Film: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
For two decades, a movie version of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
rotted in Development Hell
. But in 2003, pre-production began, and in 2005, an all-out big-budget feature film rolled out to theaters.
The film's plot starts off following the story of the first book
However like every other adaptation of the material, it diverges sharply not too far in. This time, the divergence is far sharper than any before, but this was done intentionally by Adams himself (who thought of making Humma Kavula the Big Bad
, the face-paddling scene, and the POV gun entirely on his own.) This film is also the farthest adaptation to date, even going so far as to have broad humor more akin to family films, and some American sensibilities
Where the other versions go straight to Magrathea, the movie takes a side-trip to Viltvodle VI, where we meet the guy Zaphod beat to become President, and the quest for the mysterious "POV Ray"
is engaged upon. Originally, Zaphod was trying to find the true ruler of the universe, but here he's just as shallow as he seems. There's also the home planet of the Vogons, the focus on Arthur and Trillian as a couple, the location of the ending and the way the good guys win...
So long, and thanks for all the tropes:
- Achievements in Ignorance: When Zaphod's given manual control to evade the missiles, he somehow manages to brake in space.
- Adaptation Expansion
- Adorkable: Slartibartfast, with his snorting giggle. But then, he is played by Bill Nighy.
- An Aesop / Author Tract: Something that Douglas Adams said himself is repeated by Slartibartfast. It comes off as the smartest thing stated in the film.
Slartibartfast: Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it," and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: (self deprecatingly) Ah, no. (snorts a giggle) Well, that's where it all falls down, of course.
- Answer Cut: When Trillian asks who could've signed the order to destroy Earth. Cut to Zaphod grinning like an idiot with a thinking cap.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: The Heart Of Gold.
- Astronomic Zoom: The scene does an astronomic zoom out leading into the Earth-Shattering Kaboom. It does this with camera jumps with every "beat" of the music. All fifty-five.
- Audible Sharpness: Ford's towel produces this when pulled out in the scene where they meet Marvin for the first time.
- Baleful Polymorph: Happens briefly to the main cast a couple of times courtesy of the Infinite Improbability Drive.
Arthur: Ford... I think I'm a sofa.
Ford: I know how you feel.
- BBC Quarry: Vogsphere
- Big Damn Heroes: Marvin has one of these in the movie, in which he wipes out an entire Vogon army with one shot from the P.O.V Gun, making them all depressed like him. And this was after he was shot in the back of the head with a laser gun.
- Arthur tries to do this while rescuing Trillian from the Vogons, but he bursts into the wrong building.
- Book Ends: The film begins with dolphins leaving the planet (after a musical number) and ends with them returning to the new one.
- Brown Note: While it just seems to perplex Arthur Dent, judging by Ford's wickedly contorted facial expressions, Vogon poetry seems akin to electric torture.
- The Cameo: One crowd scene features the original Marvin robot (from the television series) as an extra. Another scene features Simon Jones, the actor who played Arthur Dent in the original radio drama and TV versions of the series, as a pre-recorded Magrathean hologram. And the last image of the entire movie is Douglas Adams.
- There's also Jason Schwartzman in a news report about Zaphod.
- The old woman who is reading a newspaper at the cafe after the Vogon announcement is played by Douglas Adams' mother.
- Canon Immigrant: Questular.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Sam Rockwell's over-the-top portrayal of Zaphod. To his credit, he makes it hilarious.
Zaphod: In the name of people and democracy and, uh, stuff like that... heh heh... I hereby kidnap myself - and I'm taking the ship with me! Woo!
- Contrived Coincidence: You can survive in outer space with lungs full of air for 30 seconds. The odds of being picked up within that time are 2 to the power of 2079460347 to 1 against, which by a staggering coincidence is also the telephone number of the Islington flat where Arthur went to a fancy dress party and blew it with Trillian.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marvin, to the Nth degree.
Marvin: (grumbling) "Give me a hand." Ha, ha, stupid human.
- Deconstructor Fleet: Both in the trope sense - sci-fi standards have no power here! - and also in the very literal sense of having a large fleet of de-constructors.
- Eagleland: Mixed variety. Trillian is American (as she was on the TV version), whom Arthur adores, while Zaphod acts like a Jerk Ass American stereotype (not surprising considering he's played by Sam Rockwell). Ford, too, is a sympathetic American type of The Stoner variety. As the director commented, the only character who absolutely needed to remain British was Arthur.
