The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel
Mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher penning a new edition of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'
  • 29 Apr 2005 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Douglas Adams, Douglas Adams Writer:
  • Garth Jennings Director:
  • N/A Website:

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Trailer:

This movie is Mostly Harmless...9/10
It's a known fact that the movie adaptation of Hitchhiker's has been up in the air for some years now. Passing from the hands of one director to the next (James Cameron, Spike Jonze and Jay Roach), it wasn't until the idea landed in front of Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith that things truly started to take shape.

Douglas Adams died from a heart attack in 2001, but after reading the books, watching the film and drawing a comparison, it's clear that Adams would've accepted this adaptation of the TV series of the computer game of the radio series wholeheartedly.

Martin Freeman is an inspired choice as the face of Arthur Dent. He's an everyman, his slightly vacant, permanently confused facial expression (which we've all come to recognise from his role in The Office), truly becoming from a man who's trying to make sense of what's Out There, which happens to be similar to, though on a slightly larger scale than what's Down Here. And stupider.

Admittedly, it would've been nice to see more English talent taking on the roles from Adams' well loved creation. Steven Fry is THE Guide, the quintessential voice of logic and good-humoured reasoning in the Universe. Bill Nighy makes a great Slartibartfast, coming across as the kindly, if a little absent minded, genius that I've always imagined. And Alan Rickman providing his nasal drones to Marvin the Paranoid Android worked to near perfection.

That's not to say that the American cast isn't great. Mos Def and Zooey Deschanel are excellent as Ford Prefect and Trillian, but it's obvious that it's Sam Rockwell who's having all the fun, relishing his role as the over-excitable, reminiscently hippie-rockstar Ex-President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox.

So all in all, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a great experience. Non-Adamites will love it, as will the die hard fans. It's such a shame that its creator had to bow out before his beloved creation came to life, but due to his input into the movie script (the character Humma Kavula, played by John Malkovich, was written by him especially for the movie), his enthusiasm still lives on.

Want to go to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe now, please.
Here's a rather non-committal review!5/10
So, is the Hitchhikers' movie any good?

Yes and no.

It is great to finally see one of my favourite stories finally get the big screen treatment. There are moments where the budget has clearly benefited the overall experience, with some breath-taking CGI sequences. Two particularly spring to mind: An impressive backwards zoom out from earth's surface, past the Vogon demolition charges before the planet is so hastily disposed of, and Arthur's journey onto Magrathea's staggeringly colossal factory floor, which is simply overwhelming. Both illustrate, to great satisfaction, the dramatic readjustment of scale Arthur Dent has to undergo in such a short space of time in a stark manner that is just not possible in any medium other than cinema. The on-screen format of the guide itself is an appropriate update of the format developed for the television series, and it's highly enjoyable to see such delightfully silly animations grace a giant cinema screen.

Cinema is a different experience, and that is the nub of the matter. We are dealing with a radically different medium from any of the other that Hitchhiker's has materialised in, and not only does that offer new opportunities to explore Douglas Adams' marvellous universe, it also necessitates dramatic changes. Most noticeably, and perhaps most important for a two-hour motion picture, there is more effort to form a conventional plot than is present in the original incarnations and this change is accompanied by major changes in character motivation. This is interesting, because (here analysis becomes problematic since it is impossible to know which changes were instigated by Adams and which were down to Karey Kirkpatrick), none of the characters in Adams' earlier material really had any significant motivations that would lend them to becoming interesting protagonists in a more conventional setting.

Previously, Narcissist Zaphod wanted his ego stroked by fame and fortune, Ford was content with the prospect of a decent party to go to and Arthur's only desire was a palatable cup of tea. Trillian didn't really do anything. Although they are far from unrecognisable, the introduction of tangible drives into most of the characters alters the pattern of events in the story to accommodate what begins to resemble a more conventional story structure. One of the first casualties of this is that the principle players overshadow others, who are introduced, half-heartedly expanded upon, and then almost entirely dropped in deference to the favoured few. It never goes the whole way towards a standard structure though, as half of the principle story is seemingly abandoned in favour of a concentration on the romantic subplot and an overall resolution that is at least reverent to the previous formats. The result is a mixed bag. I found Arthur much more likable and Zaphod funnier than I ever have done, but it never actually occurred to me until the film that Arthur was a bit of a whinger and Zaphod quite boring, because I was too busy paying attention to what happened to them, rather than what they happened to do.

