The opinion I am about to offer may be looked upon askance by some members of this forum. Indeed, my comments may be considered treasonous and heretical. Nonetheless, in the spirit of "open debate" and "freedom of expression," and due in no small part, I admit, to my innately contrary nature, I rather less than humbly offer the following opinion: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Movie was lame.
I finally got around to watching the film on DVD this past weekend. Seeing a film within two years of its theatrical release is pretty timely for me; at this rate, I may end up taking in Hannah Montana 3D before the decade is out. Then again, after my experience with HHGTTG...
...SUDDEN AWKWARD BREAK IN CONTINUITY FOR "RANT WITHIN A RANT"
GAAAKKKK!!!! This GAIMAN, he HAUNTS me! WTF, in internet parlance...! I just googled the abbreviation HHGTTG, because it's late and I'm bleary-eyed, and I wanted to make sure I had it right; after all, my opinions may be completely valueless and off the mark, but they are usually based, however erroneously, on accurate information. The first Google hit brings up the Wikædia entry for the novel, and the second sentence in the Google blurb is about... GAIMAN! Apparently his riff on Adams' title is H2G2. Yeah, whatever. The point is... all I wanted to do was check 'HHGTTG'! How the heck did N.G. end up nosing in there? What, is it because he wrote a "companion guide" to the series? Look, HHGTTG ain't exactly rocket science. Well, okay, it is rocket science, to an extent, but basically, once you understand that "Ford Prefect" is actually a model of automobile, what more background info do you need?
BTW: a quick glance at the Wikipædia entry on Ford Prefect (the automobile, not the Betelgeusian) relates an opinion by Adams that the joke behind the name was lost on Americans. So, Doug, just so's ya know, I'm an American, and I got it. So bugger off, you sodding great git!
I suppose it's rude to talk, or type, like that to someone who's dead, eh? Well, it was ruddy rude of Adams to pop off to the great beyond at such a comparatively young age; think how many more installments to the trilogy he might have blessed us with had he lived to the ripe old age of Arthur C. Clarke.
Anyway, what's the deal with N.G. always weaseling in whenever I try looking stuff up? Go away, dude!
AND NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED OPINION PIECE....
Anyway, the movie was lame. On the Manos Hands of Fate Inverse Scale, HHGTTG rates a solid 3.5 out of 4 hands. It failed to obtain a perfect score of wretchedness because I actually giggled, once, about three minutes into the film, at the "Charles Darwin" costume gag. The bit about "I thought for sure the beagle would give it away" was clever. After that, however, the film devolved fast.
This is sad. I liked the books, particularly the first book. It was the first book I ever read that made me laugh out loud. I knew reviews for the film version were mixed; I was hoping that "mixed" might mean there was some redeeming content in the film. But it was just... lame.
That's the third time I've described the film as "lame." "Lame" is an accurate expression of my assessment of the film. "Flat" might also work. "Underwhelming." "Forced," definitely. Dare I offer, "dull?" The film sparkled with the scintillating patina of plumbum.
Personally, I fault the direction more than anything, although the script was even more lacking in continuity than the not-noted-for-its-narrative-congruity novel. Veering suddenly off on wild tangents works in the text version. In the film, not so well. The film comes across as though a narrative structure is being forced onto a story largely devoid of an integral narrative flow.
Technically speaking, there were just too many "medium-wide angle" shots. Too many 2-shots, too many full-length shots. The film was visually static. It lacked close-ups to pull the viewer into the story, and it lacked expansive panoramic vistas to impress with their grandeur. The wide shots filmed in a gravel quarry fairly screamed "1970s Dr. Who episode!" As did, for that matter, much of the overall production value. Major portions of the film looked like a made-for-TV BBC production. It wasn't "cheesy" enough to be charming; nor was it sophisticated enough to look... "real"... in a SF/comedy sense.
I felt the actors, for the most part, tried hard with what they were given. Trillian fluctuated too dramatically between vapid and, what's the word... all filled with serious feelings and introspective relationship-based angst; Arthur... I got used to him, but he really wasn't quite milquetoast enough; Ford wasn't zany enough; I thought Zaphod's two heads were handled cleverly, but the character became kind of weak as the film progressed... altho' I felt that happened in the book as well. I don't know what the point was with John Malkovich, other than to put a "name" into the film that Americans might respond to. That entire bit seemed utterly pointless. Slartibartfast was okay, and the script included most of his good lines from the book, but the audio wasn't crisp, and the dialog was kind of lost.
There were too many shots and scenes of characters just standing around watching stuff. The Vogons stood around dripping and oozing and looking through windows and at monitors. Who was that woman in the uniform who also did a lot of standing around? And unless I missed it, they never explained what the deal was with towels. The characters spent a lot of time looking for towels, but it was never explained, for the uninitiated, why towels are important. (People with whom I watched the film were flummoxed as to the towel obsession -- and it would have been hoopless trying to explain it to those froods.)
The whole film just lacked "zing." There was no "pizazz." It didn't come together. As I said above, it was flat, lusterless, dull, tepid... lame.
Other than at the "beagle" joke, I didn't crack a smile through the whole film.
And what'd they do with the round green tongue-sticking-out logo?
The ultimate result of this film version: if left me feeling... kinda "Marvinned."
(I couldn't help but think morose American comedian Stephen Wright might have provided a better voice for Marvin than did Alan Rickman. Overall, I doubt it would have made any difference.)
I have never seen the BBC television version. Perhaps I'll try to track it down one day. My understanding is that the book is actually based on a radio programme. In theory, then, the radio show would be the "purest" version of the story. I suspect, however, that the print version stands as the "best" version of HHGTTG.