April 29, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide: Don't Panic, It's Not Half-Bad
— Ace

An unenthusiastic but positive review of the film in the NYT.

Sad: Marvin apparently gets old fast. He was one of the funniest things in the book. Alan Rickman (!) voices him, but apparently his lines fall flat, and he becomes not funny but simply as depressing as he thinks everyone else should be.

Expected: Zaphod gets old fast. That, however, is quite true to the books. Zaphod had a couple of good moments -- arguing with his shrink, arguing with Arthur, finding out from the Total Perspective Vortex that he was the hoopiest frood in the Universe -- but he always was a bit annoying and a one-schtick pony.

Very, Very Sad: Martin Freeman, brilliant as sadsack Tim in The Office and the perfect call for sadsack Arthur Dent, doesn't really add too much to the movie. Alas... Arthur Dent was boring as hell, but that made him the most irresistable and important of the characters. The only guy you could really identify with (unless you too had lost your entire family to the Great Hrung Implosion).

Rotten Tomatoes seems to agree. The film is rated as "rotten" with a 59% favorable review rate, but it takes only 60% to get a "fresh" rating. So it seems to basically be a genial but not especially memorable movie.

So, go in with lowered expectations, expect major deviations from the book and some segments that just don't work, and... Relax.

Posted by: Ace at 07:37 AM | Comments (21)
Post contains 253 words, total size 2 kb.

1 And bring a towel?

Posted by: Petitedov at April 29, 2005 07:44 AM (l89az)

2 The WaPo review of the movie was generally favorable, too. Basically, they said to the purists, "Don't Panic".

I'm still looking forward to seeing it.

Posted by: Jimmie at April 29, 2005 07:55 AM (LIkgw)

3 As a kid, I read all the books. I drove around the Berkeley hills, in old VW's, stoned silly, listening to the radio play on cassette. I taped the TV version on Betamax, and wore out the tape. This is the first movie that I've actually tracked the opening day on since Star Wars.

When I saw Marvin as a midget-sized globe-bot and not the big square fridge-bot of the TV series, I cringed. But I'll keep an open mind when I go see it tomorrow.

Man, I hope this wont suck.

Posted by: The former Bud Tugley at April 29, 2005 08:12 AM (x0jT7)

4 Alan Rickman of Rachel Corrie the play fame? Or is it Rachel Corrie the musical? I might go see it if it's a musical. Can you imagine the dramatic flag burning scene with Rachel belting it out, surrounded by a chorus of 4 year old palestinian kids? Or, the exciting finale of Rachel singing while slowly climbing a pile of dirt to meet her destiny? Oh, Rickman has to make a musical out of it!

Posted by: at April 29, 2005 08:24 AM (jJPIT)

5 Photo of a man carrying a bloodied and unconscious woman. Underneath the caption: Ace of Spades and Karol debut May 10th! What's that about?

Posted by: at April 29, 2005 08:27 AM (jJPIT)

6 I think it means that Ace and Karol plan to kill us and take our women.

Starting with Dusty.

Posted by: Pompous at April 29, 2005 09:19 AM (pwn6J)

7 The Hitchhiker's guide is one of my all time fav books. Right up there with "Confederacy of the Dunces."

I have always been disappointed in books turned into movies except for the Harry Potter books, for some reason they worked.

I like the book in my mind. I don't think I can watch it.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at April 29, 2005 10:34 AM (tLqLU)

8 I think that the guy who wrote the originial negative review Ace linked to a few days ago had this essential beef:
When you reach a certain tipping point, 100s of deletions and changes that individually aren't that big a deal add up to a qualitative change, and you can't really say it's the same thing anymore.

I'm still going to see it, but I'm trying to lower my expectations as far as possible, to retain a chance of being pleasantly surprised.

Just last night the wife and I watched The Office for the first time, both seasons, straight through (and oh how un-gobsmacked I was- the hype is, for once, justified), and I agree - the Dent casting is perfect.

Posted by: Knemon at April 29, 2005 12:28 PM (QaHR7)

9 What is this "The Office" I keep hearing about now on DVD. Was this on HBO or something? How did I miss even hearing about it before?

