The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy

[“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy” poster art]Er, it’s quite good actually. Go see it.

All the actually funny lines are Douglas Adams’, but the filmmakers make rather a decent fist of the whole thing, and avoid screwing it up completely.

Definitely better than I was expecting.

There has been too much newsprint spilt over this film already, so here are the differences from what 3 million people have already said 8 trillion times:

Bill Nighy

Yeeeaaaah, alright. Not as good as the original Slartibardfast, but Nighy is the one everybody has praised to the heavens, and I’m not sure why.

Everybody else

The best performances are the ones that are similar to the original: Eddie, the ship-board computer, Gag Halfrunt (“Vell, Zaphod’s jist zis guy you know?”), the whale.

Perhaps that’s a little harsh: Stephen Fry is a fantastic Voice of The Book. Alan Rickman would have been a pretty good Marvin The Paranoid Android, given less-mangled material—and a more convincing Marvin-suit. Oh, and the Vogons were great. I liked the Vogons.

Arthur is suddenly hugely less witty, more bumbling, irretrievably love-struck with Trillian (which, fortunately by the end of the film she reciprocates). Love story. Hmm.

Sam Rockwell nails the character of Zaphod Beeblebrox, but the script leaves his character rather dumbed down, so he doesn’t have much to work with. So he falls about a lot instead.

The Dialogue

See, the main problem with the performances was that they were rather ill-defined. Ford mumbled too much, and so did the directing. There were a few nice Vogon gags, but they got lost in the mumbling. Some of the funniest bits are the Guide exposition, which is just Stephen Fry narrating and some brilliant animation; it’s clean and beatifully executed.

Not that there isn’t breathing space in this film, and there are some beatiful vistas to admire while you take a breath, but there’s a lot of fuss and business which clutters the film up. Pratfalls and falling over which doesn’t really advance the story. And too much of Adams famously witty script has been shoved out of the way to make room for pratfalls.

I don’t have anything against physical comedy per se; the trouble is that the physical larking about got in the way of the superlatively witty dialogue—and the larking about wasn’t all that witty.

But overall

…it is still “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy”. It feels authentic. It has the right sense of the absurd. The opening bit with the dolphins is wonderful, the Guide itself is spot-on, the story is as disconnected and wierd as Douglas Adams’ original and it made me smile.

It could have been fantastic, but ‘pretty good*’ in my book is better than ‘goddamnit Lucas, you bastard, you screwed up Star Wars’.

*I’m not going to say “mostly harmless” here and you can’t make me.

2 thoughts on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy

  1. Iain

    So, you’re not a fan of space-slapstick then? I’m sensing a trend here… Jerry Lewis’ remake of “2001”, replete with pie-flan finale, must have rocked your world!

    Still, knowing what a fan of “decent fists” I am, I may take you on your word and … wait for this to arrive on Sky. If ever a film was damned-if-it-was and damned-if-it-wasn’t then surely this is it. The sandal-wearing wackos will find fault with every syllable not personally uttered by Adams’ corpse, whilst the rest of us will find it all generally unfunny in a “what the hell are they talking about” way.

    Nice review though, dude.

  2. Andrew Post author

    Actually, Jerry Lewis taking on Stanley Kubrick I would pay to see. That po-faced auteur needed some fun poked at him. And if it’s another dead guy doing it nobody could claim that it was in bad taste.

    Frankly 2001 could only have been improved by a flan-fight finalé… at worst it would have been hillarious; at best it would have been a compelling train-wreck.

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