- And really, given that all the main characters aren't even from Earth (except Arthur and Trillian)...
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Ironically, rather than a "terrible, ghastly noise" (as the book describes), the destruction of the Earth is silent (more like an earth imploding "zip").
- Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Fitting considering Douglas Adams was allegedly the firstnote man to buy an Apple computer in England.
- The Starship Heart of Gold
- Also, Deep Thought is an Apple product◊.
- The film predates itnote , but the Guide itself is basically a tablet.
- Exact Words: Right before the Vogons blow up the Earth, you can see the people from the bar Ford and Arthur visted earlier lying on the ground with paper bags on their heads.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Lampshaded.
Book: The Point-Of-View gun, conveniently, does precisely what its name suggests. That is, if you point it at someone and pull the trigger, they instantly see things from your point of view.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: In the trailer, the Guide fell into this a bit. For the film, its UI was changed to a more minimalist, flat-graphics style.
- Eye Lights Out: Played straight then inverted by Marvin.
- Fake-Out Opening: The film actually has two title sequences. If you excised the entire dolphin musical number, there would be no loss, except for a damned catchy song.
- Fed To The Ravenous Buglatter Beast of Traal: The vogons try to do execute Trillian this way.
- Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: The movie ends with The Heart of Gold flying at the camera and engaging its Infinite Improbability Drive.
- Follow The Bouncing Dolphin: The DVD of the movie includes a sing-along version of the "So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish" song with a bouncing dolphin, naturally.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Arthur is standing in the middle of the wreckage of his house whith the Vogon ships above him, you can see a newspaper on the ground with a headline telling us about the dolphins vanishing from the Earth.
- Funny Background Event: After Ford explains to the barman that the Earth is going to be destroyed, as Ford leaves you can hear the barman call out "last orders then".
- Gecko Ending: Earth being rebuilt and restored to its pre-destruction state, which would eventually be revealed to have happened in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish but presumably would have taken much longer. Done despite obvious plans for a sequel, but especially fortunate given that it was cancelled.
- Hair Trigger Sound Effect: : The Astronomic Zoom from the beginning of the film. FIFTY-FIVE jump cuts. FIFTY-FIVE dramatic stings.
- Humans Are Morons: We have always assumed that we were the most intelligent species occupying the planet, instead of the third most intelligent, behind mice, and dolphins, the latter of whom curiously knew of the impending destruction of the planet Earth.
- Humans Are Special: They're the key part of the planetary computer calculating the Ultimate Question.
- I Choose to Stay: Arthur is offered the opportunity to return to a recreation of his home on Earth, exactly (well, without the imminent demolition by Prosser) like he left it. He chooses to stay with Ford, Zaphod and Trillian and continue exploring the galaxy.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder
Marvin: Freeze? I'm a robot, not a refrigerator.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Vogons. Lampshaded by Marvin.
- In a World: The trailer was narrated by the titular Guide, and formatted in the style of an official Guide entry on movie trailers, spoken by Stephen Fry in a pleasant BBC-announcer voice, except for when he says that "trailers often employ a deep voice, that sounds like a seven foot tall man who's been smoking cigarettes since childhood. (clears throat as he returns to normal)."
- "The goal is to provide a piece of advertising that is original and exciting, yet intelligent and provactive - in other words: lots of things blowing up." (cue rapid series of clips of explosions from other films)
- Often, this section is preceded by the words, "In a world" ...[earth explodes] but sometimes not.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Want to know why the Vogons all share an Idiot Ball? Ford closes a knee-high white picket gate on the Vogons, who moan they have to go the other way around, thanks to their being extremely Lawful Stupid.
- Even better: note that he also locks the gate by reaching over to their side and locking it.
- Jerkass Realization: Zaphod thanks to the POV gun.
Zaphod: (sadly) Oh, babydoll...
- Karma Houdini: Zaphod was responsible for the destruction of Earth just because he's so mindblowingly dumb that he didn't bother reading a destruction permit before signing it. Besides a couple of slaps from Trillian, he had absolutely no repercussions for it, and got a happy ending.
- Lampshade Hanging: Ford is played in an American accent by American actor Mos Def; his mentioning having come "not from Guildford after all" (albeit from the US, rather than a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse) takes on a slightly surreal edge presumably unintended by Adams. Later, Arthur mentions wondering about Ford's atypical accent.
