February 25, 2005
Look Ma, No Humor!

That what I was afraid of has happened. I've just watched the trailer for the upcoming The Hichhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie and now I'm ... disappointed? shocked? disgusted? Did I read a different story? Where is all that action coming from? Where is the spirit of Douglas Adams? The humor? The sarkasm? The wit? If they made the whole movie like this trailer I can imagine why it was never made as long as Douglas Adams was alive.

At least I hope that the popularity of the movie will help to spread some other Douglas Adams' ideas especially in god's own country.

Posted at February 25, 2005 01:41 AM | Further reading

The problem you see, is that this has been 'localized' as a movie for the American audience. The things you mention 'humour', 'sarcasm', and especially 'wit' are absolutely not required for this market. In actual fact, recent tests show that including these ingredients can often make an otherwise simple and enjoyable movie full of 'eye candy' quite confusing and hard work for this market.

Posted by: SJ on February 25, 2005 02:35 AM

I disagree with your assertion to an extent. The trailer definitely let the viewer unfamiliar with the book that the story is wacky. It's not like they turned into a Star Trek moive or something.

The point of a trailer is to get people to pay to see the actual movie. Adams' humor and style isn't built upon the kind of one-liners that trailers for comedies usually employ.

Why don't we wait for the actual movie to come out before worrying whether or not the sky is falling?

Posted by: Charlie on February 25, 2005 02:46 AM

i agree with both previous comments - the american masses seem to prefer mindless eye-candy over anything that makes them think, AND that most trailers are base attempts to get the audience into the theatre.

i'm hoping that this one is just that - "let's show all the action special FX so that people think this will be cool _looking_, and that will bring them in."

for all we know, the action sequences shown in the trailer are ALL of the action sequences in the entire film...

but i'll be there regardless. and i'm hoping they sell action figures of those cool round robots. ;-)


Posted by: g.wygonik on February 25, 2005 02:20 PM

On fazed.net I found this kind of FAQ written by a guy called wiggiewaggie and I allow myself to repost it here:

Won't this be just another action comedy, like Men in Black?

I bloody well hope not. And, given the quality of its source material, it'd better not be. Hitchhiker's is NOT action comedy; its humour is very British and very much based on wordplay and ideas, rather than action. The closest I could compare it to for someone who'd never read/seen/listened to it would be the works of Monty Python and (to a lesser degree) Terry Pratchett. The US theatrical trailer, recently shown on Amazon, does not inspire confidence, but, rumour has it, another trailer is in the pipeline that is far more in line with the series' style. I'll link to it when it is posted on the net.

What's with the "42" in the trailer and on the poster?

This is a contentious question to answer, since it is the punchline to perhaps Hitchhiker's central joke. The punchline was put in as an in-joke for fans, but to give it away would be to spoil the experience of first-time viewers (and readers).


How could Hollywood ever do justice to Douglas Adams' work?

This film is being directed and produced largely by British people. One of the executive producers of the film, Robbie Stamp, was a close friend of Douglas Adams, and Adams's family have been closely involved with the production (his daughter will even have a cameo). There are, in other words, many eyes on this project with a personal interest in maintaining Adams's vision.

I hear this will be a Disney film. True?

This film will be distributed by Disney, yes, but it is being made by the independent production company Spyglass. It will be released under Disney's Touchstone label, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Who is directing the film/writing the screenplay?

The film is being directed by Garth Jennings, one half of the team of music video directors known as Hammer and Tongs. His opposite number, Nick Goldsmith, will produce it. The script was written by Douglas Adams himself before his death, and is being edited and polished by Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run).

You can read an interview between Karey Kirkpatrick and... Karey Kirkpatrick at this link:


A music video director? Like Michael Bay? And Simon West? And McG? And Tarsem? And Russell Mulcahy? AAARGH!

Indeed. A music video director. Like Michael Bay, but also like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Michel Gondry, or indeed Being John Malkovich's Spike Jonze, who was originally offered Hitchhiker's, but suggested these two instead. To sample their works, go to www.tongsville.com and click the "films" link on the top of the screen. Among their music videos, "Right Here, Right Now," by Fatboy Slim, "Coffee and TV" by Blur, "Lost Cause" by Beck and "Pumping Up Your Stereo," by Supergrass should give you some idea of how they will handle the film.

Will this be faithful to the book(s)?

No. It is its own entity, just as Douglas Adams intended it to be when he wrote the screenplay. The books are not the original incarnation of Hitchhiker's. They are adaptations of radio plays. Those plays were subsequently adapted into LP albums, a stage production, a TV series, and a videogame. In none of these forms was there any attempt to slavishly adhere to the letter of any one version. New ideas were written in, old ideas were written out, plots expanded and characters altered. Elements from the first radio series were incorporated into the second book; elements from the second series made into the third book. Thus, do not assume that the movie will "cover" any one novel- it could contain fragments of one or several. Hitchhiker's, by its very nature, is fluid, so expect the story of the film to differ markedly from the books as you remember them.

Mos Def as Ford Prefect? What have they been sm0king?

