Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Don't panic.

Easy for you to say.

Good cause for panic is presented in the extended review of the new movie incarnation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the now-closed Planet Magrathea (via Maud Newton). "It's as if someone had filmed Gulliver's Travels but had made the Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians normal-sized and turned the Houyhnhnms from talking horses into yellow triangles. The film-makers, to borrow a phrase, 'just don't get it'."
This film, I'm very sorry to report, is bad.

Really bad. You just won't believe how vastly, staggeringly, jaw-droppingly bad it is. I mean, you might think that The Phantom Menace was a hopelessly misguided attempt to reinvent a much-loved franchise by people who, though well-intentioned, completely failed to understand what made the original popular — but that's just peanuts to the Hitchhiker's movie. Listen.

And so on...

Apparently, "The jokes have gone. The funny bits, the wit, the humour. The clever stuff that made it worth including in the first place.":
There are so many wonderfully quotable lines in Hitchhiker's Guide, most of which are notable by their absence from the film. There are, astoundingly, individual phrases and even words that have been removed. For example, in the Vogon poetry scene which, like Prosser's confrontation, is now so short as to be utterly pointless, Arthur’s line "counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor", a brilliantly crafted piece of faux literary critique, has become "counterpoint the underlying metaphor." How is that justified? Did someone try to keep the film under two hours by crossing out some of the long words?

A wonderful summary of the book, the story, thus far, and where this version goes wrong:
Somebody who really doesn't understand Hitchhiker's Guide, or who is trying to summarise it without having read/heard/seen it recently, might think that the story was about the search for the Ultimate Question. In fact, the whole central joke of Hitchhiker's, for Zarquon's sake, is that this massive philosophical enquiry into the meaning of it all is a minor subplot. None of the main characters are especially bothered about the Ultimate Question, the concept of which is in any case entirely unknown in our universe except to the Magratheans who built the Earth for beings from a different dimension. Arthur's quest is for a return home and a nice cup of tea; Zaphod's quest is a purely avaricious desire for fabulous wealth and the fame and sex that comes with it; Ford's quest is for a good party — 'a strong drink and a peer group'; and inasmuch as Trillian ever had a quest it was for something more than 'the dole queue again on Monday morning'.

When the possibility of learning the Question crops up, the characters are mildly interested, as who wouldn't be, but they are none of them driven by it — until now. A bunch of people ignoring the possibility of discovering the meaning of life because they are concerned about a party or a cup of tea or whatever is funny. A bunch of people searching for the meaning of life, well, isn't.

Apparently, there is one genuinely funny line of dialogue, "just don't cough while the Magrathean hologram is speaking or you may have wasted 110 minutes of your life instead of just 109 minutes and 30 seconds."

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and God. Where's a Babel fish when you need one?

Variety.com: The "Hitchhiker" book may be on the high school curriculum in Iceland but it isn't widely read in Idaho. It remains to be seen how Adams' unrepentant atheism will play in the U.S. "God and religion don't do well in this film," Jennings admits.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd heard it was awful. How depressing.

I really ought to go back and read those again. I read the trilogy about 50 times in 7th grade, and I strongly suspect there was stuff I didn't get. Well, I hope there was. If there wasn't, I'll be disappointed.

Suzanne said...

I just knew it was going to be bad. The very things that make the books work are precisely those that don't seem translatable to screen.