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The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy back to reviews
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The film: Succeeds at everything other versions failed at and fails where they succeeded.
Let's start with the good, if only because there's so little of it: the special effects are beautiful, the set designs awesome, and the puppetry amazing. It's nice to see Trillian get rounded out even slightly more than she was in the past and Zooey Deschanel is great in the part. The music was great, most specifically Joey Tabolt's cover of the iconic Journey of the Sorcerer and the opening number (the lyrics of which sound like they came from Adams' own pen despite having been written by one of the directors). The scene on the Magrathean factory floor is absolutely breathtaking and Bill Nighy and Bill Bailey nail their parts.

Moving on. My primary problem with the film is the writing. It may have been written by Adams, but it doesn't feel like Adams—most of the wit and satire has been stripped out, and most of the classic gags have been shortened beyond recognition. Most of the new jokes are just kind of stupid or predictable. This wouldn't be a huge problem, except that Hitchhikers is and always has been all about the jokes. Any plot there is just strings the jokes together. The film, however, plays the plot as priority, and suffers for it. Most of the bits that are added to solidify the plot are dull and, in fact, the plot picks up and forgets more than enough threads to make one wonder why they were necessary to begin with. Because the pacing is tighter to accommodate this plot, the Adamsian bits that got left in—the whale scene, for instance, or the Guide entries—feel out of place and kill the pacing that everything else got murdered for the sake of.

There's also the general feel of the film, which is generally more optimistic than H 2 G 2 ever was. Space and technology are treated as wondrous and exciting, as exemplified by Trillian showing off the Heart of Gold's gizmos and Arthur making the uncharacteristic decision not to stay on Earth once it's rebuilt. The franchise up until this point played space society as just as bureaucratic and corrupt as it is on Earth, with any upbeat moments being the result of love, principles, and philanthropy rather than everything generally being hunky-dory. This is akin to making the Star Trek-verse dystopian or the Firefly-verse Lighter And Softer.

I have many more issues with this film, but those are the biggies and I'm running out of words.
Okay, considering that the first radio series won an award for special effects and the second only lost to the first Superman flick, it's unfair to say that this is the first time H 2 G 2 has had decent effects, but c'mon—it's RADIO. Even if they did revolutionize the medium sound effects have nothing on graphics and all other versions of the franchise between then and the film sucked at effects. Hell, even the comic book had sucky visuals.
comment #9170 Wackd 8th Aug 11
Indeed. "Breathtaking" is exactly how I have described seeing inside the planet factory. One thing you didn't mention: I thought Alan Rickman did a great job as Marvin, but that might just be because I really like Alan Rickman.

I went to see this with a group in college, and we were NOT happy, to say the least...
comment #9197 psycher7 10th Aug 11
Rickman was good—in fact, the only performances I took issue with were the ones that I felt misrepresented the characters (coughSam Rockwellcough). So I only mentioned the performances that really stood out to me.

Okay—I'm going to take a moment to talk about Zaphod, even though no one asked me to. Because as far as the characters went, Zaphod was the only one I felt was done totally and completely wrong. Maybe it's just me, but Zaphod seemed a bit...too theatrical, if you know what I mean. And in public that's fine, that's his job, but out of the spotlight he always struck me as being very laid-back and very calm and even when he's excited about something he's more giddy than bombastic. Rockwell's Zaphod is very loud and very suave and very smooth and just in publicity mode all the goddamn time and that doesn't really mesh with the "ex-hippie" portrayal that Mark Wing-Davey was so very good at. It's a bit like if Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark like he was always introducing the expo at the beginning of the second movie. Hell, the movie version of Tony Stark is closer to Zaphod than movie-Zaphod is. Robert Downey Jr. should've played Zaphod.

The only other portrayals that bugged me was that of Arthur (they made him a coward for some reason and his decision to transverse the stars at the end is very much at odds with his love of the calm and mundane) and the Guide (I love you, Stephen Fry, I really do, but your voice is just so bland especially compared to Peter Jones.) Besides that, I felt all the performances were quite well done. (Okay, fine, Mos Def could've been a bit less...sleepy...I mean Ford wasn't that deadpan...but that doesn't bug me so much.)
comment #9200 Wackd 10th Aug 11 (edited by: Wackd)
Now I'm having this image of Tony Stark inventing the Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster...and you know what? It works!

The week before the movie premiered, the same group watched the BBC series (I had just gotten the DVD set). Yeah, the sets and effects were cheap, it was 1980s British television. But that might have been its strong suit; it let the humor play out. The film was dumbed-down, overproduced, Hollywood BS with a tacked-on completely non-canon love interest role welded onto Trillian, and for what? It bombed, thus totally negating the point of dumbing it down in the first place.
comment #9201 psycher7 10th Aug 11
The sad thing is that Adams actually wrote most of it. Who knows? Maybe if he hadn't assumed Hollywood wanted it dumbed-down and waited for his editor at the studio to tell him one way or the other, it might've gotten made in his lifetime (though probably with a smaller budget.)

Hell, he had a lot of friends in high places whose cash might've provided a nice alternative to the studio route.
comment #9202 Wackd 10th Aug 11
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