Mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher penning a new edition of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
Everyone has bad mornings. You wake up late, you stub your toe, you burn the toast...but for a man named Arthur Dent, this goes far beyond a bad day. When he learns that a friend of his is actually an alien with advanced knowledge of Earth's impending destruction, he is transported off the Earth seconds before it is exploded to make way for a new hyperspace motorway. And as if that's not enough, throw in being wanted by the police, Earth II, an insane electronic encyclopedia, no tea whatsoever, a chronically depressed robot and the search for the meaning of life, and you've got the greatest adventure off Earth. Written by
The Vogon written language seen on their release forms as well as in a bilingual caption in the Magrathean video which says "Information Deleted", is actually a form of English. Pitman shorthand, once taught to hundreds of thousands of office-workers mainly in the British Commonwealth, is a series of straight and curved strokes meant to write down sounds much faster than regular writing. As discussed in a book about the movie, the Vogons use a slightly blocky but recognizable form of "Pitman 2000", the most recent version of Pitman shorthand published in 1970. It occurs in the Vogon release forms, posters on the wall which say "Fire Exit Escape Map" (over a hopelessly confusing maze of arrows with a spot at the center saying "You Are Here") and "Are you depressed? Destruction Therapy!" See more »
When Ford passes Arthur's caravan as he chases a group of Vogons with a towel, the cameraman (along with about three other crewmembers) is reflected in the caravan. See more »
It's an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, Man had always assumed that he was the most intelligent species occupying the planet, instead of the *third* most intelligent. The second most intelligent creatures were of course dolphins who, curiously enough, had long known of the impending destruction of the planet earth. They had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger, but most of their communications ...
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After a couple of minutes of typical movie credits, we are treated with a final, classic Guide entry. It refers to Arthur Dent carelessly speaking words about a towel, which ends up being interpreted by a pair of warring factions as a devastating insult. They then spend thousands of years coming to Earth bent on revenge, however "due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog". The Guide concludes with the reassuring nugget of wisdom, "this sort of thing is going on all the time". See more »
It is great to finally see one of my favourite stories finally get the big screen treatment. There are moments where the budget has clearly benefited the overall experience, with some breath-taking CGI sequences. Two particularly spring to mind: An impressive backwards zoom out from earth's surface, past the Vogon demolition charges before the planet is so hastily disposed of, and Arthur's journey onto Magrathea's staggeringly colossal factory floor, which is simply overwhelming. Both illustrate, to great satisfaction, the dramatic readjustment of scale Arthur Dent has to undergo in such a short space of time in a stark manner that is just not possible in any medium other than cinema. The on-screen format of the guide itself is an appropriate update of the format developed for the television series, and it's highly enjoyable to see such delightfully silly animations grace a giant cinema screen.
Cinema is a different experience, and that is the nub of the matter. We are dealing with a radically different medium from any of the other that Hitchhiker's has materialised in, and not only does that offer new opportunities to explore Douglas Adams' marvellous universe, it also necessitates dramatic changes. Most noticeably, and perhaps most important for a two-hour motion picture, there is more effort to form a conventional plot than is present in the original incarnations and this change is accompanied by major changes in character motivation. This is interesting, because (here analysis becomes problematic since it is impossible to know which changes were instigated by Adams and which were down to Karey Kirkpatrick), none of the characters in Adams' earlier material really had any significant motivations that would lend them to becoming interesting protagonists in a more conventional setting.
Previously, Narcissist Zaphod wanted his ego stroked by fame and fortune, Ford was content with the prospect of a decent party to go to and Arthur's only desire was a palatable cup of tea. Trillian didn't really do anything. Although they are far from unrecognisable, the introduction of tangible drives into most of the characters alters the pattern of events in the story to accommodate what begins to resemble a more conventional story structure. One of the first casualties of this is that the principle players overshadow others, who are introduced, half-heartedly expanded upon, and then almost entirely dropped in deference to the favoured few. It never goes the whole way towards a standard structure though, as half of the principle story is seemingly abandoned in favour of a concentration on the romantic subplot and an overall resolution that is at least reverent to the previous formats. The result is a mixed bag. I found Arthur much more likable and Zaphod funnier than I ever have done, but it never actually occurred to me until the film that Arthur was a bit of a whinger and Zaphod quite boring, because I was too busy paying attention to what happened to them, rather than what they happened to do.
The other major objection, which may or may not have been inevitable, given the time that must be given over to visuals in cinema, is that the filmmakers appear to try and get too much into a two-hour film. As a result, some brilliantly funny lines are missed and key explanations fudged and both are replaced by a general silliness, which appears to be a compromise between the demands of hardcore Hitchhiker's fans and those of the cinema-going public. A lot of the new material is funny, but some of it doesn't really fit with Adams' universe and sticks out like a sore thumb. Whether this is the consequence of those responsible being caught between the rock of Adam's inventiveness and the hard place of the medium they were working in is hard to say. Perhaps someone braver could have produced something more appropriate, or perhaps this is the best that there could ever be. I suppose we'll never know.
To summarise: It's very different.
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