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The International Writers Magazine

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)
Dir: Garth Jennings - based on Douglas Adams screenplay
Martin Freeman – Arthur
Zooey Deschanel – Trillion
Sam Rockwell – Zaphod Beeblebrox
Bill Nighy – Slartibartfast
John Malkovich – Humma Kavula
Alan Rickman – Marvin (voice)

Before I am cursed to the end of the universe, let me confess this: prior to this film, I have very limited experience of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, in any of its previous incarnations. However, a friend of mine obsessed with all things ‘Hiker (yes, he will be first in line for the Marvin toy) assured me that this film is ‘fabulous’ (I quote directly), and it may even drag me kicking and screaming out of my current Constantine obsession. Sadly, Hitchhiker has enabled Constantine’s grip to tighten, because twenty minutes after Stephen Fry’s inimitable tones accompanied an opening of dancing dolphins, I was bored.

Don’t get me wrong – the faintly surreal Thanks For All The Fish was actually quite fun. And, up until the Vogon poetry, I was thinking yes, this lives up to the trailer (which totally cracked me up). Then…what happened? I’m struggling to remember, but I think it just became predictable and boring.
Even the fantastic ensemble cast couldn’t save it. Martin Freeman is always enjoyable, and his performance in this was no exception. Casting Alan Rickman’s voice for Marvin was a stroke of genius, and waiting for Bill Nighy’s all-too-brief appearance sustained me through its preceding boredom. And, appealing as Martin Freeman in a dressing gown is, I have to say that the Guide itself was my favourite ‘character’ in the film. Stephen Fry’s narration is perfect, and the animations were far more entertaining than the rather tame special effects used to create the rest of the galaxy and its inhabitants. I suppose I should pity Zooey Deschanel rather than criticise her – she did the best she could with what she was given. Perhaps its inevitable that, once Disney becomes involved, a love story that is as sickly as it is predictable should be cobbled in somewhere (or maybe I’m just cynical). Still, she gets to run around a spaceship in hotpants – fun for her, I’m sure.

In spite of the efforts of the cast, there was no hiding the hopeless lack of tension throughout the film. Blame the screenplay! (Apparently the original radio material is sacred). Perhaps I’m alone in the following assumption, but surely a tour of the galaxy should be at least slightly exhilarating. Instead, there was a feeling of ‘oh well then, that’s that’ at the end, instead of the ‘ohmigod I wanna see it again’ experienced at the end of, say The Fifth Element.

At the end of the day, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy was too predictable – we always know that Arthur and Ford are going to be rescued, that Arthur will end up with Trillion, and the President will end up with his Vice-President (the sadly under-used Anna Chancellor). And, love him as I did, I wasn’t at all worried when Marvin was shot in the head – given the predictability experienced thus far, a Terminator alternate-power-source moment was inevitable. (But I have to admit that the sight of the Vogon army gone suicidal did make me giggle.)

I’m told that the film has another area of appeal lost on me entirely – something about cameos. Indeed, as I left the cinema I couldn’t help overhearing two Hitchhiker fanatics excitedly discussing who they had recognised from previous incarnations. As I said, lost on me, but by all means, if you like Hitchhiker in its other forms, see the movie. It’s pleasant enough, but lacks the excitement promised by its publicity.

© Lily Parker (lost in space) May 2005

Lily studies film at Portsmouth University

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