- Laser Cutter: For slicing and toasting bread at the same time. With Star Wars lightsaber effects. They actually got royalties from Lucas to use them.
- Light Bulb Joke: One of the questions Arthur proposes to the answer 42 is "How many vogons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
- The Load: Zaphod spends the latter half of the movie somewhere between this, The Millstone, and vaguely useful, because he's missing one of his heads. Ford actually has to drag him around in one or two scenes. Also, when they're getting shot at, he apparently thinks it's a dance party. Fortunately, Vogon soldiers make even the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy look good by comparison.
- Love Triangle: Arthur, Trillian, and Zaphod; this was a background element in other versions, but is pushed to the forefront here.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backward sommersalt through a hoop while whistling the Star-Spangled Banner, when in fact the message was this: "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish." Cue a very upbeat and catchy tune with a choir singing about the impending destruction of the Earth. "The world's about to be destroyed / There's no point getting all annoyed / Lie back and let the planet dissolve around you"
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": "Um, people of Earth, this is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you are probably aware, plans for the development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy involve the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system. And your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition." We are shown shots of various locations around the world that show that every single person is screaming in terror. Which is either utterly hillarious or utterly horrifying. Except for that one serene woman who sips her tea even as the world endsnote .
- "Thereís no point in acting surprised about it. The plans and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty Earth years. If you canít be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, thatís your own lookout. Apathetic bloody planet. I've no sympathy at all."
- Medium Shift Gag: After the Infinite Improbability Drive is used to jump to Viltvodle VI, everything is animated in stop motion yarn for a few seconds. Arthur gets nauseous, and the art cuts back to live action just as he vomits a yarn ball, leaving him with a yarn thread sticking out of his teeth.
- Meganekko: Trillian◊.
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Zaphod unwittingly signs the order to destroy the Earth, thinking he was signing an autograph.
- Million-to-One Chance: The spaceship "Heart of Gold" has an Infinite Improbability Drive which causes Million-to-One Chance events to occur all the time. Not just Million to One, infinity to one, hence the name of the drive. Of course, which extremely improbable outcome you get...
- It was a plot device Adams conceived when he realized he'd worked the original story into a point where he was stuck and needed a quick resolution.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Trillian, as played by Zooey Deschanel.
- Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: In reference to the original stories, we see a flashback of how Arthur first met Ford: he pushed him out of the way as he tried to shake hands with an oncoming car (an actual Ford Prefect), having thought cars were the dominant life form on Earth.
- Modesty Towel: Trillian is about to emerge from a shower when she asks Arthur for a towel, adding to the already well-established Most Versatile Object in the Universe gag.
- Multiple Head Case: Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head.
- Mythology Gag: Using "Journey of the Sorcerer" (the original radio/TV Instrumental Theme Tune) in the film; casting Simon Jones (Arthur Dent from the TV series) as the voice — and face — of the Magrathean security system; Zaphod accidentally referring to Ford as "Ix"; the Vogons sitting on fawns and smashing crabs.
- In the Flashback Cut of Arthur and Ford's first meeting, we see Ford stepping out into the street to "shake hands" with an oncoming car, having assumed that they're the dominant species on Earth. The car is a Ford Prefect, from which Ford got his name (a joke that was infamously Lost in Translation, as the Prefect was sold only in England).
- There's a Hyper-intelligent shade of Blue present at in the first Deep Thought scene. Look to the Left of the gates when they're opened
- When he finds his friends under fire on Viltvodle VI, Ford Prefect lets rip with "Belgium", which As You Know is widely regarded as the rudest word in the galaxy.
- Ford mutters "Belgium" as a curse in a few other scenes as well.
- The teaser trailer features the song "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, which was used in the closing credits of the last episode of the radio broadcast and the TV series.
- There is a Restaurant at the End of the Universe - if you're feeling peckish. Make sure you travel in the right direction, though. In one direction is that restaurant, in the other is the Big Bang Burger Bar.
- The Vogon guard who grabs Ford and Arthur telling them "Resistance is useless."
- Arthur asking Trillian if Zaphod "has two more of anything else?" is a reference to the Zaphod costume from the TV series being designed to look like he has just that.
- Marvin from the original TV series can be seen at the Vogsphere cue; Arthur even takes a Double Take while passing him.
