a critiQal film review The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Plot: When the Earth is demolished by an alien species, plain Arthur Dent (Freeman) is whisked away by his friend Ford Prefect (Def), who isn't exactly from where he says he is. On this trip, he'll encounter the President of the Galaxy (Rockwell); a depressed android named Marvin (Davis/Rickman); the real intelligent life on Earth; The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything...and a girl he met at a costume party (Deschanel).

844 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 13s)
  • ...despite not following the book, most will enjoy this irreverent new ride through the galaxy with Arthur and friends

Finally, the moment I’ve waited so long for has finally arrived! Douglas Adams’ wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has finally made it to the big screen. Yes, yes, I know – the BBC did release a TV version of the book years ago (which I never got a chance to see). But, this is big budget movie-making!

With such a hilarious novel to go on, how could they possibly mess up The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? After all, they haven’t messed anything else up, ever…right (like, say, Spider-Man (2002))…okay…maybe they could mess it up. So, maybe going to the theater to check it out might not be such a good idea. But, when it hits DVD, I’ll snatch it up then. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Unfortunately, I didn’t count on everyone else in my area having the same idea. Finally, more than a month after it’s release, I was finally able to snag a copy from my local Blockbuster® (while fighting off hordes of other movie watchers). So, would all this trouble to watch The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy be worth it, or should I have saved myself all this hassle and just reread the book again?

The actors in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy are an odd group. The viewer may recognize different characters (Sam Rockwell, for example, was in Charlie’s Angels (2000); Bill Nighy was in Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Love Actually (2003) – along with the voice of Marvin, Alan Rickman – and who doesn’t know John Malkovich?), but having them all grouped in the same film seems slightly odd – especially since most of the more well-known actors aren’t even the main characters.

The main character of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent, is portrayed by Martin Freeman, who most people will have never heard of, but might recognize from his role in Love Actually (2003). This never-before leading man does a decent job of giving the novel’s Arthur Dent irreverent life.

But, the real scene-stealer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy comes in the form of a depressed android named Marvin. As the voice of Marvin, Alan Rickman gets to voice most of the best lines of the movie including “Life. Don’t Talk To Me About Life”, with only the memorable “This must be a Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays” left over for Martin Freeman’s Arthur Dent. This was definitely the way for the filmmakers to go, as Freeman just doesn’t have enough of an on-screen presence yet to keep viewers in their seats by himself.

If the viewer goes into this thinking The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is going to go directly by the book, they will be sadly mistaken. Sure, at first, it seems as if the film will try sticking to the book, but then it suddenly veers off in an entirely different direction, coming back to touch base with the book only every once in awhile.

While this may be disappointing for fans of the book, it does give those fans the chance to follow along on this new adventure with Arthur, while not losing sight of the book’s main theme. And that journey is filled with oddities, fun, and some laughter. Maybe not as much fun and laughter as the book, but a good time nonetheless.

The special effects are decent, but aren’t up to the very high standards today’s moviegoers have come to expect. Some of the aliens are obviously just people in funny suits, and Marvin himself looks a little peculiar, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tries to put more focus on the plot rather than the effects, and should be applauded for their effort – even if it doesn’t work all the time. It’s a refreshing change from most films these days, which rely solely on special effects to keep the viewer entertained – even if they happen to lose track of the plot along the way.

Fans of the book may put this new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy down, but only if they are too narrow-minded. Most will enjoy this new ride through the galaxy with Arthur and friends on DVD. Sure, it doesn’t follow the book, but it stands as a decent movie in it’s own right.

If you’ve never read the book by the late Douglas Adams, be sure to watch the film before reading the book. You’ll enjoy the movie a whole lot more if you don’t have the book to compare it with. But, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book afterwards. It’s one of the funniest novels ever written, and definitely should not be missed.

Now the only question remains: is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the 2nd novel in the 5-part + trilogy) on the horizon of feature filmdom? If so, I’ll make sure I show up at Blockbuster® a little earlier than I did for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when that one is released on DVD.

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