HITCHHIKE BACK TO THE BOOK
A review of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (the movie)
By Wil C. Fry
I first read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in high school. I read it again in my 20s, when I received the omnibus edition for my 23rd birthday. So you could say I’m a fan. Of the book.
In the 1990s, I bought a VHS copy of the Hitchhiker movie, the one produced by the BBC. I’ve seen it twice, but I’m not sure why. I probably won’t see the new movie twice. The first one, the BBC version, was full of very cheap special effects, too-thick British accents, and lack of explanation for complex topics that the book dwelt on heavily. So you don’t get the jokes, because the explanation is lacking. Also, the acting wasn’t very good either.
The new version is exactly like the BBC version, except the special effects are more expensive, and there’s some really cool footage of dolphins during the opening credits. The acting is still poor, the British accents are still too thick for American understanding, and there is still no lead-up for the complex and well-written jokes that Douglas Adams painstakingly filled his books with.
One good thing about the movie is that it followed the actual storyline somewhat closely, unlike many movies based on books, which change the endings, omit important characters, etc. Good (or bad) examples of this are the Phillip K. Dick stories, the basis for movies such as “Minority Report,” “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” and “Paycheck.” In those, Dick’s works were nearly completely destroyed by Hollywood. If the man hadn’t died, he would be suing, I know.
Douglas Adams, if he were alive, probably wouldn’t sue over this movie, because it does follow the story line. And, although movie producers were accused of beefing up main character Arthur Dent’s love interest in fellow character Trillian, I think this was highly implied in Adams’ original works. Marvin the Paranoid Android, a character who is actually a depressed robot, not a paranoid android, is accurately represented by the movie as well, as is Eddie, the on-board computer of the spaceship Heart of Gold.
On the other hand, Ford Prefect, Dent’s guide and companion, changed quite a bit for the movie. The makers of the film chose to portray him as a gay black man, which I felt was a heavy-handed and lackluster attempt to interest those minorities in the movie. In the book, very little mention is made of racial minorities among humans, so Prefect could have been a member of any one of them. That’s okay. But giving him overtly effiminate mannerisms wasn’t quite accurate. Prefect is an alien that appears human, not a gay Earth man. No prejudice is intended; I just like to see a somewhat accurate portrayal of this character.
Another character that suffered a confusing change was Trillian (formerly known as Tricia McMillan.) For some odd reason, the actress (Zooey Deschanel) portrayed Trillian as having an American accent, though in the book she is decidedly British.
Even with these changes, though, the movie appeared to follow the book as closely as it could for a 2-hour presentation.
But the book is funnier, more intriguing, and ties up all the loose ends. The first time I read it, I laughed at least once on every page, causing people around me to give me strange looks, to which I soon became accustomed. The second time I read it, I again laughed out loud at least once a page. And today, flipping through the book, I couldn’t help but laugh. Last night, watching the movie, I think I laughed twice, out loud, and snickered two or three times.
If you want to get caught up in the Hitchhiker’s craze, buy the book or check it out at your local library. It’s worth it. The movie isn’t.