- The Guide's advice on what to do when you have no hope of rescue from being eaten by a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is the same advice it gives when you're stuck under a boulder from the radio series.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Subversion. One of the trailers is set up as the Guide's entry on movie trailers, detailing tricks such as the inclusion of shots of violent explosions and scantily clad women which do not appear in the actual movie, implying the movie would be more clever.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: "Vogons are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy. Not evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders - signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters. On no account should you allow a Vogon to read poetry at you."
- Off with His Head!: Surgical variant when Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral before their trip to Magrathea.
- Oh, Crap: "Oh, bollocks!"
- Questular when she sees Marvin aiming the P.O.V. gun in her direction. Then he fires it at the Vogons, defeating them by giving them all his depressed views.
- Overly Long Gag: Right before the Earth is destroyed by the Vogon we get an Astronomic Zoom that goes from ground level to seeing the entire earth in a dramatic series of fifty-five jump-cuts. With every single beat.
- Also the sequence on-board the first Vogon constructor when a microphone is dropped down to Jeltz that comes from the ceiling of the shaft in the middle of the ship, EXTREMELY high up.
- Planet of Hats: The Vogons are a race of Obstructive Bureaucrats.
- Poor Communication Kills: The dolphins made many attempts to alert mankind to the impending destruction of the planet Earth, but most of these attempts misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits. So they eventually decided that they would leave Earth by their own means. The last ever dolphin message was a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to a double backwards somersault through a hoop while whistling the Star Spangled Banner, when in fact the message was this: "So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish."
- The Power of Love: Subverted:
Lunkwill: Rubbish, we don't want to be happy, we want to be famous!
Fook: Yeah! What is all this "is she the one" tripe?
Lunkwill: Take his brain!
- However, Trillian disagrees. Even in a deep haze, she manages to mumble, "That's a good answer."
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Zaphod's second head and third arm are made infinitely discreet, so that 1) Zaphod could visit Earth without anyone taking a second glance, and 2) It looks too goofy in practice, and allowed Sam Rockwell to act without having to deal with extra prosthetics.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Trillian, aka Trish McMillan.
- Race Lift: Ford Prefect is now played by a black American. The director/producers figured since Ford is an alien it doesn't really matter what his race is. It makes Arthur's comment "So, you're not from Guildford", and remarking Ford's accent was sort of off, even funnier.
- But Not Too Black: During a test shot where he holds Marvin's arm, he screams like a black gangsta. Which he decided not to use in the final shot.
- Trillian, who was Ambiguously Brown in the books, is white in the film.
- Retractable Appendages: Zaphod has a second head that retracts from his chest once and awhile. He also has a third hand that's right below his second head.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: A crab sees the ship crash land on the Vogon homeworld. It starts running towards it, jumping, and saying "yeah!" It got too close and got crushed by the opening door.
- Right on Queue: "I'm British; I know how to queue."
- Robot Buddy: As usual Marvin is a Deconstructive Parody of this trope.
- Saved for the Sequel: Attempted with Humma Kavula. The Point of View Gun was clearly setting up a plot where he tries to brainwash everyone in the galaxy and take Zaphod's place. Too bad there won't be a second movie to make these things worthwhile.
- Scenery Porn: The Magrathean' planet factory floor.
- Sedgwick Speech
Marvin I don't know what all the fuss is about, Vogons are the worst marksmen in the galaxy, ow.
- Seven Minute Lull: Arthur suffers one during the flashback to the party where Arthur and Trillian met. Arthur is criticizing the other party-goers for not recognizing her costume (Charles Darwin), and ends up blurting out "All these people are idiots!" when the record player gets bumped.
- Shout-Out: The lightsabre toasters, complete with authentic Lucas sound effects.
- The Heart of Gold's dropships are a direct reference to A Space Odyssey.
- The original Marvin from the TV series makes a cameo appearance, playing an anonymous robot in a queue.
- The commentary on the DVD claims that one of the actresses who played Trillian prior to the film appears in place of the usual boozehound during the scene in the Bar and Groom. Whether this is Susan Sheridan or Sandra Dickinson is not made clear.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Zaphod wants to "trip the light fantastic" with Questular.
- Sinister Geometry: The ships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet are rectilinear, riffing off the line about how "they hung in the air the way bricks didn't."
