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/radio series. 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, preventing a sequel based on Restaurant At The End Of The Universe to ever be produced.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...
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.
Though in fact that line exists even in the Guide's earliest incarnation, the radio series.
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.
Art Shift: Everything in the ship is rendered in knitted animation after the Infinite Improbability Drive is used for the first time and causes the ship to come out as a giant yarn ball.
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.
Blatant Lies: Ford's claim to be from Guildford becomes this since he's got an American accent, unless one is supposed to believe he means he's from America via Guildford.
Book Ends: The film begins with dolphins leaving the planet (after a musical number) and ends with them returning to the new one.
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.
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.
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!
Eagleland: Mixed variety. Trish is American, 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.
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.
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.
God Created Canon Foreigner: Many of the differences from previous versions were Adams creations, from pre-death versions of the script, including the POV Ray, the flyswatters, Humma Kavula, and the romantic elements.
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.
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.
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 (cue Don LaFontaineimpersonationhimself) "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) Occassionally interrupted by a girl in a bikini." It consisted of one continuous Lampshade Hanging and parody of science fiction action movie tropes. It can be found here.
Often, this section is preceded by the words, "In a world" ...[earth explodes] but sometimes not.
Even better: note that he also locks the gate by reaching over to their side and locking it.
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.
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 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: After the Vogons announce that the Earth is 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 ends.
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 shifts back to live action just as he vomits a yarn ball.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!: Happens surgically when Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral before their trip to Magrathea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.