Science fiction and fantasy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
directed by Garth Jennings
The Vogons are big, ugly, fat, bureaucratic and cruel. And did I mention ugly? They rule the planet as only creatures who look like oversized mouldy potatoes can, without imagination or pity. Their offices and ships are towering perpendicular blocks, grimy and depressing. Of course, this film looks nothing like the TV series, but rather than going for a slick and totally modern look it retains its comic appeal.
Marvin the depressed android now has an enormous round head, Zaphod Beeblebrox has his two heads but one is hidden away under the other, and Arthur still has his trusty dressing gown (but a perfectly normal head). So although the production values are better, the effect is still lighthearted rather than awe-inspiring.
Stephen Fry narrates the Guide entries, and his delivery is so good it's hard to imagine anyone better suited to take over this role. However the Guide itself plays a less significant part than you might expect, with only a few brief entries. This is a shame, since it's the source of some of the best humour.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is funny, but it has lost something in translation to the big screen. Where the plot has been Hollywoodised some of the subtle humour of the original has been lost. Arthur Dent is one of life's losers, perpetually miffed or baffled, and that's part of his charm. But Hollywood likes a happy ending and a man who can find his spirit of adventure in the end.
This is a movie that's keen to explain away some of Adams' absurdities, such as how mice could really be in charge, and Zaphod even has a rational explanation for his head situation. It's as though we couldn't possibly be expected to suspend our disbelief otherwise.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is entertaining, and the egotistical Zaphod is as easy on the eye as he is barking mad. The Vogons are liable to scare little children with their dress sense, whilst Martin Freeman plays Arthur Dent with just the right amount of put upon desperation that the character deserves. Abbreviation hasn't improved this movie, which is more of a gentle chuckle than a barrel of laughs, and the story seems much less madcap now than it did all those years ago. But it's worth watching at least once nonetheless.
30th April 2005
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