The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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Here's the absolutely hysterical, wonderfully wild, cosmic adventure comedy THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. Based on Douglas Adams' worldwide best-selling novel, and starring an outrageous intergalactic cast, this is one ride you don't want to miss. Seconds before Earth is destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace express route, mild-mannered Arthur Dent is whisked into space by his best friend (an alien posing as an out-of-work actor). And so the misadventures begin as he and fellow travelers, including the cool but dim-witted President of the Galaxy, the Earth girl Trillian, and Marvin the paranoid android, search for answers to the mystery of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Don't panic! After twenty years stuck in development (a mere blink compared to how long it takes to find the answer to life, the universe, and everything), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has finally been turned into a movie. Following the radio play, TV series, commemorative towel, and books, this latest installment in the sci-fi-comedy franchise is based on the screenplay and detailed notes by Douglas Adams.
Hitching a ride.
For those unfamiliar with the story, everyman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes up one morning to discover that his house is set to be demolished to make room for a bypass. Little does he know the entire planet Earth is also set to be destroyed for an interplanetary bypass by the Vogons, a hideous and bureaucratic race of aliens realized in the film by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Whisked off the planet by his best friend, alien-in-disguise Ford Prefect (Mos Def), Dent embarks on a goofy jaunt across the galaxy accompanied by his trusty Hitchhiker's Guide, which looks like a really fancy PDA.
The guide itself provides some of the funniest bits of the movie, little animated shorts that explain the ludicrous life forms and extraterrestrial phenomena our heroes encounter. Along the way Arthur meets the two-headed party animal/president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and develops an unrequited crush on fellow earthling Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). The creatures and sets are inspired and answer to the sci-fi fan's primal need to see lots and lots of cool stuff. In particular, there's John Malkovich's creepy, CGI-enhanced Humma Kavula. He's a guru leading a religion that worships the gigantic nose that allegedly sneezed the universe into existence (naturally all their prayers end not with "Amen" but with "Bless you.") The aliens the team encounters are inspired creations, eminently worthy of action figure-ification, and the sets belie an attention to detail worthy of freeze-framing. Fans of the other Hitchhiker manifestations, namely the British TV series, will be amused by a number of in-jokes sprinkled throughout the movie.
Concept art: The Heart of Gold pod on the planet Vogsphere
Where the story stumbles is in the telling--as books, the Hitchhiker's Guide was foremost about goofy and brilliant ideas that raised questions about our place in the universe while getting a laugh. The cast seems at times bewildered, at least when Sam Rockwell isn't picking pieces of scenery out of his teeth, perhaps a natural reaction to an adaptation of a book with no traditional plot. The movie has enough trouble figuring out how to get the characters from one fantastical location to the next that Adams's funniest concepts often feel left in the dust. While the reverence the filmmakers felt toward Adams's legacy is apparent, one wonders what we could have expected had the creator of this science fiction universe lived to see it with his own eyes. -- Ryan Boudinot
A Guide to the Guide
The Radio Play (CD)
The TV Series
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Deluxe Edition)
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Paperback)
The Filming of the Douglas Adams Classic (book)
Interviews with The Cast and Director
Watch our interviews with the cast and director of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and find out what they think of other DVDs and books:
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Before his untimely death, Douglas Adams managed to personally create, often with collaborators, many, many, many versions of the hilarious Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was originally a radio serial, then it became a series of books, a television show, a video game, and also a screenplay. He was engaged for a long time with movie executives trying to get a movie made, but sadly it had to wait until after his death.
Every version was quite different from every other. Unlike, say, Star Trek, none can really be considered "canon." Each is equally as legitimate as the others, and all have many strengths.
The special effects here are awesome, and we get to visit parts of the Hitchhiker's universe which have only been alluded to before. The cast is amazing. My favorite was Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast—but, and this is my only gripe with the movie, they left out the best line. (HERE COMES THE SPOILER!)
They included the fact that he won an award for designing the coastlines of Norway. But he never says here that on the backup earth he was assigned the coastlines of Norway. In almost every other version he says, "Of course I did it with all fjords again. They said it wasn't equatorial enough. (scoffs) Equatorial."
If you have friend who turns out to be an alien from Betelgeuse, you have only one choice: thumb a ride into the galaxy!
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", movie version, is the latest incarnation of a story that the late, legendary Douglas Adams first put on the airwaves many years ago. The movie is shorter, sweeter, and altogether a fun romp. It's definitely British in tone and style, but with a welcome addition of charming American humor as well. Also, remember that Douglas Adams himself wrote the screenplay, so you're getting all the important stuff that was in the previous versions.
Some diehard Adams fans will complain that this isn't the full story as told in the book. They should remember, though, that the book was only the *second* incarnation; the first was a serial radioplay broadcast by the BBC. As I remember, the *third* incarnation was a serial teleplay, also shown by the BBC (it was my introduction to the book!). So Doug had at least four chances to tighten the story to his liking.
Of all the characters, Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent does the best job, with Zooey Deschanel close behind as Trillian. In the books, they were important characters, but here they dominate. Yasiin Bey as Ford Prefect is a bit disappointing, and Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox (*The* Zaphod Beeblebrox? *The* President of the Galaxy?) is entirely out of place. The rest of the cast do well, with the late Alan Rickman doing a superb job as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android.
I must give a big shout out to the Vogons, who have an expanded part in this version of the story. They're done in a very British style, and really help set the tone of the movie. However, as the "Guide" suggests, don't let them read poetry to you.
This movie is well worth watching if you can find it; you'll probably have to do as I did and buy a copy.
In summary, the answer is 42.
Zaphod is a whirlwind of manic, self-absorbed, egotistical energy, absolutely perfect. The Vote Zaphod theme song is a catchy earworm. Arthur's bewildered straight man is a great counterpoint to the worldliness (universalliness?) of Ford and the travel-longing Trillian.
The classic book themes are here: 42, the bowl of petunias, even a nod to the restaurant at the end of the universe. Different from the book? Yeah, but different doesn't always mean worse, it's still an entertaining ride that I've rewatched multiple times, certainly not for the last time.