Archive for April 14th, 2005

hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Movie

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last night I saw the press screening of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, aka H2G2, and I’d like to think Douglas rests easy in his grave. On the whole a wonderful interpretation of the whole Hitchhikers story. I saw it with our own H2G2 team and BBC’s very own Mr Cult who all generally approved. And this on top of a successful Doctor Who return, they’re fit to burst.

Anyway, to the film. (contains spoilers)

Starts with dolphins saying ‘so long and thanks for all the fish’ and leaving, then the Arthur’s house scene, lots of bits kept in, the trip to the pub etc. The Vogons are done magnificently, as are their giant space ships. Also the destruction of the world is done well, it implodes. How many times have we seen planets exploding, sometimes with rings flying out and bowel loosening bass sounds. If we’re lucky rocks get hurled at the camera, but this was different. Also, with 100s of Vogon ships surrounding the planet, indeed, being in the upper atmosphere, they’d have been destroyed too. No, our beautiful shining orb pops in a small fizz, and then nothing, just rose bowl style grid around an empty sphere.

Other great points, the CGI production and art direction is incredibly well thought out, and there’s a constant connection between all the elements. Everything, from the giant Vogon ships to the stamps that they use to rubber stamp documents, is big, dirty and square. This contrasts nicely with the smooth roundness of the Heart of Gold, the escape pod, Marvin’s head.

The animations on the guide are all done in friendly ‘don’t panic’ 2D pastel colours, and have their own little bits of humour. The one concerning the uses of the Babel fish for example, show’s a farmer milking a mooing cow, then once the fish goes in his ear, the cow’s moo become a speech bubble with a heart in it… freaking him out.

The beauty of the HoG’s improbability drive in action is a joy to watch… the ship suddenly pop’s into space as a sequence of seemingly random objects, and the effects last a while, so in one jump the round ship ends up as a giant ball of wool… cut to the inside and all the characters and the ship itself are all woollen, clanger/flump style, and the story rolls on, with some great animation, including Arthur being sick, his vomit all multi coloured strands of wool. Slowly as normality returns, he end up pulling the last bit of string form his mouth.. it’s a sublime scene.

Other choice lines: In a bureaucratic building on Vogonsphere seeking to get Trillian’s release, ‘Leave this to me, I’m British, I know how to queue..’ This scene includes a cameo from the original Marvin.

The approach to Magrathea contains a great answer-phone style message too. “.. you death may be recorded for training purposes, thank you”. Bill Bailey does a great job of voicing the whale who suddenly finds itself called into existence miles up in the atmosphere. Bill Nighy goes a good turn as Slartybartfast. And the journey he takes Arthur on to see the Earth Mk2 being built in breath taking. Martin Freeman pulls off the emotion in that scene brilliantly. Towards the end of the film there’s a strong ecological message that we know was very close to Douglas’ heart, and the bit calling in the question the dogma of religion is done really well too.

In all, I thought it was great. Some fans may pick and quibble over specific plot points, or even deviation from the received doctrine of the radio series. but I thought it was a great way into the whole Hitchhikers IP for newbies, it encourages you to want to explore more, to (re)read the books, even play the game, whatever. It’s out on the 28th, go and see it, and I can’t wait for the sequel, Restaurant at the end… has the real potential to a great ensemble piece, there’s so many characters, Meatloaf playing the dead Hotblack Destino? Who’d play the cow? The compere? It’d be great..

And we all got free towels!

Also, watch out for ‘the guide’ on your PDA, it’s availiable now.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
April 2005