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April 30th, 2005


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03:20 am - DON'T PANIC
So Tom and I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Friday night. Overall, my reaction was good. Very, very different from any previos version of the story, but otherwise pretty good.

Here is how people will react to the film:
  1. Non-fans will enjoy it, but may be confused by the spasmodic style.

  2. Fans who expect to have a good time probably will, but will have lots of "what was that all about?!" moments.

  3. Fans who expect the worst will create it for themselves.
General observations first: Aesthetically, the film is stunning. The sets are imaginitive and beautiful (well, the Vogon ship isn't beautiful, but it's pretty darn neat). The lighting and camera work are uniquely exciting, and the music and sound are wonderful. I was wrong about Journey of the Sorcerer -- not only did it make the cut, but it's a gorgeous and well-placed arrangement. The acting is generally very good, but I'll talk about it under the cut.

If you want to keep an open mind about the movie, this is the place to stop reading.

Mos Def makes a better Ford Prefect than anybody expected, Martin Freeman is spot-on as Arthur Dent, and Alan Rickman as Marvin is excellent. Bill Nighy plays my favorite version Slartibartfast, but he doesn't look the way I thought Slartibartfast should look.

I thought Sam Rockwell would be a perfect casting choice for Zaphod Beeblebrox, but he's obviously made his own decisions about who the character should be. Rockwell's version of Beeblebrox would have snugly fit Douglas Adams' original dialogue, but the character has been rewritten and there's some clash.

Zooey Deschanel as Trillian was also a good casting choice, partly because I think she's stunningly attractive, but also because she can play the very smart, articulate type of character that Trillian is. Her performance is good, but the character has been substantially rewritten, and I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I don't think Douglas Adams created good female personalities until So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. On the other hand, Trillian suddenly has desires and motivations, and when she gets angry she does more than have one pouty line of dialogue.

How's the story? This is a faithful adaptation in the way that Re-Animator and The Muppet Christmas Carol are faithful adaptations (and this, incidentally, is the only place where you'll ever see those titles side by side). Great swaths of the story have been cut, others seriously reworked. Very little of the original dialogue has survived, and in some cases good lines from much later in the series have been transplanted as punchlines. Somehow the main points of the story are (generally) intact, along with a myriad little details that casual fans won't even notice. Some people have said that there are only a few major story changes, which (I suppose) is true, but they are majorly major. Much has been simplified or in some cases (and this bugs me) plot elements have been combined and condensed. Jokes are missing, and some punchlines don't have their accompanying setup.

Do you care about these changes? That's up to you. I'm not appalled, and it boils down to the fact that they were (if the interviews are to be believed) Douglas Adams' own changes, and for some reason I find this forgivable. Every adaptation of HHG has differed in significant ways from the others, and while this one has the most significant changes, it does compress a story which would not have adapted very well verbatim (or rather, it might have adapted well, but non-fans would be bored by the slow start and confused by the abrupt finish). Many scenes were shot and not used in the theatrical cut, but we should see these on the DVD and they may contain what I'm missing. The theatrical cut is, incidentally, the director's own cut, so this is the movie he wanted to make, not something the studio forced him to make.

Um, what else? Oh, new characters and plot points. Skip this paragraph if you don't want to learn the new stuff. The Arthur/Trillian/Zaphod love triangle which hardly existed at all in other versions is magnified a hundredfold here. Douglas Adams always lamented that he hadn't emphasized it more, so this, I assume, is what he wanted. John Malkovich as Humma Kuvala is interesting, but his subplot is left open, hopefully in anticipation of a sequel. Anna Chancelor is fine as Questular Rontok, but her character seems totally superfluous. She's there for a reason which eventually becomes obvious, but it's one of those "if they hadn't added X they wouldn't have had to add Y, which is why they added her character in the first place" sort of things. A large part of the film is devoted to the planet Vogsphere for not good reason other than to make the Vogons the primary bad guys (otherwise the story doesn't really have convetional bad guys). There's also a subplot involving the literally-named Point-of-View Gun (that's the only hint I'm giving, and I'd say it's a big one). The POV gun was added to the story by Adams, but it's so clumsy that I wonder if its purpose was lost in a rewrite or will be revealed in a sequel.

Lots of little bones are thrown to longtime fans of the series. Simon Jones (the original (and perfect, in my opinion (if he were younger)) Arthur Dent) makes an appearance, along with the original BBC TV version of Marvin. There are a lot of little in-jokes that only die-hard fans will get (because honestly, even fans of the TV series won't recognize the Starbix box (or maybe they will -- I did)).

Having said all of that, it's a fun movie, and though the changes are substantial (oh, you didn't look under the cut? Sorry.), I am looking forward to the sequel, which is not a given at this point, but certainly an option they kept firmly in mind.

