Science fiction and fantasy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

directed by Garth Jennings

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy poster  
There's always a danger that any too-faithful adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy won't please Douglas Adams' fans, who will already have heard all the jokes, and that it won't seem relevant to the decade that it's filmed in. This film gets around the problem by altering the plot a fair bit, whilst attempting to keep the feel of the original intact.

Arthur Dent's house is about to be demolished to make way for a bypass when his friend, Ford Prefect, comes to rescue him from the imminent destruction of the Earth. The two hitch a ride on the nearest ship, which happens to be the same Vogon vessel that just destroyed Arthur's home planet.

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

Film Details

Year of release: 2005

Categories: Films
Science fiction

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Emperor Mollusk Versus The Sinister Brain cover
Emperor Mollusk Versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez
What's an evil genius to do when he gets bored of being overlord of a whole planet?

Chasing The Moon cover
Chasing The Moon by A. Lee Martinez
A woman tackles Lovecraftian horrors, odd neighbours and strange appetites when she moves into a suspiciously nice new flat.

Shades of Grey cover
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
In the future your colour vision determines your life chances. But Eddie Russet may have seen too clearly for his own good.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


Darrenhf 14th June, 2005 15:37pm

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, not because of what was changed or what was left out, but because what was left in is just not funny. After the opening musical number (delirious)you are left in a laugh-free zone for the rest of the film. How can this be. The good news is that you come out wanting to go back to the radio and TV series that did it all so much better, funnier and cheaper.