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April 30th, 2005


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12:52 am - A Bowl of Petunias
A lot of critics are hating on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and those critics are wrong. I think it's a wonderful adaptation of a wonderful book, about as good as it could be expected to be.

I was fortunate enough not to have read the book in many years, so I wasn't concerned with what had been changed and what hadn't been in the book. All I saw was a damn good movie that wasn't as disjointed and unfunny as many reviews had led me to believe. In fact, I thought the narrative was damn well strung together, however they managed to do it, and it was still goddamn funny.

From the opening sequence, I could tell the movie was going to be true to the spirit and tone of the book. And it never really let me down. And it even got in a genius movie-specific joke involving orchestral stings and zoom-outs. I wish it had done more of those.

As for the characters, I don't remember how I might have imagined them, but I think the casting was perfect. Martin Freeman makes a good Everyman, Mos Def wavers between straight man and goofball effortlessly, Sam Rockwell is hilariously self-absorbed, Alan Rickman nails bored depression, and I want to take Zooey Deschanel home and make out with her be her friend. Some critics complained about overacting, but I took it as the nature of the characters.

I imagine, to the casual viewer, that this movie may be like nothing else they have ever seen. It reminds me of how The Wizard of Oz must have seemed at first, almost a "What the hell is this?" Because Hitchhiker's Guide, having sprung from the mind of the great Douglas Adams, follows its own set of rules, a set of rules that are really not that far off from our own but merely heretofore unexplored tangents. Helpful excerpts from the Guide provide the necessary exposition in the guise of humor and animation. That doesn't make what actually happens any less bizarre or random or zany, but what's brilliant about both the book and the movie is that they treat these things as perfectly normal. The movie doesn't call attention to the zaniness or thrust it in your face. It just lets it be. I don't know, I wouldn't even call it zany. That's another one of those words the critics are tossing around.

Yes, there are things in the movie that were not in the book, but I could hardly tell. They're effortlessly integrated, and they serve to enhance the narrative the movie is telling, which is a slightly different narrative than the book was telling, which was a slightly different narrative than the radio series was telling.

I do have a criticism or two, but that's not what this review is about. This review is about telling you to ignore all the fucking criticisms and go see the goddamn movie. And stay for the credits, because there's an extra Guide segment during them.
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Comments:


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From:calendae
Date:April 30th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC)
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I love Sam Rockwell's Zaphod Beeblebrox. Since it's been about 14 years since I read the book in 7th grade, I didn't notice any inaccuracies or additions.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:01 am (UTC)
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He was great. It was like, "I don't remember what I thought Zaphod should be like, but oh my God, this is exactly what he's like!" I mean, maybe a leetle toned down, but for the most part, spot-on.
From:fishinginthemud
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:02 am (UTC)
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Meh. They got Arthur, Marvin, and Slartibartfast (heh) exactly right, but there was way too much fucking Trillian. And Mos Def needs to eat my nuts, because he is so not Ford Prefect. And the little happy ending was stupid.

But it was so, so pretty. Sigh.
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From:alliterator
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:03 am (UTC)
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Yeah, but you forget: Trillian was hot! That totally made up for the fact that all she did was get captured.
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From:alliterator
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:02 am (UTC)
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Ah, dammit, I didn't stay throughout the credits. I stayed long enough to hear more of the dolphin song (loooooved it!), but then left. I'm not a credits-watching person.

I became absolutely in love with the movie as soon as they showed us the whale's thoughts. I was like, "They would never in a million years do this in any other movie! This is great!" Well, okay, I was just actually like, "Whoooooaaaaa. Cool." And "Zoey Deschanel is hot!"
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC)
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I couldn't believe they actually let the whale speak. I knew the whale was in it, but I loved that we actually got to hear the whale's voice. I expected the narrator to just relate it. That was fucking awesome.

