– Summary –
Director : Garth Jennings
Year Of Release : 2005
Principal Cast : Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovich, Kelly Macdonald, Jason Schwartzman, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Richard Griffiths, Thomas Lennon, Bill Bailey, Mak Wilson, Garth Jennings.
Approx Running Time : 110 Minutes
Synopsis: When Earth is destroyed to make way for a new intergalactic superhighway, the last surviving human does the only thing reasonable in such an event: he hitchhikes.
What we think : A wonderful film version of Douglas Adams’ magnum opus, Hitchhikers is a laugh riot from the opening frame. With superb effects, puppets and practical sets, there’s little to fault for fans of the franchise, and for newbies as well.
Finally, somebody did Douglas Adams proud. I think he’d be happy with this film. The film version of the late Adams’ beloved sci-fi series, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy Trilogy (in four… or five…. parts) takes off with this movie, which is based on the first novel in the series.
The nutty, whacky humour Adams injected into his literature is gleefuly transferred onto the big screen, with director Garth Jenning’s seemingly channeling Adams’ spirit to create a funny, delightfully fresh take on this classic book.
Everyman character Arthur Dent wakes up to find his house is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a bypass. Aurthur is in the process of stopping this by lying down in front of the bulldozers, when his friend Ford Prefect, an alien who happens to be researching Earth for the universal compendium entitled, funnily enough, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (a vastly popular book, and perhaps the only book that would contain references from fernbyfilms.com) comes along and drags him to the pub. You see, while Arthu’rs house is about to be demolished, a far more perilous situation has developed in the sky above, as a Vogon fleet arrives to demolish Earth to make way for a new interstellar bypass.
The film kicks off with a wonderful musical number, “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish”, sung by dolphins (don’t ask, you have to watch the film!) who leave our planet due to the approaching Vogon fleet. Sung in a cabaret/showtune style, it really sets the tone for the whole film – a kind of whimsical, fantastical adventure journey filled with aliens and beings that never quite made it onto Star Trek, and some concepts and ideologies that are truly inspired.
Fan’s of Adams’ books know about the BBC TV series produced back in the 80’s, and while I can say I’ve had a quick look at a couple of episodes, the rambunctiousness contained within this film is lacking from the earlier production. While the TV series may have also had the added advantage of being an expanded narrative, the film captures the essentials and delivers the experience fan’s had been hoping for. The script, based on Douglas Adams’ version written while the author was alive, is sparkling, with the dialogue from the book springing to life thanks to some wonderfully believable performances by the cast; this, coupled with the great special effects and some amazing puppetry from the Henson Workshop, makes HHGG an absolute gem.
Honestly, a familiarity with the source novel will help any viewer; Easter eggs and nod’s to Adam’s and fans will make you grin if you know what to look for. People unfamiliar with the books will still find plenty to laugh at, and should not be put off.
Dent is played with a kind of confused befuddlement by Martin Freeman, best known to Australian audiences as the guy who poses in porn in Love Actually. Freeman’s Dent is a real British crust, the kind of man who is chivalrous, romantic, loving, friendly, yet still… British. He finds it hard to court women (as established when he fumbles his way through an encounter with Trish MacMillan (who later monikers herself as Trillian, when she turns up on the spacecraft of one Zaphod Beeblebrox!), before the Earth is demolished. Freeman is the link in this whole film, and it’s the Everyman character we, as viewers, will most identify with.
Ford Prefect, played with wonderful understated humour by Mos Def (whom, it must be said, I totally underestimated when I heard he was playing the role… my mistake) is a unique character, a kind of faux Travel guide who has, in the end, as much idea on things as Arthur, which makes them the perfectly mismatched, matched couple. Trillian, as portrayed by Zooey Deschanel, is a feisty, yet tender human female, who hooks up with the aforementioned Zaphod Beeblebrox after he rescues her from the destruction of Earth. Deschanel’s screen persona, while not one I would have picked as being suitable for the role, is perfect: she’s empathetic, strong willed, and gorgeous. She presents a sorrow at the destruction of Earth, yet coupled with Arthurs bumbling confusion bristles with enthusiasm for the exploration of outer space.
And finally, the uncouth, abrasive, self absorbed Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of The Galaxy and stealer of wondership Heart Of Gold, an amazing space craft able to transport itself into any part of space, as anything it wants, using the Unreality Drive. Beeblebrox is portrayed by Sam Rockwell, in a kind of cross between Elvis, Indiana Jones and Chris Tucker; he cares for nobody but himself and his ambition to become a hero by finding out the answer to the Ultimate Question. The answer to the question is, of course, 42 (everybody knows that!) but it’s the question that was asked to produce the answer which is what people want to know.
Abstract events (like a whale appearing in mid air and plummeting to the ground) abound in this film, and you can’t think about it all too much: it’s a bunch of fun without any concept of logical progression, and while some of the more absurd things in Adams’ novel are brushed over, the main ones are there. Deep Thought, the computer built to answer the Ultimate Question, and voiced by Helen Mirren. Marvin, the depressed robot, voiced by a spot-on Alan Rickman (and moved by Ewok Warwick Davis) is a treat, his sardonic sadness giving us some of the film’s best lines. The Vogons, ugly brutish oafs performed as puppets from the Jim Henson Workshop, are spectacular, and make you wish they’d do more of this kind of thing in films, rather than the more churlish progression towards CGI.
CGI is used in the film, but only when absolutely required. Thankfully, the budget on this film was enough to ensure that the effects are first rate, and not some budget edition of Photoshop. Throw in some other cameo appearances, one from Bill Nighy in particular is great, and HHGG ranks as one of the most joyous explorations of Adams seminal work as you could hope to find. The thing about HHGG is that it’s simply fun. Abstract, comedic, with some great slapstick, coupled with verbal sparring and sparkling pacing, make watching the film feel like tickling a baby. You know that cheeky grin you get when you do it? That’s what you get with this film. If you’re feeling sad, this is the perfect antidote for depression. The Guide is great. Here’s hoping for the next installment sooner rather than later.