I saw it with), it was chock full of cameos and references to other Guide stuff, such as the TV show.

    Still, I can see why some purists would dislike it, but then they’re purists — they never have any fun anyhow.

  3. Bertrand Le Roy says:

    If it’s really that bad, that’s very sad as it probably never will be redone properly. Well, we still have the TV shows on DVD…

    I guess I still have to see the movie for myself.

  4. Chris Bilson says:

    I don’t think I will be able to watch this movie…Zaphod is from Texas?!?!? My mental Zaphod is Richard Branson with two heads.

  5. ghett0blaster says:

    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.

    The narration says it’s "on the COVER". It never says front or back. It’s vague.

    On the other hand I agree a lot with what you said. This movie stinks.

  6. This evening Nabila and I went to see Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. To say this is a home coming for me is sort of an understatement in a "full-circle" kind of way. Before I get to the review,…

  7. I have read the books a few times, my girlfriend hasn’t. We both thought it was great, as did everyone else at the noon showing yesterday, from the sound of it.

    I guess you could sum up my review as a big

  8. Andy Tom says:

    I moved heaven and earth to get to see this film. Way back in the late 70’s I was a devoted hhgtg fan, heard the radio series, bought the books, bought the vinyl, watched the tv series, had all the lines off word perfect. So I HAD to see the movie. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT> I agree totally with the comments. Utter Rubbish. Where’s the flowing dialogue? wheres the bemusement of Arthur? Ford’s supposed to be COOL not just smartly dressed. SHOOT THE PRODUCERS, I SAY.

  9. Zaphod having two heads becomes integral to the plot in the books too actually… And it’s all tied in with the president of the galaxy thing. And as a part of this whole plot device, he’s not really clear on what his motivations are. Have you read all of the books?

    Zaphod is meant to be really annoying. Douglas Adams *hated* Zaphod – he was always supposed to be a truly obnoxious character. (My girlfriend used to work for Douglas Adams by the way, in case you’re wondering on what authority I got this…) So Sam Rockwell’s protrayal of the character is arguably much closer to Douglas Adams’ intentions than Mark Wing Davey’s. (Who played the original Zaphod.)

    I gather that the love interest between Arthur and Trillian was introduced to the script by Douglas Adams because he felt it was necessary to provide more character development to make it a successfuly film. I certainly think Trillian was a much better developed character in the film than she was in the books or the original radio play. The interplay between her and Arthur forms a part of that.

    I did find the absence of some of the lines I knew and loved to be somewhat jarring. But it’s a film, not a book or a radio play. Slavishly copying dialog can be a bad idea. If you want to see what happens when you stick more faithfully to the original, watch the TV adaptation of Hitchhikers. I think the movie is significantly better than the TV series, largely *because* it didn’t try to stick as closely to the original as the TV series did.

    In fact the parts that stuck exactly to the original were, IMO, some of the weakest. The film was at its strongest when it was different from before, particulary when adding visual aspects to the humour. (E.g. I thought a lot of the guide entries were animated with excellent understated but effective wit.)

    That’s not to say there weren’t few somewhat ham-fisted edits and bizarre semi-faithful-byt-arbitrarily-different parts in the script. But on balance, I enjoyed it a great deal, far more than I was expecting. (I was hugely into the original radio series and the books, so I was expecting to hate it…) It was a much better adaptation, I thought, than the other much more faithful adaptation-for-screen, the TV series.

  10. Mike Schilling says:

    In the books, there are two main parts to Marvin: he’s depressed all the time, and he’s incredibly intelligent. In the movie, we just get the depression. (He does say "brain the size of a planet", but never demonstrates it.) I saw Douglas Adams speak once, and he acted out the scene where Marvin tricks the armed-to-the-teeth attack robot into destroying itself (BTW, Adams did a brilliant Marvin voice), ending with Marvin’s comment on the dead robot: "What a depressingly stupid creature." That’s exactly it: Marvin’s depressed *because* he’s so smart. The movie gives you none of that.

  11. Louis Parks says:

    I thought similarly. The credits listed Adams as the screenwriter and executive producer. I wonder how much (if any) of the content was changed after he died. I find it somewhat hard to believe that he would have written it this way.

  12. Last Saturday night, the three of us headed into Seattle (the Big City) to see Spamalot at the Paramount.

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