We’re just back from seeing The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. It was a mildly amusing movie, little else.
I’m fairly old-school when it comes to HHGTTG. I didn’t catch the original airing, but did hear it when it was broadcast before the second series. Good old Radio 4 Long Wave, 200kHz or so. I saw the TV series. I read the books. I have the scripts book. I even had the towel; my brother got me a membership of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha for a year (I didn’t renew; a bathtowel is a hard act to follow). In summary, I remember it as Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings, but know it’s really Paul Neil Milne Johnstone.
So basically, I have an image of how it should be. Yes, the radio series was quite different from the TV series, which was again different from the books. But to me the differences are its strength. It’s clear that Douglas Adams had an immense comic talent, and the spontaneity of a show that was written only minutes before (and sometimes, during) broadcast is dazzling. It was the genius of the contrived plot and deus ex machina saves that made it so fresh.
So a movie carrying the Hitchhiker’s brand is out, and a lot of people find it funny. That’s good; I’m a big fan of anything that improves the gross national happiness. But while it was funny, it wasn’t inspired. There were no producers tearing their hair out over the writer’s legendary inability to meet deadlines. Everything was safe, corporate. With a legend, when you retell it, you have to add something. This retelling added nothing; it was a mish-mash of bits from the cutting room floor.
Don’t get me wrong, the actors did their part well. It was a good spectacle. I even laughed at parts. But I can only agree with my friend David Inglis, an even longer-time Hitchhiker’s fan than I. After seeing it on preview, he summed up the whole film in one word: unnecessary.