I didn't have high expectations for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (HG2G). When I finally saw it, I loved it immensely. It's so much more enjoyable than the other movies I saw in a theater recently: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (awesome, but too serious), The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (too long and far-fetched), Million Dollar Baby (too serious, too long and way too depressing), Whale Rider (too average). HG2G is the gold standard, AFAIC. Any movie that doesn't poke fun at something every ten minutes or so is too out-of-touch for me to relate to. If you're a screen writer and you can't find at least a dozen things to poke fun at, especially with Life The Way It Is, you can't consider yourself too clever or perceptive, can you?
One concern I had prior to seeing HG2G was that it would leave out important bits. Well, it did, of course, but it didn't seem to matter. One omission is the lovely quip about hyperspace that Ford makes to Arthur in previous versions of HG2G. They've just hitchhiked aboard the Vogon spaceship and are about to leap into hyperspace. Ford, trying to prepare Arhtur for the unpleasantness of hyperspace, says, "It's a bit like being drunk." Arthur asks, "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?" "Go ask a glass of water."
But there were also new things, such as the Point of View Gun.* In one of the best of Trillian's scenes, she wordlessly fires the gun repeatedly at Zaphod. With each blast, he tells her how she feels about dragged throughout the galaxy with the idiot who was responsible for blowing up her planet. But her face conveys her despair more eloquently.
As well, Arthur's daring rescue of Trillian on Vogosphere brought to mind the stark scenes in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, right down to a battle with a beaurocratic behemoth.
Little gems are sprinkled throughout, in some cases literally. The jeweled crabs that Vogons love to smash to bits are wonderfully portrayed as tiny, emotive, sentient critters. When the Heart of Gold pod lands, one delightedly scrambles over to greet (or perhaps be rescued by) whomever might emerge, only to be crushed by the hatch that swings down on top of it.
Compared with the BBC series, the new Trillian and Zaphod characters are far better. NPR's review cleverly compared the half-brained Zaphod, President of the Galaxy, with George W. Bush. It's a great, topical device. And the BBC's Trillian was never developed properly. So the new Trillian is a welcome relief.
The new Arthur has more depth, too. When Tricia tells him she wants Arthur to go with her to Madagascar, you really squirm as you sense Arthur's fear of giving up his comfortable (but banal) existence for the girl of his dreams.
The reviews I've come across praise Alan Rickman's role as Marvin as the real star of the movie. Well, the new Marvin was fine, but I think the BBC Marvin was very well done. And if you don't blink too much, you might get a glimpse of him on the shop floor in Magrathea. Likewise, I didn't see much improvement in the new Ford Prefect.
So go see HG2G if you haven't already. And if you have, see it again!
* The Point of View Gun might have been featured in the HG2G Radio Series.