And Zooey Deschanel. Totally crushing on her since Elf.
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From:etherealclarity
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:32 am (UTC)
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I went to see it today with some friends of mine (read, 18 people) and I have to agree with you completely. I was laughing my ass off the whole time. =D

Also, I'm supernerdy, because before the movie I went out and got little cheap towels for everyone and wrote things on them like "42" and "Don't Panic!"

*grin*
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC)
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Oh, I totally forgot to mention how I loved that they actually made the towels important in so many ways. I have no idea whether the book did that.
From:fishinginthemud
Date:April 30th, 2005 05:43 am (UTC)
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The best part of the whole experience, though, was the dead silence in our theater after the Star Wars trailer. And then a couple of people laughing.
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From:foresthouse
Date:April 30th, 2005 06:00 am (UTC)
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'Course I'm gonna go. After finals :(

Also? Alan Rickman's voice is HOTT.

Not as hott as you, though.
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From:comedownstairs
Date:April 30th, 2005 06:42 am (UTC)
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I am so glad to see this review. So far my flist seems to be a bit divided (might have something to do with the fact that some people are book purists, which I don't think should be possible with HHG, actually, considering it's all derivitive of itself) but I see reviews like this and it makes me happy.

And thanks for the tip about the credits, cuz otherwise my roommate would be trying to walk out during it when we go to see it tomorrow. =)
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From:sweinberg
Date:April 30th, 2005 07:12 am (UTC)
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Good analysis. Nice to see some fans enthusiastic about this movie.

No, not nearly a flawless adaptation, but as just another permutation of Adams' masterpiece, I think it's pretty damn good.
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From:dgriswold
Date:April 30th, 2005 07:39 am (UTC)
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Word.
From:hobviously
Date:April 30th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC)
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Congratulations. You just made me want to see it. I'm still not expecting grrrreat things, because movie adaptations of books and I generally don't get along *at all* but I've also not read the books for several years, so I probably won't get hung up on every little detail.

It's funny that you mention The Wizard of Oz, because that is one of the very few examples I can think of of a movie that has practically nothing in common with the original and rockin' book, and yet is totally wonderful anyway.
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From:_cinnamongirl_
Date:April 30th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
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  1. i am going to try to go see it tonight. even though i'll probably have to go alone.
  2. i am adding yout to my f'list, as we have enough shared friends that it seems to not do so would simply be delaying the inevitable. and where's the fun in that? so, hi!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 30th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Hi! Clearly, you must have existed in three dimensions to post this, unlike your Flat counterpart.
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From:jenelope
Date:May 1st, 2005 05:08 pm (UTC)
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And it even got in a genius movie-specific joke involving orchestral stings and zoom-outs.

What was that?

I saw it twice this weekend. I thought it was amazing. I haven't read the books, but I still found it very accessible on its own. I also think the reviewers are wrong.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 1st, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC)
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When the Earth was being destroyed, the camera zoomed out from Arthur and Ford to space and the Vogon ship, every zoom being punctuated with a sting. And usually, in a normal movie, you get three, or maybe four: dun-dun-dun—DUN! Except this went on for like five or six more after the purported final one. It was hilarious. It reminded me of the joke in The Emperor's New Groove with the monkey and the bug, except taken in a different direction. Both were making fun of the same technique.

I didn't know you hadn't read the books! Glad you enjoyed it so much regardless. So far I haven't heard from anyone who hasn't read the books who hasn't liked it.
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From:dachelle
Date:May 1st, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
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I liked it, but I didn't love it - which, when I think about it, has long been my reaction to the Hitchhiker's series in general, with most of my excitement about the movie coming from the actors involved rather than the fact that the adaptation was finally getting made. Anyways, yes, Martin (eeee!) and Sam Rockwell were perfect. I wanted more Zaphod, really. Mos Def was O.K., but there was something missing about Ford for me, and I don't know if it was him or the filmmakers. There were just stretches where I kind of forgot about Ford, and that doesn't happen when I read the books. Sorry, but I didn't like Zooey Deschanel. She does have gorgeous eyes, but her acting is a wee bit on the flat side. All the supporting parts and voices were excellent - I, of course, particularly enjoyed Bill Bailey (Manny from Black Books and Bilbo from Spaced) as the whale, and was so glad they kept in that entire speech. The yarn ship was brilliance, and the Magrathean factory floor was amazing. I thought that was where Martin did his best work - the expression on his face was perfect.