The other major objection, which may or may not have been inevitable, given the time that must be given over to visuals in cinema, is that the filmmakers appear to try and get too much into a two-hour film. As a result, some brilliantly funny lines are missed and key explanations fudged and both are replaced by a general silliness, which appears to be a compromise between the demands of hardcore Hitchhiker's fans and those of the cinema-going public. A lot of the new material is funny, but some of it doesn't really fit with Adams' universe and sticks out like a sore thumb. Whether this is the consequence of those responsible being caught between the rock of Adam's inventiveness and the hard place of the medium they were working in is hard to say. Perhaps someone braver could have produced something more appropriate, or perhaps this is the best that there could ever be. I suppose we'll never know.

To summarise: It's very different.
What has all the fuss been about?9/10
First, let me start by saying that this is a funny film.

Like many others, I suspect, I was worried by the MJ Simpson negative review, but having seen the film I can't really understand what all the fuss was about.

Personally, I am very happy that this version contains the new material. I don't want to sit in the cinema watching a line by line copy of the radio play, book, or TV series. Each of those stand by their own merit, and each were good largely because of the new material they contained.

I think the cast did an excellent job, and although Zaphod wasn't quite how I pictured him, Sam Rockwell brought a freshness to the part which largely works. His portrayal of Zaphod as a guy who "thinks he is cool", rather than "is cool" works pretty well, and once you get over the southern drawl, he soon settles as a character. Ford is beautifully played, as are all the major characters.

Admittedly, some of the criticisms that were voiced by Simpson have some justification, but most were simply overstated to support his general vitriolic attack on the "purity" of the film.

In summary, go to see this film and don't worry.

I'm looking forward to the DVD and I have all my fingers crossed for a sequel.

Martin
Hitchhiker's Guide is born again!9/10
Well, I'm not a film reviewer. I'm not really a fan of film reviewers as their job involves pretending that there is an objective standard that governs how much everyone will enjoy a film (well, some of them are smart enough not to dress their opinion as anything else). Everyone enjoys films in different ways and I like to use my own judgment to decide if a film is worth my time or not (well, that and the opinions of a few trusted individuals who's taste in films is very similar to my own).

So this isn't a review, it's just my honest reaction to the film and you may judge for yourselves if my opinion is likely to be similar to your own.

I loved it. There were a couple of small points that I wasn't happy with but there was so much that I really enjoyed that I left the cinema very happy indeed. It has a very frantic pace, especially when compared to the glacial pace of the TV series. But, in my opinion, it works.

I'll now talk about different aspects of the film.

The Cast. Each member of the cast has brought a new interpretation of their character to the film but they are still definitely the same characters. Martin Freeman is very funny but also very human. He's less of a caricature of Britishness than Simon Jones's interpretation.

Mos Def is an excellent laid back Ford who occasionally has slightly manic (David Dixon style) moments. I don't think everyone will like his delivery of some of the lines as he can be very dead-pan at times but I found him very watchable and likable.

Sam Rockwell's Zaphod is either lovable or irritating depending on your loony-tolerance. I found his over-the-top performance was just perfect for Zaphod, and frequently had me in stitches.

Zooey Deschanel. Mmmm....Zooey. She's the best Trillian ever! She's adorable, funny, charming, intelligent and finally has an emotional depth that was missing from all other incarnations. She works well with both Zaphod and Arthur and their interactions were believable.

Bill Nighy gave a performance that managed to be nothing like Richard Vernon's yet at the same time definitely Slartibartfast. Very funny. Very human.

Stephen Fry is someone who I new would be good. He has the intelligence needed to get the delivery right and a mysterious gentle voice (like God has popped round for a cup of tea).

