Within the first 15 minutes of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – the new movie directed by Garth Jennings and based on the book by Douglas Adams – I had already decided that this movie was fantastic.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Hitchhikers tells the story of Arthur Dent, an Englishman whose house is about to be destroyed to make a bypass. Little does he realise that the whole planet is actually about to be destroyed to make way for a galactic bypass – but luckily his good friend Ford Prefect has a way off the planet before it is destroyed. What ensues is Arthur’s adventures as he is picked up by spaceship ‘The Heart of Gold’, deals with the President of the Universe, tries desperately to come to grips with what is happening in such a short space of time, and tries to win over his true love, Trillian, all the while being hunted down by the Vogons, the alien race responsible for the destruction of earth.
What is really fantastic about Hitchhikers is … well, to be honest, everything.
The acting is brilliant, with all of the major parts played to the utmost ability of those in charge – notably the main cast. Martin Freeman (previously of The Office) plays Arthur Dent, the ultimate every-man. Mos Def plays Ford Prefect, researcher for the guide, and friend of Arthur, and is absolutely fantastic – in fact, of all the hip-hop artists turned actor, Mos Def may be the only one who is better at acting. Sam Rockwell plays President of the Galaxy, and all-around jerk, Zaphod Beeblebrox – Sam’s character is even more crazy than the one he played in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (which is saying something) – he’s an absolute riot. Zooey Deschanel plays Trillian, aka Trisha McMillan – and as one reviewer asserted last week, she’s the only actor in the film whose real name is stranger than her characters name. Even some of the minor characters are fantastic as well, including appearances by John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Bill Nighy.
Some of the highlights of the film go to Marvin, a manically depressed robot, who spends the whole film feeling rather sorry for himself, and saying things like “Do what you like, I don’t care anyway” and “I’d tell you how bad it is, but you won’t like it” in a slow and monotonous English drawl, which makes him sound incredibly sad.
The production of the movie is great too, with much of the movie directly based on the source material – a factor helped immensely by the fact that Douglas Adams, the author of the book, was directly involved in production, and in the writing of the screenplay. Amazing visuals and fantastic sets are the order of the day, with the entire 110 minutes not actually containing a scene that didn’t look fantastic. Add to that the creatures, done by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (particularly the Vogons who look absolutely hideous, and Marvin the Depressed Robot).
The dialogue is absolutely fantastic – fans of movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail will be in absolute bliss, with the British style of humour coming through thick and fast – even the Americans in the cast manage to get on board with what the movie-makers are trying to achieve. I had a smile on my face for the entire length of the film, and even found myself laughing out loud in several scenes. Of particular mention is the musical number at the start (‘So Long and Thanks For All The Fish’), and the multiple scenes where the Guide is shown explaining something, or is narrating a scene – these are the little things that can let a movie down.
One of the best parts of Hitchhikers is the randomness. Having read the books, I was prepared for a level of randomness, but nothing could have prepared me for what I actually saw. Scenes like one involving a whales thoughts as it freefalls from 20,000 feet, or the Vogon poetry scene – even visual gags that occur every so often, like Arthur and Ford looking straight ahead for a door to open, and then having the floor drop out beneath them – just serve to make this film all the more entertaining. As proof, I was sitting along from some young guys, who spent a large part of the movie saying things like “What the hell …” and “What was that!”
Overall, Hitchhikers is a success, and I think fans of the original book series will be greatly pleased. However, it also has enough appeal, while not relying too much on viewers having read the book, to make this a great film for newcomers to the Hitchhikers Guide world. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.
Oh, and one final word: don’t forget your towel …