The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had the potential to be the best movie of the year. And yes, I sincerely mean that. Really, look at all it had going for it: it’s based on a classic book that has a cult following that could rival the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A very funny and talented cast that includes Tim Freeman (BBC hit series The Office) as everyman Arthur Dent, Sam Rockwell as the two headed, split brain, charming President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblevrox, Alan Rickman as the voice of the paranoid android Marvin who incidentally resembles an oversized storm trooper and Mos Def as the quirky and lovable, towel wielding alien and author of the guide, Ford Perfect. Throw in the fact that Jim Henson’s Puppet Shop created all of the aliens and creatures in the film so none of them end up looking like bad CGI you should have a innovative, funny, and ingenious movie on your hands….but that’s not what happened, not quite anyway.
Hitchhiker ultimately gets bogged down in its own grandness. There’s just too much stuff. There are too many aliens, too many crazy sets, too many gadgets that have to be figured out and just too much going on to really have time to digest it all. The obvious meticulous care that was taken to bring this visually stunning world to life happened at the expense of true character and plot development.
We don’t get the opportunity to know more about Ford Perfect, or why Zaphod has such a problem with Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) or even why Humma Kavula wants the gun he sends Zaphod after. We get very brief explanations as to why Zaphod has two heads and how he managed to become president of the galaxy given his questionable intelligence quotient. And the movie spends an excessive amount of time explaining the Vogons a very bureaucratic and disagreeable species of aliens that spend much of the movie chasing the heroes but not enough screen time to warrant all the details on who they are and what they are like. I would have rather more explanation of the relationship between Arthur and Ford or perhaps Arthur’s love interest Tricia (Zooey Deschanel) and her relationship with Zaphod.
The movie’s biggest mistake is to assume that everyone who goes to see this movie has read the book. Not only is that presumptuous but it is disastrous to the continuity of the film That sort of thinking is used as an excuse to not fill in the many holes in the film’s story. The movie assumes. “They’ll already know that,” so it doesn’t take the time to explain some necessary details that are unfamiliar with Hitchhiker. If you have never read the book, or like myself haven’t read the book in many, many moons you can end up confused or with more questions then the movie even begins to answer. Hitchhiker should stand on its own assuming that everyone who enters the theatre is a blank slate and knows nothing of the book and unfortunately it just doesn’t do that.
Also some of the actors’ performances are a bit questionable. Rockwell’s performance as Zaphod is a bit campy and over the top. Marvin, while funny in his roll as a highly intelligent yet depressive and cynical android, becomes a bit repetitive and boring. And the relationship between Arthur and Tricia seems more like brother and sister then a romantic one. As a matter of fact I can’t figure out why they like each other since they mix about as well as oil and water, there is absolutely no chemistry there.
Don’t get me wrong there is plenty to like about Hitchhiker. The Vogons are hilarious, and there is the running bit with a towel that provides more then a few chuckles. Bill Nighy (Love Actually) as a designer planet architectural engineer is by far the best role in the film. Part sci-fi, part comedy and part love story, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t a bad way to spend your afternoon, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by Adams’ famed book.
© 2005 Tamika Johnson