The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 May 2005

Ten out of ten for style

With the singular exception of I Capture the Castle, no motion picture has ever caused me more apprehension than has The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and recent fanboy condemnation hadn't made me feel any better about it.

So I betook myself to Tinseltown this afternoon for the first showing of what I refuse to call H2G2, and I'm pleased to report that it stands up pretty well. I didn't want a straight transcription of the book, or of the radio series, which is where I learned all this stuff; what I wanted was about two hours of visuals that did justice to Douglas Adams' wordplay, and mostly that's what I got, though a few catchphrases I might have liked to have heard once more were conspicuous by their absence. The film departs from Adams' original premise in a couple of small ways and in one large one: the character of Trillian, relatively insignificant before, has been redeveloped into someone sufficiently real to provide some sort of motivation for the otherwise-phlegmatic Arthur Dent. By holy Zarquon's singing fish, he might actually be in love with her, and Zooey Deschanel makes it believable, even as she makes you wonder what, other than a source of entertainment, she ever saw in Zaphod Beeblebrox. Trufans, of course, are supposed to hate this sort of sentimental rubbish.

And there are a few disappointments: the clash between Arthur and the bulldozers isn't as frenetic as I might have hoped, and the Magratheans are given relatively short shrift. But I was quite thrilled with Slartibartfast's factory tour, and Vogon poetry is every bit as bad as I remembered it. If you can think of fifty things that you loved about any earlier version of Hitchhiker's, this new film will deliver on 42 of them.

Posted at 6:36 PM to Almost Yogurt


Heh! 42.

I haven't read it since high school. Am I better off re-reading the book before seeing the movie?

Since this is the only medium in which DA wasn't directly involved, should we consider the movie non-canonical? If so (or not, I guess) in which medium do you think Hitchhiker unspooled best? Radio?

Posted by: Dan at 8:42 PM on 1 May 2005

Actually, this is a reworking of a script Adams had almost completed before he died; his fingers are all over it. It's at least as valid as the fourth and fifth books of the trilogy. :)

I'd say see the movie; it's not dependent on being familiar with every jot and tittle of the book.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:00 PM on 1 May 2005

I'm glad to know that a fan of the actual books was not terribly disappointed by the movie. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but I haven't read Adams' series and so was curious if it took great liberties or not. Anyway, I enjoyed it, too... what did you think of Sam Rockwell as Zaphod ?

Posted by: Chase at 7:39 AM on 2 May 2005

Rockwell's faux-Texas accent (if that's what it is) is a little off-putting, but the fact that it's so obviously fake takes the sting out of it. And he definitely has a gift for slapstick. The extra-head business is handled deftly, the third hand a little less so, but overall, if you're looking for a renegade Galactic President, Rockwell's your man.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:02 AM on 2 May 2005

What was the androids full name/title? I can't remeber it for the life of me.

Posted by: anstranger at 8:30 AM on 2 May 2005

"Marvin the Paranoid Android" was the billing on the novelty "Marvin I Love You" record, but I don't believe he was ever referred to in exactly those words in any of the original Adams material.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:52 AM on 2 May 2005

Dan,

My opinion (elaborated here http://www.blogoram.com/001446.php#001446) is that you SHOULD NOT go reread the book before seeing this film. As someone who has read the book multiple times and remembers it well, I felt that the book kinda spoiled the movie. When some of the best lines were coming up, I could see them coming and review them in my head. Then I had to wait for the lines to actually arrive. It kinda deadened the impact.

And for that reason, I enjoyed the new material a lot more: I couldn't see it coming. I think the strength of Adams's humor lies largely in surprise. For similar reasons, some of the visual jokes were really effective, simply because they did I nice job at making the absurd come to life.

My sister and niece, neither of whom had read the books, liked it a lot more than I did.

Posted by: UML Guy at 10:15 AM on 2 May 2005

I've got my pocket fluff and my towel. What more does anyone need?

Posted by: Joe at 1:53 PM on 2 May 2005

A bank account not denominated in Altairian dolllars?

Posted by: CGHill at 1:54 PM on 2 May 2005

I think Zaphod called Marvin "The Paranoid Android" once, but it didn't stick, since paranoia isn't really what you think of when you think of Marvin. I'm relieved to read this, I'd probably be compelled to watch this movie even if I was sure it wouldn't be any good.

Posted by: Dave Munger at 4:06 PM on 2 May 2005