The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
January 11, 2006
Imagine being a floppy Englishman who wakes one morning to find his house ready to be demolished by a wrecking crew. Imagine, a scant few minutes later, your best friend pulling you down to the pub—then telling you the world will end in 11 minutes. So begins the movie adaptation of Douglas Adams’ insanely popular book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).
Arthur Dent (Freeman) is said floppy Englishman. His best friend, Ford Prefect (Def), convinces him to go to their local, where he informs Arthur that he is, in fact, an alien from another planet—and the world will be ending shortly. On cue, a huge spaceship arrives and announces that the Earth will be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass. Arthur and Ford hitch a ride on the spacecraft and so begin their adventures through the galaxy.
Anyone who has seen Martin Freeman in The Office knows that he was the ideal choice to play Arthur Dent. He has that appealing Everyman quality perfectly suited for the role. In fact, the casting for the entire movie is spot-on, most notably Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide. He gives Adams’ prose just the right amount of classy charm and whimsy. Another no-brainer is the casting of Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, the paranoid android. He captures the character’s condescending, depressive nature – think Eeyore mixed with C3PO. More interesting, unconventional choices were the casting of Mos Def as Ford Prefect and Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy.
Thankfully, the film remains quite faithful to the spirit of Adams’ book. For example, all of the Guide entries are taken verbatim from it. The massive budget results in a great looking movie that properly captures the scope and scale of the story. There is extensive use of CGI to recreate intergalactic space travel and the planet showroom inside of Magrathea (some of the film’s most arresting visuals), but this is mixed with old school, reliable rubber costumes for creatures like the Vogons that gives them a texture that you just can’t get with computers. This movie is light years ahead of the clunky BBC version which resembled a bad-looking episode of Dr. Who.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may not have done well in North America because it lacked recognizable A-list movie stars (but then again, neither did the original Star Wars) with decidedly British sense of humour. Sadly, it failed to connect on a mass audience level despite a significant marketing push. Regardless, it is still an entertaining, big, splashy science fiction movie that manages to preserve the wit of Adams’ book. So long now and thanks for all the fish.
“Making of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a fairly standard making of featurette. Not surprisingly, director Garth Jennings said that the key to this movie was in the casting. So, he gathered an eclectic group of actors. He also didn’t want to rely completely on CGI and had the Jim Henson Company design the Vogons and Marvin which made them tangible so that the actors had something to react to on the set.
Also included is an “Additional Guide Entry” which faithfully recreates the gag from the book about man proving that God doesn’t exist but then it fails to include the book’s punchline in which man goes on to prove that black is white and gets killed at the next zebra crossing.
There are three deleted scenes that amount to merely extra little bits that include Ford’s update entry for Earth as “Mostly harmless.”
There are also two “Really Deleted Scenes” that are basically goofy outtakes of the cast hamming it up.
“Sing Along ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” allows you to sing with the film’s catchy Monty Python-esque theme song cum show tune karoake-style.
There is an audio commentary by Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and actors Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. It’s a fun, relaxed track as everyone enjoys themselves watching the movie. They talk about many things including the challenge of getting just the right pajamas and house coat for Arthur Dent.
Fans of the book will enjoy the additional commentary track with executive producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams colleague Sean Solle. They talk about the movie in relation to Adams’ original vision and also speak at length about the differences between the film, the video game, the radio play and the book, justifying the reasons for certain changes. Best of all, Stamp points out the little details that are buried throughout the film in this excellent track.
There is “Marvin’s Hangman,” that allows you to play a variation of the hangman word game but with Marvin’s robot parts.
The extras included on the DVD are done in the style and tone of the movie, including a clever feature known as the “Improbability Drive“ that will take you to a completely random moment in one of the extras.