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at April 29, 2005 12:32 PM (tLqLU)

10 I skipped out on work to go watch it. If you don't expect it to tell the same story you read in the books, you'll be all right.

Marvin and Zaphod are more irritating than funny, but I think they're supposed to be. Eddie wasn't irritating enough. Ford and Arthur are very funny. Slartibartfast also was great.

I certainly thought it was better than average.

Although the mice could have talked a little more.

Posted by: Justin at April 29, 2005 01:04 PM (tuPiK)

11 RWS:

"The Office" is a British sitcom. You can find it on BBC America or perhaps on your local PBS station during pledge drive week.

Brad

Posted by: Brad at April 29, 2005 01:27 PM (kIL2V)

12 thanks Brad!

British? Uhh... no.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at April 29, 2005 02:20 PM (tLqLU)

13 Just saw it, myself. I agree with the above, general 'not bad' sentiment. I read and loved the books as a young teen and went in unable to recall much of anything. Maybe that helped me enjoy it more, not having a good memory of a loved, precious object to constantly compare it too.

Office Fans: Gervais and Merchant are working together on a new BBC(?)comedy show called Extras. Follows Gervais as a movie extra. Also stars Patrick Stewart. HBO just announced they will show stateside (concurrently, I believe).

Posted by: Ray Midge at April 29, 2005 03:08 PM (kUNrb)

14 The Office has come out on DVD relatively recently. It is a beautiful thing.
If you like "Arrested Development," you'll like this. It's basically got an AD-ish aesthetic (or vice versa since Office came first) minus sympathetic characters and music.

If you hate AD, you might want to give this one a miss ...

Justin, I hope you're right. If not there's gonna be one disappointed Knemon, minus 9 disappointed dollars, come tomorrow evening.

I made the mistake of very recently re-reading the books in anticipation of the movie. Maybe I should've done that in reverse order ...

Posted by: Knemon at April 29, 2005 04:52 PM (QaHR7)

15 Is it ever really possible for American to actually "do" British Comedy? The Brits are masters at the droll deadpan. the old TV series was a classic. Hard act to follow.

And our answer to Benny Hill was "The Man Show."

Nuf. Said.

Posted by: Partisan Pundit at April 29, 2005 04:53 PM (RFPeu)

16 Ace,

I just came home from the movie.

It was, well...

It wasn't good.

Nor was it bad.

But unless you have read the books, I think you'll hate it.

The screenplay is choppy, to say the least. None of the characters are in any way developed. Things happen, it's weird, more things, some cool special effects, and then it changes into a love story.

Zaphod was funny; Ford was forgettable; Arthur mostly loathesome; Trillion was the only character of any consequence (I don't know who the actors were, and I am too tired to look it up).

Use your best judgment.

Posted by: MeTooX at April 29, 2005 08:55 PM (taFMk)

17 My wife and I saw it. Some background: I have read the books several times and really enjoyed them, but I haven't read them for many years. My wife is a bigger fan than me, rereading the books every year or two.

I didn't care for the movie at all. My wife hated it. She hated it so much that she wanted to leave 20 minutes into the movie. And, no, she's not one of "those people", as in the nine years I've known her this is the first time she has ever wanted to leave a movie.

After the movie, she just kept repeating "it was horrible" over and over, to the point that I began to be worried it had somehow damaged her brain. I was trying to keep an eye on her, but when I turned my back she grabbed the phone to call someone else to tell them how absolutely horrible it was. She actually kind of startled them, as it took them a few seconds to realize that she was just talking about a horrible movie and that nothing horrible had happened in the real world.

Anyway, she seems OK this morning, so that's good.

To me, it was just kind of a "bleh" movie. If you didn't read the books it would probably be very confusing, as they don't explain much. And if you did read the books, then you'll probably be upset about how much got truncated and changed. Worst of all, they shoehorned in a stupid love story (why must every frickin' movie have a love story?) and made that the centerpiece of the movie. Ugh.

I'd guess the best audience for this would be people that read and enjoyed the books quite some time ago. To them maybe it would kind of bring a smile to their faces to see some of the stuff from the book on the big screen. I don't know. If you've never read the books, I guess maybe you could see it as this zany goofball sci-fi comedy and enjoy it for that. But probably not. If you're a huge fan of the series, you probably won't like it much, and you may have some sort of attack as my wife did.

