YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY MAKES ME MAD? THEY CLEAN ME WITH A BRILLO PAD!
: So, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
I loved the look of it. Everything looks perfect
. The Brazil
influence is used to brilliant effect for all the Vogon scenes (which is a lot of them, as Vogons are much more integral to the movie's plot than the book's)--rusty, clunky, stringy, crapped-out futuristic technology. The Guide snippets are hilarious, with kind of iPod-ad/clip-art animation. The natural-wonder scenes are indeed wonderful. Zaphod's second head works (although his wardrobe could maybe be even further out there). This really is state-of-the-art moviemaking.
the main actors: Martin Freeman's Arthur Dent, Mos Def's Ford Prefect (I am not making that up!), and Sam Rockwell's Zaphod Beeblebrox were awesome. Ford and Arthur, and Ford and Zaphod, had terrific screen chemistry--they were a hoot and a half. I hadn't been looking forward to Trillian at all; Zooey Deschanel was an okayish, fairly generic actress, but not as bad as I'd expected. (More on Trillian in a moment.) I also loved some of the tertiary actors: Helen Mirren as Deep Thought, the mice!, Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast.
Most of the humor really worked. The only off-note I caught was the horrible mutilation of the opening bulldozer scene (they cut the bit about BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD!!! what is the point of doing that???). I also cordially loathed the opening (I'm sure I'm in the minority there), and the bits of the voice-over that weren't explicitly framed as quotes from the Guide. But in general, the humor and the general tone of the script felt like Douglas Adams. In Don't Panic
, if I'm remembering correctly, Adams says each time he rewrote the HHGTTG story (book, radio play, musical, computer game) he tried to do it slightly differently, and this time is no exception. I thought all the additions worked beautifully: the ideaslappers, the Point of View Gun, Zaphod's political rival, the various crazy stuff the Improbability Drive did, etc.
Now, the other things. One minor snag: I'd really been looking forward to Alan Rickman's Marvin the Paranoid Android. And he was good. But he played it more sobby than I'd like--I was hoping he'd bring a more resentful and slightly menacing (or at least Faintly Macabre) edge to Marvin.
Three medium snags: There's a brief sequence of very
standard-issue pisstake of religion/Catholicism/C of E. Could've been done much better. If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.
There are also brief bits of Luv Momma Earth preachiness. The plot already tells you this, people! Earth gets BLOWN UP! You do not need to TELL me to appreciate it when it gets BLOWN UP! ...Yes, dialing down, give me a moment.
OK, better. The third minor problem was a dumb, cliched female-jealousy subplot. (Wow--none of the HHGTTG iterations have good female roles, do they? I suppose I should be glad we didn't see Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon Whatever!)
Now the two big problems: I didn't notice the strong anti-questioning theme in the books, whereas the movie hammers it in. Maybe that's because in the books it's "merely" an integral part of the plot (42), whereas in the movie people talk about it a lot. But yes: The movie is deeply anti-philosophical and pro-satisfaction. I prefer dissatisfaction and struggle; I don't think The Question is "What's six times seven?" (I did really like one example of the anti-philosophical dialogue, though, between Arthur and Slartibartfast:
SLARTIBARTFAST, with the self-satisfied air people always have when they say this: I'd rather be happy than right.
ARTHUR: ...And are you happy?
SLARTIBARTFAST: No--that's the bit where it breaks down.
That exchange is nicely ambiguous in a way that the rest of the "questioning"-themed moments in the movie aren't.)
And... oh God, this is a movie about Twoo Wuv. Thus, I am filled with Twoo Hate. I cannot express strongly enough how much I loathe a) the Twoo Wuv plot in general, and b) Trillian as Arthur's twoo wuv in particular. As presented in the books, Trillian is just kinda bland. As presented in this movie, Trillian does actually change, from shallow pseudo-adventurous idiot to someone who can appreciate and reward loyalty and courage. That's cool. What's not cool is that Arthur falls for the crap Trillian!
Arthur has no character arc. He starts out loving crap-Trillian, and beating himself up for not fulfilling her stupid idiot fake-ass adventure-hero fantasy. Then he wins the heart of better-Trillian (which in itself seems to miss the point of Arthur Dent: he wears a bathrobe, he just wants some tea, he doesn't get the girl) but he doesn't even seem to notice that she
has changed. Oh, I hated every second of the Arthur Loves Trillian plot.
So, in closing: I'm glad I saw it. It definitely entertained me. I don't think I really want to see it again anytime soon. I'll probably Netflix it when it comes out on DVD, so I can watch more Mos Def and ooh and aah at the pretty pictures. It didn't leave me retroactively annoyed with the books, or replace my book-images with movie-images, which are always the big worries in these adaptations. It didn't win my fannish heart (and it's sort of depressing to realize that even with a movie this geeky I'm still
not the target audience!), but it also was a fun time at the movie palace.
ETA: And you can buy the knitted versions of the Heart of Gold crew. Hee