Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a 1984
text adventure game from Infocom. Wait.
That’s not right. Right? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005
film directed by GARTH JENNINGS. Wait. He gets a Movies with Mikey songy thingy? Why
does he get a … MwM? What has he done? JACK SHIT.
Other than Hitchhiker, the only thing even worth mentioning was the 2007 Son of Rambow.
But Hitchhiker is a film I would generally call a do-over, insofar that not everything
seemed to go right and this is just kind of the film we’re stuck with, yeah, I said
stuck with. What I mean by this, is Douglas Adams, aka British God, contributed to the
screenplay for this greatly before his death in 2001. There will never be another screenplay
that he personally adapted, nor will there ever be a film that he gave more of himself
of trying to get off the ground. And yes, I understand that he wrote 6 episode of the
BBC show, technically, as they were based on the radio plays and John Lloyd wrote at
least one of those radio shows, but those weren’t much other than pretty direct tellings
of the source material. Which is halfway beside the point because
my actual handy dandy thesis for this film is thus:
We needn’t compare things and choose winners, be they sequel, reboot, prequel or NyQuil,
as the point of art should not be to rank, but to disseminate joy and emotional support,
for those who may need it. Who said that?
Some dumbass. Just now.
I think only a fool would be expecting me to fall over backward proclaiming the brilliance
of a film that is simply too dang short and a mite toothless to warrant my usual fawning
cacophony. And maybe because I’m coming off the high
that the Star Wars episode instilled in me, but there’s a lot of obvious and palpable
joy to divine from this admittedly flawed film. And I think that’s okay because a
lot of people clearly loved making this, in this way that honestly reminded me of some
early Monty Python stuff where they just don’t quite have it together, and they suck sometimes,
but it’s pretty amazing to watch at its best and fascinating at worst.
Given that Adams personally adapted his own book into a radio drama, then re-adapted that
radioplay into a television program, and that was all one contiguous loopy doo—but then
spent years writing his own personal movie adaptation AKA THIS ONE, all the way being
totally upfront and happy with the fact that those adaptations of his own personal source
material, WHICH HE WROTE, sometimes contradict each other.
Some of the biggest deviations from the source material were originated with Adams’ himself,
as each adaptation of HHG2G was something of a reinvention for him. Characters like
Humma Kavula appear only in the film as a foil for Zaphod. I don’t need to defend
this. It’s John Malkovich hammin’ it up like a Hot Pocket Croissant Crust. Just moving
on from … that. Upon its release, Empire Magazine called the
film “Very British,” in their review, and I can’t think of a compliment more just
and befitting of Douglas Adams than that. In fact, if you wanna do something interesting,
without looking at the movie poster, imagine your dream cast for a Hitchhiker’s adaptation.
Watching this again, I couldn’t believe the cast that Jennings managed to assemble.
Practically everyone went on to do bigger and better things.
In particular order: Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent
Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox Mos Def as Ford Prefect
Zooey Deschanal as Tricia Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast
Alan Mother fucking Rickman as clinically-depressed robot, Marvin
Dame Helen Mirren as Deep Thought John Malkovich as Humma Kavula
and Steven Fry as The Guide The film opens with a high-budget musical
number featuring dancing and singing dolphins performing the movie’s adaptation of the
line “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”. Yup. From the get go, very purposely, the
film is telling you: this is not how you remember it from the book, but it’s okay, this is
going to be an adventure, most ridiculous. And it is.
It’s not quite the adventure you remember from the book, the radio or television dramas.
It’s different. It’s also slightly Americanized, which ultimately, I think does create another
layer of dissonance with the material, though though though TRIPLE THOUGH, the movie wouldn’t
have been made at all, certainly not at this budget, without Americanizing a bit so the
USA would pick up the check. Peculiar conundrum!
Even upon announcing I was doing this (on Twitter, the only place to find out which
film won the vote long before everyone else, THAT’S A ME PLUG, but seriously follow that
twitter account I’m adorable) lots of people immediately began to tell me that they preferred
the BBC television program to the film. Which is fine because it’s an awesome adaptation,
BUT, it’s certainly not a hot sweep because I don’t think there’s even a contest between
David Dixon and Mos Def for who brought the most to the character of Ford Prefect.
Oh, fightin’ words? Break it down NEUMANN
For a character based on an actual English car manufactured between the years of 1938
and 1961, in Douglas Adams own words Ford had: “simply mistaken the dominant life
form on earth,” … for cars, specifically, that one, though, he chose the car that was
“nicely inconspicuous.” That says a lot about Ford as a confused person, manically
crashing into every scene much like the cars he thought were people, and while on Earth,
looking entirely out of place at all times, as opposed to the BBC version where he’s
just kinda like … adele hello NOW And if I may place a nail in one seemingly
innocuous and ultimately pointless coffin, this is worth pointing out because, though
it did not take me long to find people decrying that Mos Def aka Dante Smith was a person
of color playing Mr. Prefect, and that it simply “just doesn’t make any sense, realistically.”
Ignoring the obviously overlooked aspect of the book being a space fantasy starring a
two-headed alien and the savior of mankind being armed with a towel, I will remind you
how this character THIS CHARACTER RIGHT HERE got his author-given namesake from this car
and kindly inform you that the original manufactured vehicle in 1936
B-b-b-b-b-b-did you know Only came in one color: black
Mos Def is the best performance in this movie. He does the absolute most with his character
and goes out of his way to add dimension and nuance to someone that is there mostly to
serve exposition to our clueless protagonist. He’s worth going and watching the movie
again just for his singular performance. But lucky for you, the performances are awesome
from start to finish in this movie and most have become the quintessential version of
these characters in my mind. I mean, you’re not going to beat Martin Freeman as Arthur
Dent. It’s funny how not a deal his casting was in the film originally because it was
far before his global star-making turn on the BBC’s glorious modern retelling of Sherlock.
