The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Watching the new film version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is something akin to watching the never-ending, repetitive encore to a skit that ran its course after 30 minutes. It's not too long before you feel like taking that lighter and setting yourself on fire.
Badly translating books into film is nothing new. However, it is kind of amazing to watch a certain level of incompetence take over here as the story dissolves into a crappybartfest right in front of our eyes. As far as one can tell, Adams is partly responsible as an author of the screenplay, but nobody said novelists could write screenplays, which explains why writers like Michael Ondaatje and Elmore Leonard were smart enough to step aside. Good novels and good screenplays are simply not the same thing. If it weren't for the fact that Douglas Adams has been dead for several years, somebody might bother to rip him a new hole.
Since I should pile on someone, it might as well be director Garth Jennings, who looks more confused than David Spade in a sincerity therapy group. Ford Prefect (Mos Def) gets Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) off the Earth seconds before its destruction at the hands of the Vogons, who need to make way for an interstellar highway. Arthur and Ford then meet Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and they all run around the universe together. Zaphod is the two-headed, three-armed President of the galaxy and responsible, in Arthur's eyes at least, for stealing Trillian as Arthur was trying to make a move. Also on board is a depressed robot named Marvin (voice of Alan Rickman).
Just running around doesn't exactly constitute a plot or a structure and we never really get an idea of where anybody is going or why. Let's be absolutely clear too: If you're not familiar with the book, you won't have the slightest idea what's going on in the movie. I am fairly familiar with the book, having read it some years ago, and I still had almost no idea what was going on. I took a friend who actually brought along his copy as a reference and even he was mystified.
Somebody needed to realize that Arthur Dent is a bad protagonist. In the book, he's mostly an observer and passive characters make bad protagonists. Maybe Adams's novel works as a TV series or a radio series, but it clearly doesn't work as a film. If somebody gives a thumbs up during this film, it's probably just an attempt to hitch a ride out of theater.
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