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.