Published on May 2nd, 2005 | by Erich Becker0
Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’ve been waiting a long time to write this review, and I’m happy to report that if you stopped reading this now and wanted to know what I thought in a word, the answer would ultimately be: 42. All joking aside, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, directed by first-timer Garth Jennings, managed to come to the big screen with the wit and flavor the late Douglas Adams dreamed of when he penned the first draft of the script before his death. There are original elements within, and they seem to meld in well with the remaining portions of the script, but what we really came to see was dolphins, whales, and a hapless hero by the name of Arthur Dent.
Hitchhiker’s Guide doesn’t feature everything in Adams’ book, but a good portion of the important parts are included. For the uneducated, the book (and movie) focuses on Arthur Dent, a survivor of Earth, which was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace express route. Dent is saved by his friend Ford Prefect and eventually meets up with president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian, a woman whom he had met previously. From there the book and movie stray off into different paths, but it all ends in relatively the same way and casual fans of the series will not be disappointed.
Those that will be disappointed are the die-hard Adams purists who see this movie as a bastardization of the book’s setting, characters, and humor. Although those who didn’t read articles leading up to the film’s premiere will be shocked to find out that most of the changes were made by Adams himself before his death, including the new character Humma Kavula (John Malkovich). And even those who are disappointed will still find something to laugh at, even if the humor, and the movie itself, seem disjointed in the grander scheme of things.
Most reviews of the film will be a comparison of what is there and what isn’t there when compared to the book, BBC radio series, or mini released in the early 1980’s. With each passing generation, Adams seemed to make many changes to his work, and while they never tampered with the story in general, they were better regarded than the gutting the Star Wars trilogy went through at the hands of “director” George Lucas. Viewers of Hitchhiker’s will be in three separate groups, casual fans who are delighted the film finally made it to the big screen, die-hard fans, and those that simply don’t get it.
Truth be told, the movie isn’t as cohesive and fluid as many sci-fi narratives making their way to the big- and small-screens these days. The deep storytelling of Battlestar Galactica or expansive universe of Star Trek, this is not, but what it is outshines nearly every comedy put out this year by a major studio and has a built in audience capable of making it a hit in more than one medium.
Generally the parts are well cast with Martin Freeman filling out the role of Arthur Dent spectacularly. Originally the casting of Mos Def as Ford was seen as a ballsy move, but the character’s wit and charm is portrayed accurately by the rapper-turned-actor. Outshining them all, however, is Sam Rockwell as Zaphod who steals every scene he’s in with is over-the-top dumbness and swagger and disregard for everything. From him stealing the Heart of Gold to having his brain recharged with lemons, Rockwell is the number one reason to see the film. Rounding out the main cast is Zooey Deschanelas the beautiful Trillian and Alan Rickman as the chronically depressed Marvin whose dead-pan delivery brings the paranoid android to life in ways we would have never thought possible 20 years ago.
Those that read the book when they were in high school a decade ago were hand in hand with a new audience just recently introduced to the work of Adams, who, sadly, couldn’t see this work come to fruition. The movie is essentially critic proof with each and every viewer making their own decisions based on the warm, fuzzy feeling the source material gives us. Like it or not, Hitchhiker’s has finally made its way to the big screen, so stick out a thumb, watch out for mice, discover the ultimate answer, and hitch a ride.