Film reviews

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Dir; Garth Jennings, Cert; PG

Douglas Adams' - 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' has a long and illustrious history as far as modern literary culture goes and following the demise of Douglas in 2001 (is it that long ago already) any dealing with this now sacred work was going to have to be done with a fair amount of care, not to mention quality. So when it was announced that Garth Jennings, known for his work as director on a number of 'rock' video's, title designer for "Da Ali G Show" and his role as 'Fun Dead Zombie' in 2004's 'Shaun of the Dead', was to take up this mantle - it was with some surprise that he was welcomed into the fold, in anticipation of what he'd make of this on the large screen (but in all honesty he came with the right credentials).

So here I was, sat several rows back from this glittering 'silver screen', uncertain of what I was about to witness, and coming from where I stand as far as this story goes - having read the book, immersed myself in the radio series, over and over and being witness to the TV adaptation when it first made Uk television screens in 1984 - putting yourself in my shoes, I was really unsure how exactly I was going to take this transferal to the big screen, let alone even try to write about it. How authentic was it going to be? Would 'Hollywood' values over-ride the 'kitsch' that first brought this to the hearts of it's viewers? How exactly would 'Zaphod Beeblebrox' wear his 2 heads (because to be quite honest, in the original adaptation this was done with as much care and finesse as was available in 1984)?

Well I'm pleased to report that the cult classic has been given a very funny and almost faithful 'spit and polish'. Martin Freeman (made famous from his role alongside Ricky Gervais in 'The Office') plays the 2-dimensional 'Arthur Dent' with an ability that suggests his weight as an actor. Although some might say - in the same light as 'Tim', his 'Wernham-Hogg' alter-ego, however one thing was for certain, he knew how to make the audience (and cast by all accounts) laugh-out-loud.

A Philosophical bent was at the heart of the original book Adams' wrote back in the Seventies and sure enough this was still here, with the film-maker taking time to ensure the audience would reflect on a greater scheme of things from time to time. I described this movie as being 'almost faithful', and on reflection this was certainly the case, although I can see that by bringing this great heaving mass up to date - and with another 'great heaving mass' with which to refer, some adaptations to the original screenplay were going to be necessary. Take the inclusion of the 'legless' missionary 'Humma Kavula', played by John Malkovich. Although it at first took some time to understand exactly why this character was in place in the film-version, the menace that Malkovich brought to the role soon dispelled any doubts I may have had and soon let me enjoy the rest of the film for what it was. Obviously this was going to remain a - truer to Adam's original series of writings - version and not the screenplay that saw 'Simon Jones' in the role of Arthur Dent, it had become clear that I was in the presence of the ultimate 'Anorak'.

Alright so further liberties to the original screen adaptation may have been taken, among the larger of these being that 'Ford Prefect' was played by black actor 'Mos Def' and dressed in a trench coat rather than the 'blazer/tie' ensemble he wore in 1984. Trisha Macmillan, originally portrayed by the blonde 'Sandra Dickinson', was now brunette, wore far too much in the way of clothing and was acted by 'Zooey Deschanel' (well I suppose the name makes up for this, almost). And why Ford Prefect was no longer seeking to write an update to 'The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy', remains unanswered or maybe I missed that one. But as Adams did indeed rewrite what was the same basic plot a number of times for each adaptation this work saw, I suppose this therefore carried with it the spirit of its master, not to mention 'head' - do stick with the credits at the end of the film.

This production could well be described a rich tapestry of twists and turns, where certain nuances will be there for viewers to make sense of for the years to come and bring a new generation of 'anorak' wearing sheep to the fold. If there was one thing that was brought to my awareness, as I sat discussing this following the movie, was that I may've mislaid my anorak, but metaphorically it was still tucked into the waist-band of my trousers. 8/10


For further understanding and enlightenment, do feel free to refer to the following resource.

Nick James


Odeon Online

 

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