Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hitchhiker's Fatwah

Let me preface my remarks with some context. I suppose that I tend toward the extreme end of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan continuum. Since first reading them at the age of 11 or 12 I have been through the books at least a dozen times.I videotaped and rewatched the BBC series many times as well. In 7th grade I painted a poster for English class based on the cover of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the 4th book in the Hitchhiker trilogy. Geek credentials established? Does this mean that my expectations were high? Perhaps. Too high? I don't think so. But as a reader of the books, all the moviemakers had to do to make me happy was stick to the text. I don't mean they had to get absolutely everything in there, or keep it in the same order -- I'm not a purist. As a viewer of the cheesy BBC series, all they had to do was improve some of the the special effects (not too difficult).

This movie was a travesty. Before tonight I have never walked out during the middle of a movie. I tried to stick it out, but after 70 minutes, I just couldn't take any more. The casting was great. The performances were great. The special effects were incredible. The references to the BBC series kept me there at least a half an hour longer than I would otherwise have stayed. But the adaptation, the adaptation was a crime. Why, I ask? Why when you have such pure comic gold to start with would one ever presume to incorporate, no, substitute, such banal, lackluster material. Douglas Adams, the author of the books, is given executive producer and co-screenwriter credits in the movie. However, he died in 2001 and I suspect that without Adams at the wheel, the project of realizing the story for the big screen careened out of control. There were some new bits in the film that I enjoyed and that I sense Adams' had a hand in. Apart from a couple of these gems, the movie worked best -- for everyone in the theater, not just this devotee -- when it stuck to the original material. And it worked less and less well the further it departed

It's as though I went to a screening of a film version of Frank Zappa's album Joe's Garage (this does not exist, yet, but is my dream movie) to find that 70% of the soundtrack had been replaced by new, original material composed and performed by Sting. Not that I particularly dislike Sting, but he's got no business trying to improve Joe's Garage. I think Sting is smart enough to know this, unlike the folks responsible for this movie.

Speaking of being British and smart, that's a lot of what was missing? Are us Americans of the 21st century considered 2 dum to appreciate the very British comic sensibilities found in Douglas Adams' novels? Perhaps many of us are. However, there are a lot of us who are not; the books were bestsellers in the 80's. And I would bet that these one-time book buyers make up a significant portion of the hoards now forking over 9 or 10 bucks a pop at the ticket counter to make Hitchhiker's the top-grossing movie of the moment.

I blame Disney and Dubya for this dumbed-down, dickless, derriere-dimple of a movie.

Alliteration practice over, I will summarize. Hoopy froods everywhere should be advised to save their money. Maybe Batman Begins will come through with the cool the previews seem to promise.