Phil Gyford


Thursday 28 April 2005

PreviousIndexNext The Hitchhiker's Guide movie

Like one or two other people, I’ve been looking forward to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. I was expecting to know the plot, give or take a few tweaks here or there but it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d also know much of the dialogue. Some of it I could have recited with the characters, other bits came rushing back from whenever it was I last read or heard them, and other remembered phrases were glaring in their absence. “But you forgot the next line!” I kept thinking. Where in my mind has this useless stuff been living all these years?

But no matter, the film was was fun. Oooh yes, great shiny slick colourful hand-clapping smiling fun. Zaphod was perfect, Arthur was pretty good (although I’d have liked a bit more snappy surliness), Ford wasn’t bad (although could have been a bit sharper), Trillian was hot (to be honest there never was much character to work with other than the hotness), Slartibartast was as wonderful as Bill Nighy always is, Marvin was Marvin… And I’ll say little more about the details because there are so many of them to look forward to if you’ve yet to have the pleasure.

Another thing I won’t say is whether it’s a good film. Because I’ve no idea. I loved the ride and revelled in the revamped, high-production memories. It’s a stream of one wonderful sequence after another, but I really can’t tell if that stream adds up to a decent plot or a satisfying movie. The ideas are so familiar to me that it’s the re-rendering of them that’s the joy and I don’t know if that’s enough for anyone who hasn’t absorbed the material over the past decades. I hope so, I really hope people love it as an original film, but I can’t tell and I’m a little concerned that it won’t hold up on its own. We’ll see.

It’s a pleasant coincidence that the new Dr Who is showing now. At one point in Hitchhiker’s the depressed state of the galactic economy is mentioned and I thought “oh yes, they mentioned that earlier,” only to realise it was the aliens in the Dr Who I’d watched before the movie who were hoping to profit from the galactic downturn.

Somewhere out there is a universe based entirely on resurrected late twentieth century British science fiction franchises. Where every planet, every room, every person is packed full of high-definition references and knowing winks to previous incarnations. If Hitchhiker’s is as successful as Dr Who appears to be, how long until Blake’s 7 makes a revamped, big-budget appearance to satisfy nostalgic thirtysomethings?


Yep, Ford was a minor disappointment to me too. Mos Def does very well with what he's given (such as the Vogon bathroom scene) but as soon as Zaphod shows up Ford just takes a backseat for the rest of the movie, which is said - his role as cynical counterpoint to Zaphod has totally gone. Also wasn't sure about Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren. But loved all the rest.

Also, you should know that Zooey Deschanel is just as lovely in real life, and I will forever treasure the thirty seconds I had to speak to her after I'd spent most of the evening trying to pluck up courage. (Oh, what a gorgeous American geek girl. Yums.)

Hey, Phil, you do realise that for once we both feel roughly similar about a film?

Posted by Yoz on 29 April 2005, 4:09 am | Link

Uhoh, maybe it's a sign the world's about to end.

You could have told me that Zooey Deschanel is an awful person, then I would have let the dream die. But no, now it must grow.

Yeah, Rickman wasn't *quite* right, although I'm not sure if that's because I was just comparing him to the previous Marvin. And although I'd seen Mirren's name at the start, I hadn't realised she was Deep Thought. Again, you're right, she didn't quite fit. We agree even more now.

By the way, Roger Ebert didn't know HHG beforehand and his review suggests the movie doesn't hold up well on its own:

Posted by Phil Gyford on 29 April 2005, 8:30 am | Link

Saw it yesterday and loved it too. A lot of American critics missing the boat on this. Salon said it sagged in the middle (it didn't); Roger Ebert liked it, but said he had never seen or read the previous versions (wow!).
I agree with Phil's comments about Mos Def--I wanted more of him, but Sam Rockwell was a treat.
Meanwhile, in the cinema, while Jon and I were creasing ourselves at the whale scene, nobody else was laughing. Oh dear.

Posted by ted on 2 May 2005, 7:33 am | Link

Alan Rickman wasn't right because Marvin sounded bitchy rather than miserable. Marvin's funny because he's put in these situations and because he's long suffering and almost enjoys being miserable. Making him snarky spoils it enormously.

I can't figure out what I thought about the film either - I think the beginning was a mess but the end came together really well. I'm delighted by how enormously well the film has done in the charts - top of the charts in the States and the UK, and doing enormously well - way way better than most of the American films released in the same week. Gives me hope that there will be sequels made (and that they will get better and better).

I'm so with you w/r/t Blakes Seven. I really wish they'd consider bringing that back - the concept and the characters were entirely memorable. In fact the only problem with it (literally the only problem because the concept was so memorable) is the name which is perhaps a little cheesy. I mean, even some of the tech looks engaging - the stuff that they were impressed by then still could work. Orac!? I can see a future where the first sentient supercomputer is an impressive thing to steal!

Posted by Tom Coates on 7 May 2005, 10:42 pm | Link

I wasn't actually saying I'd like to see Blake's Seven reborn, just that it seems almost inevitable. Although now you mention it, it could be good, particularly if they get someone to be suitably grumpy as Avon.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 7 May 2005, 11:52 pm | Link

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