(Yes, I am aware he was on The REAL Office) Also, if you watch the Hobbit films and just
imagine that Bilbo is just more Arthur Dent, all of his manic worrying and flailing make
a lot more sense. Just add a towel.
Sam Rockwell, who at this point was known for Galaxy Quest, Confessions of a Dangerous
Mind, and Matchstick Men, puts in a 2005 time capsule of a performance because, and this
is true, his entire performance is a combination of Elvis and George W. Bush. Which, for the
Galactic President, kinda makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
And Zaphod is a character that is consistently translated differently to engender confusion
in the audience. As a character, he has a huge following, so the difference in the text,
the radio and television dramas, the computer game, and the film, are a jumping off point
for a lot of arguments. Is it Zahphod or Zayphod? Cool, thanks for keeping that debate alive,
movie. He has anywhere from two to four arms, depending on the adaptation. He certainly
has two heads, but in some versions thJESUS CHRIST WHAT THE FUCK
No. In the Infocom game, his second head is obscured
from view by a birdcage and a towel wrapped around it.
Yeah, okay. Other homeruns in the film adaptation?
Considering that Sam Rockwell appeared back in the very first episode of Movies with Mikey
spewing forth with delicious musings about the veritable chasm of subtle differences
between smoking regular and menthol cigarettes, it seems only fitting to connect these episodes
even more so. The work by Jim Henson’s creature shop on
the Vogons in this film is absolutely breathtaking. This race of bewilderingly docile yet entirely
xenophobic universal view and rakish appearance are taken to 11 in the movie. I don’t even
have a follow up there. They just look rad as shit.
Oh, and bonus points to Phil Sims, no not that one, for his work as one of the art directors
on the film because check out this rez … ume. He was the Art Director on Guardians of the
Galaxy, The Martian, Age of Ultron, Captain America, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which
sucked. In fact, Hitchhiker was the first film he was an art director on.
Yeah, the film could be longer, hell, it could have been an HBO miniseries with the same
cast and probably become one of the greatest adaptations of anything … ever.
But it wasn’t. This is the film Douglas Adams tried so hard for so long to get off
the ground, and without question, compromises and changes happened at every turn. But he
wanted a film. He wanted a bit of a cliff’s notes version of the story out there, hopefully
reaching a wider audience, probably among them younger people who don’t read good,
who probably on the whole want a more streamlined, light and breezy version of the material starring
Manic Pixie Mermaid Chihuahua-cabra Zooey Deschanel. – That’s the Chihuahua version
of the chupacabra. It’s a charming as hell film and one that’s
entirely worth revisiting. Resistance is useless guy
How can you not love it? Resistance is useless guy is like my favorite thing.
There’s so many exceptionally well-crafted scenes in the film. Arthur and Ford await
the among klaxons for the airlock to blast them into space … only to be dropped through
the floor. Arthur and Ford are talking … couches. The scene with the orchestra hits that goes
on far, FAR longer than it ever should …. And then keeps going all the way into space, pausing,
and destroying the earth. Every scene with the Vogons. EVERY SCENE WITH THE VOGONS. GARGEBLASTERS.
The stop-motion yarn dimension. The set and costume design in the Humma Kavula scenes.
The faceswatter scene and the absolutely beautiful location they secured to shoot it in. The
falling whale scene. Douglas Adams really quite enjoyed rebooting
his own story into different mediums, and as he wanted to happen, each translation is
just a little bit different. You can choose a favorite, but you really don’t have to.
Isn’t a story you enjoy, told by the person you enjoy it from, translated into different
media … shouldn’t be taken collectively instead of comparatively?
This brings me back to where I started. When we score and rank things, instead of just
enjoying them, it creates dissonance between us and the entertainment and the artistry
of it all. Lemme put it a different way.
I adore the book. Actually, I adore all the books for loads of reasons, but even if its
my favorite version of the story (by a long shot) I don’t really want to live in a world
without the cheering crab from the movie. I mean, look how happy that little crab is.
Can he have his own spin off? Also, it’s really funny if you do this.
Rap music. Plus, you know what’s fun to watch? Even
if each of these actors isn’t your favorite version of the characters, it’s kinda awesome
to watch Mos Def, Martin Freeman, and Sam Rockwell, “just hanging out”.
What is normal? At the end of the day, this is just one more
version of the story, one that Douglas Adams wanted to make, and they did their best to
respect those wishes. One that puts a stronger focus on the story
of a man, twice down on his luck because both of his homes were destroyed, in the span of
ten minutes. Both his house and earth. And this man is so terrified of danger and risk,
despite it surrounding him all the time—but this very scared, non-committal man manages
to meet the creator of earth, I mean, he basically meets god in Slartibartfast-form, which is
only did because he’s a weiny. But Godibartfast said something very important
to this entire film. I’d rather be happy than right.
Which is astonishing because god then reunites him with his friends, on a planet exactly
like the one he used to live on, right down to his house being rebuilt so perfectly.
Commence Arthur freak out. Mouse rubbish line.
In this moment Arthur becomes as smart as god, and certainly smarter than the mice / people
that have been chasing their entire multi-million-year spanning lives. Instead of trying to live
their lives, they wasted them trying to find an answer to a question they didn’t need.
What’s the ultimate truth of existence? Who cares? I’d rather be happy.
And this movie makes me happy as shit.