Hitchhiker's Guide to the
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plot in a nutshell
The film is based on the very well known and quite popular books by Douglas
Adams. Actually, it's based on the first book of his five part
Arthur Dent awakes one day to
learn that his best friend, Ford Prefect, is not what he thought, and that
the Earth will be destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. And
if you're not interested in getting involved with local politics, well, the
Vogons have little sympathy.
Arthur is then on a whirlwind
space adventure with Ford, his lost love Trish McMillan, the president of
the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin, the extremely depressed robot.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
Fellowship of the Ring first hit screens, before too many people had the
opportunity to drink it in, there were the complaints. Where's Tom
Bombadil? Why didn't Frodo say X to Sam when they were Y? Why
did they drop Z? You know what I'm talking about. And then,
millions of people that weren't extreme fans saw the film, and drowned out
the whining of the psycho-fans, until they all wisely got on board as well.
far, many of the reviews I've read for the Guide remind me very much of this
scenario. Now, don't get me wrong - this adaptation of the Guide is
NOTHING in comparison to the amazing work that FOTR was. But it's not
the steaming pile of nasty brown stuff that so many people are
claiming. Of course every line of dialog from the book isn't here,
since every novel is longer than a screenplay. To adapt a book
requires the gleaning of the most important parts, to weave the critical
story, while leaving out the extraneous niceties.
adaptation isn't perfect by any means. There's some poorly handled
story devices, including the explanation of Zaphod's unusual anatomy.
There's some lack of definition around what's really happening or why, but
that's not all that surprising. The books were not intended to be
deep, wise, compelling stories. They were wonderful dialog written
with witty, dry humor and lots of satire on the human condition. Some
of that managed to make it to the film, and some of it didn't.
problem with dry humor is that it often translates to film poorly. The
British series The Office is a wonderful example, and while it was lauded as
a great comedy, it was not done so by the majority. Most people would
find it rather dull, or simply not their cup of tea. Or something that
approximates tea, but isn't quite. The American version attempted to
get a little more over the top and still have a lot of the dry, wry sense of
humor, but only time will tell if it plays to the masses.
this kind of humor works great - watching it played out often does
not. There are some truly funny moments in this film however (my
favorite was the whale's thoughts as he headed for the ground), and many of
these revolve around the narration. Using the narration was a key
point to making this film work, since most of the best bits were buried in
the Guide itself. However, there are some wonderful exchanges of
dialog missing from the film that most fans of the book will sorely miss.
screenplay was started by Douglas Adams, but his untimely death meant that
another writer had to finish it. It's tough to say how close this was
to his vision, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Oddly
enough, in an adaptation of a book with tons of witty dialog, it's the
acting that saves this film. Almost every character was extremely well
cast, from Martin Freeman (from the aforementioned Office) as Arthur Dent,
to Zooey Deschanel as the lovely Trish. Zooey was particularly good in
the early scenes at the party, and then again later around the Point of View
gun. Actually, all the actors did their best work in the quiet
moments, when the dialog was allowed to have a little greater control.
only disappointment was with Sam Rockwell as Zaphod. Perhaps it was
the wonky way they handled his physical abnormality, perhaps it was his over
the top presentation, but either way, he never worked for me, especially
among the other characters. The seemed to have more depth, whereas he
remained a caricature throughout.
surprise standout was Mos Def as Ford Prefect. I knew that Allan
Rickman (Marvin) and Freeman were perfect casting, but I was still unsure
about Def. But although he didn't sound, act or look like I ever
expected Ford to sound, act or look, he managed to make Ford real.
were lots of roadblocks that this film had to maneuver to make it to great -
a very devoted fan following that knows the book by heart, a dry, satirical
style that is difficult to translate to film, and the use of many of its
jokes and ideas in other films already since it was written over 25 years
ago. Many of the people that see the film in its opening weekend will already
know what's coming - there will be no surprises for them. They'll see
it with a far more critical eye than the the rest of the galaxy, and that
will make it tough for the movie to get a good word of mouth going.
this film was not an adaptation of a book, it would do much better, but as
an adaptation it's going to get slapped about the head and face fairly hard.
This won't be on anyone's top ten, but I suspect that over time it will be
recognized as a better film than it will be initially. Given a little
time, and a little distance from the book, and it will fare much better.
Rating - A guarded Wait for the
The humor in this film will play out just as well on the small screen as
the large, but there are some interesting visuals that will make seeing it
on the big screen a little more enjoyable. For example, the scenes in
which Arthur visit's the floor of the factory 30 feet of screen to be really
Most people can save a few
bucks though and wait to pick this up at the local video store. And
for those interested, I'll be picking up the toys (including the 10"
Marvin) over the next week for reviews!
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
I won't spoil anything here, but if you have read the book, don't
expect too many surprises.