- Spheroid Dropship: The movie has a lot of fun with this trope.
- Spider Limbs: Humma Kavula
- Staggered Zoom: The movie used this as the camera zooms out past the Vogon ships at the beginning. And zooms. And zooms. And zooms...
- Stiff Upper Lip: You can see Douglas Adams mother sitting outside a cafe reading a paper even as the world ends.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The trailer, framed as a Hitchhiker's Guide entry on movie trailers, notes "the goal is to create a piece of advertising that is original and exciting, yet intelligent and provocative. In other words: lots of things blowing up, [cue montage of movie explosions] occasionally interrupted by a girl in a bikini."
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Arthur introduces himself several times as, "Dent. Arthur Dent." Which means, "Late as in the late Dentarthurdent."
- The Stoner: Ford, though subtle.
- Tempting Fate: The moment Marvin remarks that Vogons are "the worst marksmen in the Universe", Boom, Headshot.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Lampshaded when the airlock door opens up from underneath them, instead of the opposing wall like it does with every other airlock scene like this.
- Ungrateful Bitch: When Arthur, Zaphod, Ford, and Marvin rescue Trillian from Vogsphere, she slaps Zaphod (which is justified), then starts yelling at Arthur for not telling her about Earth's destruction because Zaphod threatened him. She tells him to get a backbone, for both that and not saving her on Humma Kavula's planet. Keep in mind that on that planet they'd been getting SHOT AT, and that even coming to Vogsphere to save her had been Arthur's idea. And not even one "Hi guys, thanks for saving me!" out of her.
- Somewhat subverted in that in the next scene, she's come to her senses and makes amends. I guess getting kidnapped, told that your planet has been destroyed and then narrowly avoiding being fed to a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast kinda puts you in a bad mood.
- Also, she was disappointed in Arthur's lack of spontaneity. He wouldn't go with her on a trip because he's got work, so he suggested something less exciting. The last straw is when Arthur wouldn't enter the portal, fed up with his complaining she ran to it. When she used the Point of View gun on Zaphod, she realized deep down that she truly loves Arthur, because he's the man she wants since all her life she's been going out with jerkasses because they were superficially exciting.
- She may also have realized that Arthur tried to tell he about Earth almost as soon as they met (and Zaphod interrupted) and at least one time after that (which she interrupted).
- Unusual Euphemism: In-universe, Arthur thought Zaphod's exclamations of "Humma Kavula!" were a strange curse word.
- While not explained in the film, "Belgium" is the most offensive word in the entire galaxy. Ford uses it as a curse a few times.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Done very cleverly after they use the Infinite Improbability Drive while they are all knit figures. Knit Arthur goes over to a trash can and lets loose a giant load of multicolored yarn. Once they go back to normal, you can see him pulling out more yarn.
- What an Idiot: Zaphod, in-universe. Just ask Humma's "Don't Vote For Stupid" campaign. Well, after all, the guy did sign the demolition orders for Earth thinking he was signing a fan autograph book.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Zaphod has his third hand and second head surgically removed as collateral before going on the search for the POV Gun, but he never goes to get them back. See Saved for the Sequel.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: The Encyclopedia Galactica, in its chapter on love, states that it is far too complicated to define. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of love: "Avoid, if at all possible." Unfortunately, Arthur Dent has never read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- Where It All Began: The climax of the film takes place in Arthur's (reconstructed) home on Earth (2.0).
- Wiper Start: On an escape pod for a space ship.
- Women Are Wiser: Played jarringly straight - the Point of View Gun won't work on Trillian because she is "already a woman" and therefore naturally considerate.
- Well, considering the gun was made by women to be used on men...
- Alternately, that's just Trillian's assumption (It fits her personality) and the real reason that it doesn't work is because Zaphod's POV is entirely selfish, thus him wanting to be famous doesn't have any impact on her view.
- Granted the gun does work from a secondary point of view, in that using the gun on Zaphod makes him vent her inner thoughts about Arthur. Having been thoroughly dismissive to him the whole movie, this is nearest to her breaking the trope and undergoing a visible Jerkass Realization.
- The World Is Just Awesome: At the end when Earth mrk. II's lifecycle is starting back up. This is in stark contrast to Douglas' earlier opinion on things.
- Ultimately subverted when it ends on a Koyaanisqatsi-like view of society. Nature is awesome. People are ... less awesome.