Having said all that, though, I didn't actually laugh that much. I don't know if that was a problem with the pacing, or because I was too familiar with the jokes, or because the audience I was with just didn't seem to get it, and my occasional laughing was the only thing breaking the silence (although they did laugh at Arthur, Ford and Zaphod getting hit in the face. Everyone likes a good getting hit in the face joke). Still, I thought the movie was very much in the spirit of the series, and I'll probably buy it on DVD, and snag a couple of Arthur and Zaphod icons to use for a while.
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From:jeeperstseepers
Date:May 2nd, 2005 01:53 am (UTC)
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I won't monopolize your LJ to re-state everything I said over at TWoP, so here are just a couple of responses to your review:

I think it's a wonderful adaptation of a wonderful book, about as good as it could be expected to be.

That's almost exactly what I said when the lights came up. It wasn't perfect, but I hadn't expected it to be. But it was as good an adaptation as I had allowed myself to hope for.

And stay for the credits, because there's an extra Guide segment during them.

How do people NOT stay for credits? Aside from the fact that more and more movies are putting things in or after the credits, I feel like the credits are part of the movie experience. They're important for the transition between watching the movie and going back to reality.

As for this particular movie's opening credits? Brilliant. So unexpected. As soon as they started singing, I started laughing and laughing and realized that even though I thought I was prepare for what this movie was going to be, I really wasn't. They made the jump to the big screen much more cleverly than I thought they would.

Oh, and Zooey Deschanel is very pretty, but I thought she missed the mark completely. I'm not saying it's her fault--Trillian was probably written this way for the movie--but she was a completely different character from the one in the books. Luckily I kind of hate Trillian in the books.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 2nd, 2005 02:07 am (UTC)
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It wasn't perfect, but I hadn't expected it to be. But it was as good an adaptation as I had allowed myself to hope for.
I actually did catch myself describing it as perfect in my head, even though I knew it wasn't. It wasn't like it was a Princess Bride or Fight Club in terms of adaptations, but I was really impressed with how well they integrated a linear plot onto a book that's much more scattered. I think in this case, all the bad reviews worked in its favor, because it was so much better than I had been led to believe it was supposed to be. It was very solid, in my opinion.

How do people NOT stay for credits?
I don't know! I'm totally a credits-watcher, for all the reasons you stated. *giant hugs* It was funny, when we went to see Constantine after a TWoPcon, the three of us sat through the credits and were rewarded with a scene at the end. As we were leaving, I asked if they knew about the scene, and they said no, they were just credits-watchers too. I get so irritated with people who don't allow me to watch the credits. My mom especially doesn't understand, but now, at least, she at least humors me unless we're running late. It's also a matter of quality. If I don't like a movie, I'm not going to bother staying through its credits. It's an honor I bestow upon movies I care about.

As soon as they started singing, I started laughing and laughing and realized that even though I thought I was prepare for what this movie was going to be, I really wasn't.
Exactly. Just like I said, it was at that moment I realized they weren't going to pull punches with the style.

Oh, and Zooey Deschanel is very pretty, but I thought she missed the mark completely. I'm not saying it's her fault--Trillian was probably written this way for the movie--but she was a completely different character from the one in the books.
Yeah, I haven't read the books in ages, but that's what I'm hearing. I think she was supposed to be a little snarkier. But I still liked what she did with the character. I loved her expressions when she was shooting Zaphod with the POV gun (not in a ha-ha-funny way, but in a good-conveyance-of-emotional-pain way).

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