Towel-less went I into the great gaping maw of the 12:01am Atlanta premiere of HHGG, anticipation mixing with excitement, stirring itself into soda mixed with peanut M+M’s, bubbling over into a growing expectation that the movie might actually be good, raining down into a puddle of foreboding that the movie was all too soon going to dash my heart upon the sharp and familiar rocks of cinematic best-intentions-gone-horribly-astray.
Something even more terrible than my opening sentence.
All of these feelings, and munched-upons, were remembered one hundred-odd minutes later as I was walking out of the theater when someone asked me if I had happened to LIKE the movie….
Before I answer that question, you should know that I’m giving this movie four major deciduous forests out of five, for Douglas.
….so had I liked the movie?
When you’ve read a book a dozen times, watched the television series over and over, listened to the radio plays on countless road trips, played the video game and traded comments with the author, you tend to dislike people changing the little stuff, and hate people changing the big stuff.
I’m not going to spoil the movie for you here, but if you’re a die-hard fan of Douglas Adams’ most famous four-book trilogy, steel yourself for some interesting alterations to the original story. Happily, the changes aren’t all objectionable and anyone who knows their DNA knows that Douggie was always wont to change the way things happened in his universe to suit his current mood. Like almost every other book with fantastic visual imagery that finally makes it onto the big screen, the Hammer & Tong boys have made the mistake of relying on the special effects instead of the story that got them to the dance in the first place.
At its heart, HHGG is the simple story of a man who’s just had a very bad morning. He’s had his house knocked down, his planet blown up, he can’t find a decent cup of tea and his best friend Ford turns out not to be from Guildford after all but from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. The story of Arthur Dent is one of frustration, consternation, exasperation and utter bafflement at nearly everything the mean old universe has decided to toss at him on a day that he suspects might just be a Thursday, because he knows that he never quite got the hang of Thursdays.
The Hammer & Tong boys, even if they did work from a script that Adams first penned, seem to have not quite gotten a firm grip on that original idea. In their version, Arthur Dent is no longer frustrated and confused, he is lovelorn and spineless. As Arthur Dent might say, “What the ????”
For fans of the original material who aren’t put off by a movie with a maddening inability to stay on track with the story that they know by heart, potential treats abound. I nearly leapt out of my seat when I spotted one character from the original BBC television series waiting in a queue about halfway through the picture. “Hey! Do something, these guys forgot the story!! Tell them how it’s supposed to go!! TELL THEM!!!!!!” is what I distinctly thought I might have said if it would have helped anything, which it wouldn’t, and GOSH I’m so depressed and have this pain running all up and down my right side and….
I wonder how well this movie will play to the uninitiated; people who think that the story they see onscreen is the exact story that first made the book so popular. I wish they could read the book, listen to the radio plays, watch the original BBC series, play the Infocom game and talk to some Hitchhiker fans before they see this movie.
So to recap, I’m giving the movie 4 thingys out of 5, I didn’t like it but I did enjoy it.