A Movie Review (Of Sorts): The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Now, the Lizard Queen usually doesn’t do movie reviews, as some of her dear readers who happen also to be fellow bloggers do a much better job than she could, but since I’ve made clear that the Lizard Queen is a HUGE DOUGLAS ADAMS FAN-DORK!!! — well, then, certainly the Lizard Queen would do a review of a movie that SHE’S ONLY BEEN WAITING FOR 20 YEARS TO SEE!!!

ACHTUNG! SPOILERS BELOW!!!!

Okay, enough shouting… and German… and referring to myself in the third person.

Some things that might make your movie-watching enjoyment that much better:

1) Go read the first book, _The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy_. Also read the next-to-the-last book, _So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish_ if you have time.

2) Know that Douglas Adams as a young man was a moody, depressed, angsty bastard who only learned to lighten up *after* he finished writing most of the Hitchhiker’s books.

3) Know that he lightened up by working on a kick-ass computer game called “Bureacracy” — about the hell that is the British bureacratic system; discovering animal conservation (going to Madagascar, for instance, to see the aye-aye, one of the weirdest lemurs out there); and getting happily married and having his first kid — a beautiful daughter named Polly — in his 40s such that, when he worked on the script for *this* Hitchhiker’s movie, he was actually in a very very good mood.

4) Know that there are now *five* versions of the Hitchhiker’s plot out there: a) the BBC radio series version, b) the books version, c) the TV miniseries version, d) Apple computer game version, and e) the movie version.

5) Know that Douglas Adams *always* changes the plot and certain details with each different version, this movie notwithstanding.

I mention all of the above because some die-hard readers of the book would go, “Oy! That wasn’t in the book!” and many “this movie is the first time I’ve ever heard of Hitchhiker’s — I’m going to see it because it looks funny and shiny” will get lost because there are just that many insider references to the books. In fact, a couple walked out during the opening credits (lots of dolphins) because it wasn’t what they expected.

As Citizen Bob in his blog (it’s Weirdsville, USA, on my blogroll) mentioned, the movie is slightly under two hours, What he *didn’t* mention is that a lot of the Hitchhiker’s *book* is about entries in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — great in book form, pretty damn good in a venue like radio and TV series but *verboten* in something like a wide-release movie that’s slightly under two hours. So there aren’t as much entries of “the Book” in the movie, but I can see why, as it would’ve slowed the action down.

Speaking of action, the movie is a much more conventional version (plot-wise) than the earlier versions — lots of shooty-shooty bang bang from the Vogons (who play a *huge* part in the movie and are caricatures of *the* worst part of late 19th century imperial, bureaucratic Britain), and even a bona fide love interest: yup, Tricia McMillan (aka Trillian) and Arthur Dent.

“NOOOOO!!!” I can hear some of my readers say. “Trillian and Arthur aren’t *supposed* to end up together!!!!”

Please see point 3) for a possible explanation of why DOUGLAS-FREAKING-ADAMS-HIMSELF chose to make this change.

If you’ve ever seen the TV series, you were probably disappointed as *hell* by Trillian in it: “Oy! What’s up with this tall, blonde, squeaky-voiced bimbo playing a brunette, alto-voiced astrophysicist?” Trillian in the movie is *perfect*. In temperament, she’s a cross between Trillian and Fenchurch in the books. Trillian in the movie would see right through Zaphod’s idiocy; and Arthur in the movie is *perfect* as well; he’ can’t help being British, and, in fact, it’s the fact that he *is* British that saves Trillian from the Vogons.

Did I mention Alan Rickman as Marvin’s voice is also perfect? And for those who only recall the TV series, in the book, Marvin *does* save everyone from certain death in the book, by sharing his depression with the policecraft, which committed suicide. In the movie, Adams takes the gist of that deus ex Marvin, although the Vogons don’t die (they just fall apart in an angsty mess — very funny!).

Did I mention that Bill Nighy was *perfect* as Slartibartfast?

Adams made a script that had an internally consistant plot, which is hard-as-hell-to-do from a book that celebrates chaos and randomness as the Hitchhiker’s book does. The additional plot-lines — the importance of the Vogons, the added character Huuma and inadvertant visit to his world, the trip to Vogsphere to rescue Trillian, the final trip to Magrathea — all work to make one tidy movie. It gets campy near the end, but it was obvious Adams was in love with the world when he finished the script, and, believe me, after reading _Mostly Harmless_ it’s refreshing to see a happy, optimistic side to the Hitchhiker’s universe. My problem is that I wish the movie was *longer* — a little bit of word-play between Prosser and Arthur, some more time on the Vogon spaceship, more bits from the Book, that sort of thing. But, hey, what do you expect from a DNA fan-dork?

Anyways… be the fan that you are but take off your cynical cap. And wait till the very end of the final end credits or you’ll miss something. SHARE AND ENJOY!

Overall grade: B+/ A-.

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About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
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