I can remember the eager sense of anticipation when I heard The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was (finally) being made into a major motion picture. See, in primary school, I was a huge fan of the original radio series, which predated the now famous series of books and the somewhat less famous TV series.
Yes, I’m old enough to remember huddling around a radio to listen to a play or, later that week, listening again to the shows on tape cassettes, which became a priceless item amongst my friends. In fact, I’m pretty sure I still have those tapes!
Hitchhikers was a charming story, a gentle yet incredibly witty blend of space travel, filled with earthly satire, from the perils of solo travel, to the soul destroying drudgery of bureaucracy.
When the original radio play was remade into a TV series, it was pretty much a word for word recreation, with many of the same actors. However, it stood to reason that more than twenty years later, the film-makers would have to look to a new generation of actors to fill the roles.
This was, for many fans, where the problems started. Some of the casting decisions, like Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast made perfect sense. Others, like Mos Def as Ford Prefect or Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin (the paranoid android), seemed odd.
The first time I saw this film, I didn’t enjoy Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, though her performance won me over on repeat viewing. However, the biggest issue is still Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Rockwell is a fine actor, but his Zaphod lacks any charm or wit and is a most unwelcome departure from the original.
Not that everything needs to hew close to the original, as the film does make some deviations from the original story, with varying degrees of success. But, while the variations in plot, I did mind the way Adams’ excellent dialogue is, at times, poorly handled by the cast.
This film is not the big screen adaptation Hitchhiker’s fans would have wanted and it probably does little to draw new fans into this universe. But, it is a nice bit of mostly harmless B-movie Sci-Fi and a welcome reminder of Douglas Adams’ creative genius. Now, where are my old cassette tapes…