I'd probably give it a 3 on a scale of 0 to 10. My wife would give it a big fat zero. Just taken as a silly movie that has nothing to do with the HGTTG books, I'd maybe give it a 4 or 5.

But, hey, don't listen to me. Go see it yourself if you must. Just don't come crying to me if it sets off hours of muttering and ranting...

Posted by: Bob at April 30, 2005 04:17 AM (VwNX2)

18 Bob, I haven't read the book (I tried many years ago and couldn't get into it, I might try again sometime), and the other night I saw a clip of the movie during late night TV. Just the 30-second clip was confusing. There was some guy in his pjs or something with a towel on his head, dancing with a nerdy science chick while talking to her about the hitchikers they just picked up. I was thinking, THAT was the best clip they could show? It looked like a mess out of context...but after thinking about it, I'm not sure if it would be much better IN context.

My condolances to your wife. I had a similar reaction after "Starship Troopers" only I didn't have a phone handy. It's really rough watching Hollywood screw up a story you like so much.

Later,
bbeck

Posted by: bbeck at April 30, 2005 05:15 PM (qF8q3)

19 We just got back from seeing it. My oldest boy and I have read all of the books, the other 3 in our party haven't read any of them. All of us enjoyed it though. Probably a 6 or 7 on my scale.

Posted by: michael dennis at April 30, 2005 05:24 PM (ipjUv)

20 Saw it Friday. I'd give it a 5 or 6 -- middling. I'll try to keep the spoilers down, for those who haven't seen it.

I should preface further comments with the fact that I *love* the books; DNA is my favorite author, and I actually *fall asleep* to the audio books. Sad, I know, but my wife moved out here to "the country" (suburbs) from NYC and needs noise to fall asleep.

That said, there were parts that I liked. Many little scenes/jokes made it largely intact, and most of the actors were very well-cast. Say what you will about the guy who did Arthur, but he did "befuddled"/"lost" very well. Several in-jokes and nods to the radio play and TV series, both of which are, of course, excellent. I liked Alan Rickman's Marvin. Not much else was remarkable.

There were, of couse, several parts I was not crazy about. Zaphod was given this sort of malice that I never picked up in the books -- he's supposed to be a jerk, not actually *evil*. Several scenes were created out of whole cloth -- a trip to *Vogsphere*? Honestly. And, far and away my largest complaint, they grafted in a love story, and the WRONG love story at that, on top of a perfectly good movie. ARTHUR GETS FENCHURCH, NOT TRILLIAN. Jesus, it's not hard.

Or is it? The movie didn't get that far -- it covers from the beginning of the first book up through the mice coming after Arthur's brain, though as alluded to earlier the story's been mish-mashed a bit. I can't blame them for that, though. H2G2 is malleable across media -- the radio version follows a different story arc than the print version, which follows a different arc than the TV shows. You have to cut and re-arrange to fit the space you have alotted, or disaster awaits.

DIVERSION: I once saw a live production done by a college drama society which went on for almost four hours and ended with the Golgafrinchan capitan in his tub, mid-scene. Mid-sentence, even. They literally did as much as they could manage without making it a Wagnerian saga, then gave up and started playing REM's "The End of the World (As We Know It)". Seriously, they put on disco lights and the whole cast and crew came out and started dancing, and that was the end. END DIVERSION.

OK, sorry to have rambled a bit, but the long and short of it is: I'll always like the TV shows better, but I'll still probably buy the DVD when it comes out. I just won't watch it that much, so I don't feel the urge to break it every time they break the mood with a stupid, stupid love-story sequence. One thumb up.

Posted by: James at May 02, 2005 06:18 AM (FpasZ)

21 Sorry, sorry, sorry for clogging up your server with useless drivel. I forgot, in my rush to criticize the annoying parts, my favorite two things: Vogons (Jim Henson must be smiling up there), and Stephen Fry. Between his excellent Guide voice work and Jeeves, I would have that man's baby.

Posted by: James at May 02, 2005 06:26 AM (FpasZ)

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