I had trouble articulating the trouble I had with the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but after reading reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes web site, I feel more confident that the problem was mainly one of pacing. It had the rapid-fire pace of a slapstick comedy, but cerebral comedy like this needs more time to internalize. I think the movie would have done better if it had been 20 minutes longer. At least half of that extra time should have been devoted to Marvin – the best character from the book, and perfectly cast by the combination of Alan Rickman’s voice and Warwick Davis’ emoting through a costume (seriously, no one does that better; many actors don’t emote as well even with their faces showing). There was lots of good Marvin dialogue cut from the book and I can’t figure out why.
Of course, the main reason I can not give the movie a better grade than a B+ is that I never though the book was that good. And I’m only referring here to the first book in the series. I liked Restaurant at the End of the Universe better, and thought Life, the Universe, and Everything was the best of them all. And then there are Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books that I thought were even better than the Hitchhiker series. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is, beginning with the Earth being destroyed, way too depressing. As the Tick would say, “That’s where I keep all my stuff!” Blowing up the Earth as a joke just does not work for me, never has, and the book never gets far enough past that joke to keep it from my mind. At least the movie stresses real strong at the ending that everything is good as new on our back-up Earth, but it is hard to accept that.
Yet, despite my misgivings, I was used to be enormously excited about Hitchhiker’s. And it was not so much the book itself, but how well the book translated into other media – radio, text-based interactive computer games, television, and the list just kept building over time. Hitchhiker’s was an okay book, but a multimedia sensation because nothing had ever been so multimedia before. Had the movie version rode that momentum and come out 10 years earlier, it would have been a huge sensation. As it was, the movie was more like a nostalgic nod.
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