Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (2005) – movie review

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Movie Reviews by EDF and Toby White

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman
Director: Garth Jennings

Review by EDF

Somewhere in this vast universe is an insignificant small blue/green planet, circling 90 odd million miles around a sun. The inhabitants on the planet thought that mobile phones were a neat idea and spent a lot of money buying ringtones and then waited weeks on end for somebody to call them so that they could hear their ringtone kick into action. There were other forms of entertainment such as radio, books, records, television, games, websites and movies to keep the masses amused for a short while. THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY has featured in all of these formats and the one we are going to look closely at is the movie adaptation of the Guide.

This is the story about an ape descendant called Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and his encounter with The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (voiced by Stephen Fry). One of Arthur’s close friends, Ford Prefect (Mos Def) reveals that not only is he not from Guildford, he actually comes from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and is in fact a researcher for the Guide. Arthur’s surprise turns to astonishment when, quicker than you can say “Don’t Panic”, the earth is destroyed by the Vogans.

Arthur and Ford hitch a lift on the Vogan spaceship and are promptly thrown off it and left to die in the vacuum of space. Luckily for them “The Heart Of Gold”, a spaceship powered by the Infinite Probability Drive, picks them up. The owner of the ship is none other than the Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), who decided to steal the ship for his own personal cause. Accompanying Zaphod is Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), a bright earth woman Zaphod had picked up at a party and who Arthur was interested in at the time and of course Marvin, The Paranoid Android (Warwick Davis, voiced by Alan Rickman). With the Vogans hot on their tail, will they ever be able to find out the ultimate question to Life, The Universe and everything?

Well, how does this adaptation of HITCHHIKERS fair? There has been a lot of grumbling on some Internet sites where “fans” are frothing about how scenes and dialog were changed. What you have to remember is that this movie is just another form of entertainment that will hopefully gain a wider audience for Douglas Adams’ work. Each adaptation of HITCHHIKERS has been different to what came previously and even though the movie has taken elements from what we already know, the new added parts actually fit in quite well. From the musical intro to the last bit of knowledge given from the Guide during the end credits, nothing seems out of place. The interjection of new ideas have fleshed out the characters even more and yes even including the love story part of it, which Adams had originally realised is what the movie needed, has made this a thoroughly entertaining movie. Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop has made the likes of the Vogans seem very real and the CGI effects are just stunning. The cast have somehow understood what the characters are about and every performance whether physical or vocal is just right.

This is a funny, intelligent and respectful version of HITCHHIKERS that fans and newcomers will enjoy and I’ve got a feeling that Adams would have been happy with this version as well.

6 out of 6 stars

Review by Toby White

This is a tricky one. Having not read the book nor seen the original TV adaptation, I’m absolutely taking this film on spec. No prejudices, no preconceptions, nothing. So if there are any fans out there spoiling for a fight, please, I’m just doing my job. Although, I’ve not said it’s bad yet. In fact, its really rather good. For one, the trailer’s splendid. It’s almost as though it’s been designed for the uninitiated like me, with its “Guide to Hitchhiking” voice-over by Stephen Fry (who, I’m pleased to say, is the narrator in the film). Come to think of it, the more I saw, the more I started to get how much of this has entered the public’s consciousness. Character names like Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Android and everyman Arthur Dent I have all heard of so, going in, there was some scant recognition, at the very least.

Anyway, for those of us that have no idea, it’s one of those bad-aliens-destroy-earth-
good/weird/wonderful-aliens/robots/humanoids-before-saving-the-day films. In a very, very, very English way. I couldn’t help but think of THE FIFTH ELEMENT had it been made in Britain. (And fear not, I’m not even go to mention RED DWARF- Nng! Sorry).

Dispensing with comparisons to every other adaptation from the book, as a film on its own the team that put this together have done a terrific job. Director Garth Jennings harks from a commercials/promos background but this is not cut at 2000-edits per second, it’s measured, the pace works and there are moments of visual brilliance. Similarly, with a predominantly British cast, the humour is thus delivered in that quintessentially understated matter-of-fact method, making this feel so down-to-earth (pardon the pun) it just makes the whackiness of it so completely palatable. Martin Freeman (being one of the champions of this school of comedy) excels as the bewildered fish-out-of-water, Dent, backed up by Bill Nighy as the planet-creator Slartibartfast and Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin. There are effortless turns from Sam Rockwell as the eponymous madman Beeblebrox and John Malkovich as the sinister cult leader Humma Kavula. Just looking at the performances you feel you know exactly what the book’s characters are like. Forgive me here if I sound like I know what I’m talking about but this is just my impression, for all I know they could be completely unlike those in the book making this the worst adaptation in the world. But I doubt it. This film is polished with a capital P and to go to that effort you can’t help but keep it true. Besides, I’m cheating, I overheard people coming out saying how true to the book they thought it was.

Basically, fans will really get a kick out of this. Even the ignorant among us will find something in it to like. And even if you don’t like sci-fi (and I’m not a fan) there’s enough in there to keep even the most virulent sci-fi ‘phobe’ at least tickled. Put it this way, I’m now going to read the book.

5 out of 6 stars