Anybody still reading might be interested in checking out this story about the book, the film, and everything which ran on NPR's Talk of the Nation on Thursday.
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
Current Music: Marvin The Paranoid Android -- Metal Man

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:tlhinganhom
Date:April 30th, 2005 08:27 am (UTC)
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...And in case anyone's not read the books, http://matt.injustice.net.nz/guide/
[User Picture]
From:wyrdsatyr
Date:April 30th, 2005 08:43 am (UTC)
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I thaught Warwic Davis was Marvin.... oh, wait... you meant Rickman was the voice....
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:April 30th, 2005 03:18 pm (UTC)
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That's right. And Warwick Davis gives a fine performance, but they don't ask a whole lot of him. I wish he'd get more roles where he actually speaks (like, other than Leprechaun movies). He's not a bad actor.
[User Picture]
From:nocturne152
Date:April 30th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
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All excellent points. I think that perhaps my view of it is somewhat skewed, because I left work early to see it, and sitting in a movie theater somehow beats the hell out of sitting in a cubicle. I did think it was a great movie, which stayed true to the spirit, if not necessarily to the radio series/book/miniseries/everything else.
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From:sacredspud
Date:April 30th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to hear that. Honestly, I didn't mention it in my post but I think my biggest issues with the movie come from the fact that I can practically recite the script from the original radio series by memory, since I did it as a forensics peice in high school, recorded voices for a friend's A/V production class, and then tried to record the whole radio series with some of my friends a few years back. The original version is so ingrained in my brain that I notice slight deviations in minor dialogue exchanges. Somebody with more of a life than me wouldn't notice these things, and I want to see it again now so that I see it knowing what I'm going into.
[User Picture]
From:agaysexicon
Date:April 30th, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC)
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I honestly enjoyed it. After reciting the plot to Liz (who still wants to see the movie), I'm gladdened by the fact that the plot points involving Tirllian that I didn't quite remember and the POV gun that didn't seem to be in the book weren't actually in there. This makes me happy because I honestly didn't remember them being in the book when watching the film. If you're willing to see it again, Liz would like to see it and I would like to see it again. Perhaps these can be taken care of simultaneously.
[User Picture]
From:nocturne152
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC)
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I would go so far as to pay FULL PRICE to see it again.
[User Picture]
From:agaysexicon
Date:April 30th, 2005 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, yes... WAIT!

I've got a thought.

WHAP!

OW!

That was a stupid idea.

WHAP!

OW!

How bout, if possible, unless there happen to be extenuating circumstances, the 4 of us (you, Colin, Liz and myself) see it again/for the first time? Probably after finals (which are, for reference: May 8-14, though I think we're both done by the 12th).
[User Picture]
From:nocturne152
Date:April 30th, 2005 07:40 pm (UTC)
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If things work out, then yeah, I'm game.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:April 30th, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
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Me too. Definitely.
[User Picture]
From:devianttouch
Date:May 2nd, 2005 02:01 am (UTC)
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Dude, can I come?

Wendy and I saw it Saturday up north.

See my LJ for my opinion.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:May 2nd, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC)
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I don't see why not. Anybody mind if I invite Ellen along? I was threatening to take her to see it, but she was out of town this last weekend so she got lucky. This time.
[User Picture]
From:valec
Date:April 30th, 2005 08:58 pm (UTC)
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Here is how people will react to the film:

1. Non-fans will enjoy it, but may be confused by the spasmodic style.

2. Fans who expect to have a good time probably will, but will have lots of "what was that all about?!" moments.

3. Fans who expect the worst will create it for themselves.


... Sounds like almost any good film.
Looking forward to seeing it myself.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 1st, 2005 01:36 am (UTC)

duh

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hi cloin with one l. Ok just got back from hhg, and i liked it, do want to see the extra stuff, did find the prospective gun and ...chick w/ black hair after zephod, to be out of place and acward and yes yes, they needed to make the vogons the main bad guys, staying true to the book is nice if you liked the tv show, which i didn't, passed out way too ofton, but the whole conventional movie adaptation, bad guys, love scene, eh, i don't know. spose i wish they has left more of that out and done more of the punchlines. Overall very funny and i liked how they did a lot of things, especailly Marvin, that was just cute. by the way you ruined the movie for keith by stealing tom, tsk.~lindsay
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:May 1st, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)

Re: duh

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I know, Tom and I knew he'd feel that way, and Tom opted to do it anyway. Did Keith see it with you guys?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 1st, 2005 06:52 am (UTC)

Re: duh

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yes! no thanks to you. just kidding no big deal. :)
DON'T PANIC - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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