Speculative Fiction Saturday: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005 Version)

hitchhikers guideAs I have said before, I like watching people review bad movies like the Nostalgia Critic, and if you watch enough shows about bad movies, the same titles show up like Batman and Robin, Freddy Got Fingered, and The Last Airbender. For some reason, I never see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on this list, and perhaps it is too new.

Hitchhiker’s is one of those films that I watched and didn’t think much of it when I saw it. I suppose that I should be an indicator, but I have seen a lot of films that I initially shrugged off and then enjoyed all the more with re-watching. Then there are the films that just get worse the more I watch them. For example, I once borrowed Spider-man 3 from a friend of mine, and when I returned it, I said to him: “do me a favor, don’t let me borrow this again, because I hate it more every time that I watch it”.

I think I despise Hitchhiker’s more with each viewing. This is a real shame, as I read the original trilogy of books in high school and loved it. The way the books were written was a very funny story told in a way that even the narrative style was laugh-out-loud funny. I think this is the reason why video versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide have never worked. Yeah, the BBC tried this as a TV mini-series a while ago, and now it is Disney’s turn to flop at it. I will explain more after the jump

There are two reasons that this Disney version does not work. The first is the choice in story. The first part of the film follows the book very well, as Arthur Dent is about to get his house destroyed by bypass construction workers. Arthur’s friend Ford Prefect comes by and explains that the world is about to be destroyed. He and Arthur escape the destruction of Earth by teleporting on the Vogon starship, the alien race who is destroying the world to make way for a hyperspace bypass. You got to love the irony of that.

The story is an interesting set-up for when Ford and Arthur transport themselves to another ship known as the Heart of Gold. The Heart of Gold is a stolen ship by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the Galaxy. Also aboard the ship is Trillian from Earth and Marvin, the Paranoid Android. The Heart of Gold is on its way to Magrathea, where Zaphod hopes to find secrets of the universe.

That is essentially the story from the first book in the series, but the film takes some turns that don’t go anywhere. For example, there is a scene where Zaphod meets Humma Kavula, who lost the election to Zaphod. Humma is played by John Malkovich, and he is not in the book and feels like an interruption to the movie.

Also, I don’t remember Trillian getting kidnapped by the Vogons in the book, and then having them come to rescue her. In the process, they see a room full of aliens. I think movie audiences have passed the point where we are impressed by rooms full of aliens. Star Wars creature cantina was cool, but that was back in 1977. In this modern day film, it is as unimpressive as it is fake.

There is also a scene where the characters are walking through a field and are being swatted in the face when any of these characters have an idea. What is up with this? Who thought this was funny in the writing stage?

In addition to the bad story adaptation, the casting is also terrible. Martin Freeman plays the lead character, Arthur Dent, and he does a good job. I also think that Alan Rickman is perfectly cast as the voice of Marvin. I feel that Sam Rockwell was a poor choice for Zaphod. Rockwell was hysterical in Galaxy Quest, but he plays Zaphod far to recklessly. Then there is Mos Def as Ford, who is really over-acting with that towel he is holding. In the book, the importance of a towel makes sense, but it is a weird interpretation. As for Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, do I need to make any The New Girl comparisons?

There are also two aliens that pose as mice, and these aliens are paid by kids. Why?

Perhaps it was my remembrance of the story and characters is flawed, and maybe these actors and storytellers did their best. Adapting a classic book, particularly a science-fiction comedy book, is something that I really don’t think should be attempted. As I mentioned before, Hitchhiker’s Guide is so funny as a book that even a perfect adaptation would not work as a film.

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