Saturday, June 25, 2005


I've been asked why I never got around to writing about the movie version of 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' and what I thought about it.

After all, it's been over a month, - maybe two now? - since it came out. And it did concern a TV show (Yeah, I know the radio series was first and I have such great mind-melting memories of how I listened to it!) which does play a very important part in the structure of Toobworld.

But there was no need for me to say much on the matter. Mega-fan MJ Simpson did it for me in a 10,000 word review that brought out the long knives from Disney operatives working in disguise on various bulletin boards around the web. They must have figured that if they curried favor with him (Simpson has been well known for his studies on Douglas Adams on the Internet for years.) by granting him access to film sets and by wining/dining him, that he'd turn belly-up and give the movie all of his support.

Instead he exposes it for the hack job it is. And you can read it all here:

The effort cost Simpson plenty. He's never going to write about Adams or his universes again.

All I'll say is that the film-makers ruined the basic story by trying to inject some heart into it with a maudlin sub-plot. In earlier versions (And Adams was always changing the story - I had no problems with the idea things might go differently.), HHG2TG would gain that heart by the end because we did come to care for Arthur and Ford. They earned our sympathies; it wasn't forced on us to love them as it is here.

I would like to repeat something that Mr. Simpson supplied on his website in hopes it will keep anyone else from succumbing to temptation as it heads to the next round of cheap tix cinemas.

If you're a fan of the original radio series, the TV series (even with all of its faults), and the nearly never-ending trilogy of books, you know there are certain lines, certain situations, certain characters that should be looked upon as Scripture and should not be trifled with; let alone excised.

Yet here is what is missing from the movie version of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy":

Most of Arthur's conversation with Mr Prosser
All of Ford's conversation with Mr Prosser
The Guide entry on alcohol or any mention of a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster (Update: This narration is in the final cut of the film.)
The description of the Vogon ships hanging in the air "in exactly the same way that bricks don't"
The Guide entry on Earth
Any mention of Eccentrica Gallumbits (although she was mentioned in an early cut, apparently)
The Guide entry on towels
The jump to Barnard's Star
The second part of the Guide entry on Babel fish, about proving the non-existence of God
Most of the Vogon poetry scene, including most of the poem itself (it's there, but as we saw on Parkinson, you can't really hear it because Stephen Fry's narration has been put over the top)
The entire scene with the Vogon Guard (although that was apparently in an early cut) and most of Ford and Arthur in the airlock
Most of the 'space is big' Guide entry including "a long way down the road to the chemist's" and the bit about Bethselamin
Southend Pier, Ford turning into a penguin, Arthur losing limbs and an infinite number of monkeys
Much of the Guide entry on the Infinite Improbability Drive
Ford and Arthur exploring the Heart of Gold entry bay (although a readout that says 'Please do not press this button again' is seen at another point in the film)
Talking doors (they sigh, but they don't talk)
"This is Zaphod Beeblebrox from Betelgeuse Five, not bloody Martin Smith from Croydon."
The Guide entry on Magrathea, and the Ford-Zaphod and Arthur-Trillian conversations about it, or indeed any hint of what Magrathea actually is prior to Slartibartfast saying, "You know we built planets, don't you?"
Eddie singing 'You’ll Never Walk Alone'
The Guide entry on 'Stress and nervous tension'
Eddie's back-up personality
Arthur marvelling at actually standing on another planet
Marvin humming like Pink Floyd
Ford, Zaphod and Trillian exploring Magrathea
Arthur and Marvin watching the Magrathean sunset (they do still watch it, they just don't discuss it)
The Guide entry on Veet Voojagig and the biros
Joo Janta 200 Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses
Most of Arthur's conversation with Slartibartfast
The Guide entry on Deep Thought
Most of the Deep Thought scenes, including Vroomfondel and Majikthise
The whole Vl'hurg-G'gugvant sequence, which apparently will play during the end credits, although at no point does Arthur say "I seem to be having tremendous difficulties with my lifestyle."
Shooty and Bang-Bang
The universe: some information to help you live in it...
Milliways, Disaster Area, the 'B'-Ark, prehistoric Earth and anything else in the later part of the story

Like I said, read through that list and see if it still might something you'd like to see. I knew it was a lost cause with the airlock sequence. If it wasn't excised entirely, it was mis-directed and mis-interpreted.

Do yourself a favor. Track down the radio series first. Then watch the TV series. Then read the books.

Avoid the movie altogether.

What I wouldn't give for a drink with Ford right about now. And that's David Dixon's Ford; maybe Geoffrey McGivern's.

Never Mos Def's!

And so it goes.



Sean Shoe-Hand said...

sheesh ... what the hell IS left in?

WordsSayNothing said...

This is one of those cases where it helps to not be totally familiar with the base property of a film. Without having read the books or heard the radio series (though I have seen the television series), I found the film quite enjoyable. Not the best I've seen, but still pretty good. Naturally, the people most critical of the film are those most familiar with the original works. I suppose that's a universal truth when a work in one media format is adapted into another media format. It's like trying to compare Batman Begins with 1989's Batman. Sure, Batman Begins stayed closer to the source material and ended up being a better film, but it doesn't mean Batman wasn't somewhat enjoyable on its own. The fact of the matter is, one can't please everyone, and no film (or even television) adaptation will ever be a perfect replication of the original. Sometimes, it works out; sometimes, it's even for the best. Maybe not this time, but one must roll the dice and see what happens.