The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is one of those books that is difficult to bring to the big screen. On the one hand you have a work that has obvious mainstream appeal, if you take out of a bit of the quirkiness.
On the other hand you have a book that has a loyal following of fans who will be scanning every single frame and considering it an affront when a favorite bit doesn’t make it into the movie. Director Garth Jennings manages to pull off this difficult maneuver, creating a film that will satisfy both those who love the HHGTTG and those who have never heard of it.
Jennings has a lot of experience on the small screen directing music videos and his talent for grabbing your attention quickly through interesting visuals gets a workout in this film. From the musical dolphin sequence that opens the film to the Magrathean factory floor near the end of the picture, the viewer is treated to a wide variety of imagery that are a feast for the eyes.
In “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, we follow Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), a buttoned up Englishman who’s life is lacking in excitement. Unbeknownst to Dent, his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is actually an alien who travels the stars writing entries for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Prefect has been stranded on Earth for several years, and the arrival of a fleet of spaceships has finally given him the chance to hitchhike his way off of Earth.
The fleet of ships hovering around Earth have arrived to demolish the entire planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Prefect owes Dent a life debt, so he takes Dent with him when he hops a ride on a Vogon destructor ship. Everything happens just a bit too fast for Dent, who now has to try and adapt to life in outer space.
Martin Freeman pulls off the role of Dent flawlessly, and fans of his performance in The Office will love him here. Mos Def’s interpretation of Prefect leaves a lot to be desired, however. In his defense, the role of Prefect seems to have been written into the background for the most part once the movie gets going. Any time that Mos Def is on the screen, he is competing for attention against aliens or actors who seem more comfortable in their role.
The movie also stars Bill Nighy who plays galactic president and starship thief Zaphod Beeblebrox as well as Zooey Deschanel who portrays Trillian, an Earth girl who is wooed away from a party and into space by Beeblebrox. Both Nighy and Deschanel fulfill their parts adequately, though their performances could not be considered “stellar” by any means.
Fans of the book will be pleased that the film follows the writing pretty closely. There are a few detours along the way, but these do not detract from the film at all and are a nice surprise for people who go into the movie thinking that they will know everything that’s going to happen.
Two other big names round out the film, with Alan Rickman playing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android and John Malkovich as Humma Kavula, a part that was created specifically for the film. Unfortunately the entire portion of the film with Malkovich feels tacked on and unnecessary.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a fun rated PG romp that is suitable for the whole family. There is little in this film to offend, except for perhaps the gentle poking fun at God that appears in a few places.
Most of all, this film proves that Adams’ work can be adapted for the big screen, so the door is open for the rest of the HHGTTG book series to be made into film. Having cleared over $22 million in its opening weekend, it can safely be assumed that Hollywood will at least consider making the sequels.