About a week ago I overheard a music teacher in a piano store talking about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. She said her husband was a big fan of the books, but she'd never read them. He loved the movie, whereas she was completely lost the entire time.
So it was with great generosity of spirit that the s.o., who has only ever read the first one-third of the first book, took me to the film yesterday. Luckily, he loved it as much as I did. We can only conclude that the music teacher was a little dim!
*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT*
Okay, so here are my impressions of the thing. First of all, I was surprised by the amount of new and/or recast material. They did a really good job of streamlining a very complex plot and adding elements where necessary to make the movie make sense to newbies. But with all that cherrypicking, they didn't really leave themselves open for a sequel, did they? (I don't want a sequel, mind you, but you would think Hollywood would.)
A lot of the actors made unusual and brave choices in their portrayals. I mean, Martin Freeman was born to play Arthur Dent, so no surprises there. But Mos Def and Sam Rockwell especially shed new light on their characters. It's hard to play an alien, isn't it? I mean, how do you make someone seem...inhuman, yet humanize them at the same time?
I thought Zooey Deschanel did a surprisingly good job with Trillian. One of Douglas Adams's weaknesses as a writer was a complete inability to write a compelling female character. As a result, there wasn't much to work with. But she did manage to eke out a believable performance. That's also why I thought the Point of View Gun was an interesting device. "It won't have any effect on me--I'm already a woman," she says. Yes, but for the first time ever, we have some idea what she is thinking and feeling.
I loved the light-saber toast slicer. I got all excited about it. "Would it be possible to invent something like that in real life?" I asked the s.o., breathlessly. He shot me a funny look. "Um...not safely," he responded. It's a good thing I don't have kids, eh?
I loved Trillian's bell-bottom jumpsuit and Zaphod's appalling taste in space-piratical clothing.
But my absolute favorite thing about the movie was the fact that they used a piece of the music from the original radio program. I heard the first little arpeggios and the hairs on my arms stood straight up. That music is incredibly nostalgic for me, because my dad introduced me to Douglas Adams via the radio program. I only visited him on alternate weekends, so every week he taped it for me and we listened to it together. I still have the cassettes.
Overall the movie was interesting in a good way. Not exhilarating, not stunning, not life-changing, but definitely interesting enough that there was no way I was leaving my seat. I felt that they got things right (hopelessly bureaucratic Vogons, sweetly batty Slartibartfast, etc.). As some reviewers have noted, the comic timing is a little bit off in places, and I'm not sure you ever get a chance to identify with any of the characters. But I really liked it nevertheless, and I highly recommend it...
...although it took me so long to get around to seeing it that everyone else has probably seen it already!