This is the most oft-posted complaint on this board, and yes, as a casting decision it is out of left-field. But then, throwing from left-field been Hitchhiker's style from the beginning. There are three issues people continuously raise: first, that he's a rapper, second, that he's American, and third, that he's black. The third should not even be an issue. Ford's skin colour has no bearing on his character. Some people who complain about this seem to think that all British people are white, which, just for the record, is NOT TRUE. Yes Douglas did (vaguely) describe Ford as white in the books but, again, the books are not the final authority on Hitchhiker's. See above. As for him being a rapper, well yes, he has rapped, but he has also recieved Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his performance in the HBO movie Something the Lord Made. Garth Jennings, the director, has already said that to portray Ford as a hip-hop character would be, and I quote, "the most appalling thing ever in the history of the world", so you probably have little to worry about on that regard. As to him being American, well, does that really matter? He wouldn't be the only American living in the UK I can assure you.

UPDATE: Some reviews of the recent test screening have suggested that Mos Def's performance may not have been up to scratch. However, there is no cause for those who criticised Mos Def's casting on the basis of his race, nationality or onetime occupation to feel vindicated. There was always the possibility that Mos Def might not pull off the character; the issue at stake was not that he was right or wrong for the role, but that to criticise his suitability for the role on any other basis than his acting ability (which has seldom been discussed on this board) was unfair.

For more information, see this interview with Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith:


That's supposed to be Marvin/The Heart of Gold? That isn't how they're supposed to look.

Again, you're thinking of the books, which, I repeat, are not and never were the definitive version of Hitchhiker's, for the simple reason that there is no definitive version.

Who will be voicing Marvin/the Guide/Eddie/Deep Thought?

Sombre British actor and unlikely séx symbol Alan Rickman (Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest) will be the voice of Marvin; comedian, actor, presenter, author, director, personal friend of Douglas Adams, occasional voice-for-hire and all-round clever bloke Stephen Fry will be the voice of the Guide. Though the voice of Deep Thought is still unknown, a report from a test screening claims that it sounded like Jennifer Saunders, suggesting a female voice will be used. The voice of Eddie is still a mystery as of now.

Quotes from Douglas Adams:

My idéal cast would be very international. I completely understand the point of view of those who would like the cast to be entirely British, but in fact even the radio series had a mix of accents, and I think that an all British cast would be as artificial as an all American cast. The Galaxy isn't British or American!

When it comes down to it, my principle is this - Arthur should be British. The rest of the cast should be decided purely on merit and not on nationality.

Curiously enough, I never had a very clear idea of what Marvin looked like, and I still don't have one. I don't think the TV one quite got it. I described him differently for the film script - he's not silver anymore, he's the color of a black Saab Turbo. He isn't so square, either, he needs a kind of stooping quality: on one hand, he's designed to be dynamic and streamlined and beautiful. But he holds himself the wrong way, so the design has gone completely to naught because he looks pathetic. Utterly pathetic. The patheticness comes from his attitude to himself rather than his inherent design. As far as his design is concerned he looks very sleek. A hi-tech robot.

Posted by: Mario Klingemann on February 26, 2005 12:44 AM

So what is the verdict? Who has seen the movie and what do you think? My wife loved it having never read the books. I did read the first book and loved it the same. For all I could tell it contained all the wit and sarcasim found in the original. The opening ditti alone was hilarious.

While I do believe "us" Americans lack some cinematic sophistication. (One example would be our outer lack of tragedies among our popular films) I do find a respect for cynism and ironicy quite common. I remember living in Italy where most found American sarcasim baffling

Here in Honolulu, I found that the movies more random and ironic scenes got the largest amount of laughter. Just Marvin complaining about the happy sighing doors got the whole theater rolling.

My original question stands. Who has seen the show? and what do you think?

I thought it was hilarious and quite respect full of the original.

Posted by: Keoni Puaa on May 15, 2005 10:15 AM

Okay, finally the movie has started also here in Germany and I've been able to see it. I've left the cinema with mixed feelings - there were some great new ideas in there but also some decisions I don't undestand. Of course I can see the difficulty to compress a story like this into 90 minutes which explains some necessary tradeoffs though it doesn't explain some superflous additional gags.

What I liked:
- The whole "Church of the Great White Handkerchief" scene - that was excellent! "Bless You" was the best joke of the whole movie.

- All the book's 2D-animations were a real highlight.

- The short knitted animation sequence - super!

- The Vogons themselves and the whole elaboration of their bureaucracy - were brilliant. Do I spot a hommage to the InfoCom adventure "Bureaucracy" that DNA wrote?

- Marvin was much better than the Marvin from the TV-Series. And what a nice idea to put the old robot into the waiting queue at the vogons' office.

What I disliked:

- What's up with that Dolphin song? I'm not completely sure if it is already so much over the top that it is good again. But currently I find it simply horrible. Especially as the dolphins don't make sense at all if you haven't read the books.

- The whole beginning - come on - why did they cut all the good dialogs and kept the slapstik stuff? "I had to go to the cellar" - hey, you can't reduce it to that one line. And who needs to know how Arthur met Ford? That one minute could have been used for something worthier.

- The Deep Thought scene - well - I prefered the one from the TV-Series. Especially the relevation of the Answer was weak. Also I didn't like the voice of Deep Thought. Deep Thought watching TV? I bet that's not a DNA joke.

- The reconstruction of earth, well, too many obvious jokes - the time that part took could have been used for the better.

- In general - too many obvious jokes at the cost of the subtle humor.

So I give the movie 5 out of 10. Most of the new introduced stuff is really good - but lots the known parts are somewhat weak.

Posted by: Mario Klingemann on June 13, 2005 01:02 PM

Oh - I just found this long review of the movie - and it's almostz exactly my opinion: http://planetmagrathea.com/longreview1.html

Posted by: Mario Klingemann on June 13, 2005 01:59 PM
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