Home > Adventure, Comedy, Sci Fi > The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say regarding introductory sequences in visual entertainment media:

The observed purpose of an introductory sequence in visual entertainment media (known on Earth and similar planets as the “cold open”, the “intro”, or the “opening”) is to effectively set the mood for the remainder of a particular piece of visual media (as in the common Earth example, the “movie”). Therefore, an action movie may have as its introductory sequence a car chase, or a shootout, while a traditional space opera might have as its introductory sequence a shot of a space field with starships travelling across it and occasionally shooting at each other and/or exploding. In a specific example, the visual entertainment media adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy released in the year 2005 (Earth calendar) opens with a musical number featuring dolphins singing happily about the impending annihilation of planet Earth by a squad of Vogon destructor ships, thereby establishing the subsequent film as a comedy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a sci-fi comedy directed by Garth Jennings and based on the book of the same name by Douglas Adams, who was given a posthumous production credit. It stars Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovich, Alan Rickman, and Warwick Davis.

When Arthur Dent (Freeman) woke up this morning, all he knew was that his house was about to be bulldozed to make way for a freeway. He did not know that the Earth was, fundamentally, about to experience the same fate, due to Vogons wanting to build a hyperspace expressway, until his friend Ford Prefect (Def) pulls him away from his previous position lying in front of a bulldozer to delay it and drags him to a pub for a few pints to put him in the right frame of mind. For Dent, of course, no amount of beer could properly prepare him for the news that Prefect (whom he’d always thought was a bit odd) was not only not an Englishman but also not an Earthling, hailing from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and only visiting Earth to research the planet for the eponymous Guide. Nor is Dent quite drunk enough at any time to properly appreciate the fate that the planet Earth is about to implode with a complete lack of fanfare, and that Prefect is about to help him escape by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship.

After this, of course, Dent starts to appreciate drunkenness more and more as his day just gets weirder and weirder. He encounters Vogons and is tortured by the third worst poetry in the universe, gets blown out an airlock only to be picked up due to induced chance by a stolen spaceship with an experimental Infinite Improbablity Drive. Said ship contains his love-interest-and-missed-chance-at-romance Trillian (Deschanel), who ran off with a two-headed, three-armed alien named Zaphod (Rockwell), the President of the galaxy whose first action upon assuming the position was to steal said spaceship. Also aboard the ship is a manic-depressive robot named Marvin (voice of Rickman, suit worn by Davis), one of the first such to have a Real People Personality and thus considers it, and by extension himself, an utter failure. Zaphod wants to go to Magrathea to learn the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to go with the Answer of same, 42. Trillian wants some excitement in her life. Ford wants to finish his guide. Marvin wants to find some end to his banal existence. Arthur just wants some goddamn tea. And everything spirals off into madness on the way.

If you are familiar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, you will know a) how insanely difficult it is to develop a coherent story from even the first book, and b) how many times it’s been previously tried anyway, with varying levels of success. Incidentally, I am given to understand that a lot of beer went into the creation of the original story, for which a lot of the above may be blamed. Given that, I think the writers did decently well in knitting an Alice in Wonderland string of adventures into an overarching feature-length plot. It’s goofy and sprinkled with surreal inside humor that will have fans laughing and nodding, and everyone else scratching their heads and wondering if they should be smoking weed right about now to enhance the experience. (Devil’s advocate: Weed or caffeine might help. Your Mileage May Vary.)

The casting was fairly inspired. Martin Freeman as hapless Earthling Arthur had just the right amount of situational bewilderment once the plot kicks off that I could easily accept him as a normal guy in abnormal settings. Zooey Deschanel had a cute zaniness about her that went well with this incarnation of Trillian, the sort of blithe spirit willing to run off with an alien on a whim – and Zaphod himself, Sam Rockwell, was such a conceited spaz that I wanted to kick him in the head (either one) within two minutes of his first scene. Alan Rickman was perfect as the voice of Marvin, perpetually sounding horrifyingly bored of life but unable to do anything to help that, and Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide (Adams’ personal choice for the role, incidentally) offered just the right amount of deadpan quirkiness to match my expectations.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will not be for everyone. If you’re not a fan of the books, you probably won’t get most of this movie. But if you are, I suggest picking this up. It’s honest to the spirit of the series, and does a good job putting a coherent plot in the background insanity without sacrificing the overall feel. And remember: DON’T PANIC.

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