Wanna See My Spaceship?

Stick has sworn to watch the next six million, forty-seven thousand, three hundred and ninety-two bad Star Wars prequels in the hopes that one of them will be half as good as Return Of the Jedi. Speaking of trilogies that won’t quit, we went to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this weekend.

The characters have the same names as Adams’ did, and the backdrop is clearly the HHGTTG world. The plot is similar in that it involves mayhem and the destruction of the Earth. Since I’ve just summarized almost every sci-fi story in existance, it’s time for some name-dropping.

Mos Def as Ford Prefect is brilliant, he would have made a Star Wars prequel worth watching. Zaphod Beeblebrox is well-cast and well-costumed but the extra-head gag should have stayed on the radio. In a film full of really good Muppets, there’s no reason for his extra appendages to look so goofy and so low-budget. Alan Rickman, also known as Professor Snape, is the bitter and depressed voice of Marvin the paranoid android. Bill Nighy, known to Anglophile dorks as Phillip from Shawn Of the Dead, is an amusing Slartibartfast, and Stephen Fry (author of The Hippopotamus and other novels) is the all-important Book. The visual component for the book’s sections are a bunch of psuedo science-museum-y animations (think of the frog-DNA bit from Jurassic Park). Not brilliant, but Fry sounds a lot like Peter Jones, the original voice of the guide on the BBC radio plays, and the guide sections are pure Adams genius.

There’s something off with the timing in this movie. Scenes that are marginally funny are dragged out until they aren’t, and many memorable Adams jokes are cut. The spaceship doors sigh as they open and close, but this is never explained. Eddie and Marvin don’t get nearly enough screen time and there’s way too much of Arthur making moon eyes at Trillian. Still, the improbability scenes are fun in a Yellow Submarine kind of way, and the new dialogue, like “Zaphod, buttons are not toys!” or Arthur’s “Leave this one to me, I’m British and we’ve very good at queuing.” is pretty good. And the sperm whale monologue, here in all it’s guilty glory.

Stick would like me to take back what I said at Team America and admit that I was wrong, he was right, and vomiting can be funny.

Some parts of the movie could be disjointed to those who haven’t read the book(s) or taken me along to narrate (I have the radio plays on cassette, the audiobooks on MP3, Starship Titanic for the PC, and all five books in the trilogy, and, yes, I caught the part when Zaphod starts to call Ford “!X”, and no, I don’t get out much, why do you ask?).

The film ends with all that covert Trillian-and-Arthur chemistry becoming overt, and Zaphod’s inexplicable hookup with a the Galactic Vice President. I half expected Ford and Marvin to pair off for a perfectly Hollywooded ending, but fortunately Ford just suggested that they pop over to Milliway’s for a bite to eat.

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