Don't Panic! Karen Reviews The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Karen Gsteiger

Spoilers that I would consider mild contained herein, and face it, you've probably read the book 5,000 times by now anyway.

I have found that in my life and travels, people either love Douglas Adams or they've never read his work because they're stubborn. What is it about his writing that is so enduring? I would like to think that people of a certain nature and sense of humor feel a close affinity to his worldview: a mix of curiosity and awe and wonder and gleeful cynicism--that he would view the End of the World as both a bureaucratic mishap and an opportunity for adventure. Throughout his life and writing, he never seemed especially surprised at the weakness and arrogance of humans, yet always seemed to hope for the best anyhow.

I think we love Douglas Adams as fiercely as we do because of the gift that he gave us, which we can rely upon during all times of chaos and apocalypse: DON'T PANIC.

Many of us who love his work probably approached the latest filmed version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, his most famous series, with a sense of trepidation. There is, after all, so much that could go wrong. But I am happy to say that this casual fan (and by "casual," I mean, not being able to recite every word of each book by heart) was quite pleased by the newest adaptation. On the other hand, I wasn't madly in love with it either, but was any film adaptation going to bring DNA back to life? No. It did what a movie is supposed to do, no matter how worked up one gets over it, entertain and take one away from Real, Depressing Life for an hour and 50 minutes.

To answer your first question, the film stayed pretty close to its original source (although it has been a while since I have read the Hitchhiker's books, and the events in the series kind of all bleed together). If you can handle differences like a love subplot between Arthur and Trillian, you won't be disappointed. Note that that is a conditional statement. IF you can handle a love subplot between Arthur and Trillian, you won't be disappointed. I personally am not married to anything or anyone other than my husband, and he was with me, so fine, I can entertain the notion for a couple of hours, as long as it doesn't interfere with what is witty and well-loved. I feel that it doesn't. Others may have a different opinion on that matter.

I felt that the acting was done very well, especially Martin Freeman as Arthur and the always-welcome Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin. I kinda wish that John Malkovich (Humma Kuvula) had some more screen time; he seemed to be having fun. I also enjoyed Mos Def's performance as Ford Prefect, but I rather wish he had taken the time to learn a British accent. I recall the actors making a crack at Ford's "accent," but that seemed to me to be a cheap way out. On the other hand, the other American actors didn't necessarily disguise their accents, so I don't know why I'm picking on Mos. Zooey Deschanel did just fine as Trillian, I suppose, but her character was more Free Spirit than brilliant astrophysicist, so that started to irritate me after a while. Those who know me well know that I do not suffer Free Spirits for long. I once lived with one during a student program in London, and I learned quickly that Free Spirits steal the hearts of all the men, and they never flush the fucking toilet. Normally I love Sam Rockwell in all that he does, but his performance as Zaphod Beeblebrox hit this note between annoying and boring, and I was always happier when the focus was off of him. Funny enough, I believe that that was the case in the books as well, so I'm not quite sure what that says about Rockwell's performance.

The special effects were good--obviously worth all the money spent, yet they didn't overwhelm the story. I love that Jim Henson's puppets were used rather than CGI, which at times has a sense of "Emperor's New Clothes" if relied on too heavily in the place of plot and character and setting.

The beginning song "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" is just brilliant and really sets the right tone to start the film. And there are all sorts of humorous references and loving tributes to Douglas Adams. Is there anyone in the audience who didn't get a little misty when the words "For Douglas" appeared on the screen? Well, that might just be me, then.

As I mentioned earlier in a blog entry, I really wanted to like this movie, and I did. If you're not hung up on being a purist or have determined that you "don't get" that kind of humor, I think you will too.

So, in other words, don't panic--I have no disaster to report. If you're still outraged about the film's various infidelities, you might want to use your outrage more productively. Support Save the Rhino, a charity that Douglas Adams once supported by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a rhino suit.