The Effects, sets and puppets. Wonderful. I loved the Vogon puppets, it made them seem much more real than any CG character (yes, even Gollum). The sets looked great and there is one nice tracking shot down a Vogon corridor that shows just how huge the set was. Every set is packed with detail, I cannot wait for the DVD. The Magrathea 'factory floor' is breathtaking - especially on the big-screen. Zaphod's second head isn't brilliantly executed but it didn't bother me much.

The Guide entries. I'm a big Shynola fan. I was extremely excited when I learned that they would be doing the guide entries. I wasn't disappointed - the guide entries look great and are packed with the inventive wit that characterises Shynola's work. The way they visually interpret the words of the guide entries is very clever and matches the wit of the original animations in the TV series but with a more modern approach.

The Music. The Dolphin song at the start was wonderful. Call me a softy but a couple of the lines nearly brought a tear to my eye. The music for the guide entries fit really well. The new orchestrated version of Journey of the Sorcerer is great. I was too wrapped up in the experience to really notice the music, I'll have to see it again (or buy the soundtrack)! Editing. The film flies along at an incredible pace but for me it never suffered from the 'why are we here now?' problem that some film (The Phantom Menace) suffer from. I really couldn't tell you how someone new to Hitchhiker's Guide might react. The destruction of the Earth is particularly well handled, managing to be both funny and moving.

Stuff I didn't like. Not much really. Part of me craves for the inclusion of things that other parts of me recognise will make the film less effective. One thing that I felt was a shame is that certain added plot elements make the story less bleak. These plot elements actually come from later books in the series so they weren't un-Hitchhiker-y but they contributed to a more optimistic story than I am familiar with from other versions. But this is a minor quibble and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the film. Though I really liked Zaphod, I didn't really like the second head. It didn't work as well as it might have. Still, it was preferable to a shoulder-mounted permanent extra head - which would have been wrong for many reasons.

Conclusion. It is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reborn with a new energy. It is lighter than previous incarnations but still retains most of what I love about the story. It also adds a brilliant level of visual inventiveness that matches the aural inventiveness of the original radio series. People expecting the TV series but with better effects will be disappointed. This is a new beginning. The Hitchhiker's Guide is alive again, it is an enormous shame on a galactic scale that Douglas isn't here to enjoy it. The huge applause after the film showed I wasn't alone in having a good time.

Also, the film contains my favourite line. It previously only occurs in the second radio series (as far as I know) and is moved to a different occasion but I was dead chuffed when I heard it!
Those Cheeky Mice And Their Excellent Film9/10
Overall a tremendous success. It's very funny, very kooky and visually gorgeous. I saw it with about 2000 media persons and we all loved it, which is a pretty hard thing to accomplish.

If you've never read the books (and I suggest you do, it moves at such a pace you might find yourself going 'eh?' a lot) then I don't know what you'd make of it. Think Monty Python in space, or a very British version of The Fifth Element.

As an adaptation I think it works extremely well though there were a few confusing moments even for me as the large philosophical questions were crammed into two hours worth of movie. The new stuff is cleverly done and works a treat IMO.

The cast: never been a fan of the office but Martin Freeman is perfect as Arthur Dent, Sam Rockwell hilariously OTT and Mos Def a surprising choice but one that really works. Trillian isn't that important in the novel and the movie bumps up her role to a love triangle situation between her Arthur and Zaphod. Again, Deschanel is an odd choice (another yank) but she is utterly spellbinding (oh the shower scene...hubba hubba).

The FX are great, both CGI and the Jim Henson creatures (the Vogons, brilliantly voiced by The League of Gentleman). The opening title song is worth the price of admission alone (think Eric Idle at his peak).

So I loved it, though the ending is also a bit of an anti-climax, but only perhaps because I was expecting something bigger. Still, it's p***-funny and that's the main thing.

Best moment: Ford attacks the Vogons with a towel and foils them by closing a tiny garden gate ("Oh no! We'll have to go around!").