The Red Right Hand

Don't Panic

Garth Jennings
Martin Freeman
Sam Rockwell
Mos Def
Zooey Deschanel

Ever read Douglas Adam's 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy?' Heard the radio show from the late seventies perhaps? Surely you saw the adapted-for-tv 80's show! Well if you haven't you've been deprived of a classic piece of British Science Fiction Comedy. S/F-Com... yes, that's important, but we'll come back to that later. Having been bogged-down in development hell for the last twenty years the motion picture adaptation is finally here. Sitting in the darkened cinema screen I was somewhat curious as to why my phone had been taken from me - this has never happened to me before at any of the other advanced screenings I've been to - of course it was simply to stop people recording parts of the film, or what-have-you, but the fact remained that I was somewhat paranoid. Thoughts starting racing through my mind, namely:

"Why did they take my phone? IS IT BECAUSE IT'S AWFUL!? and they don't want me to tell anyone... maybe they'll erase our memory of it at the end.. maybe I'll have to sign a waver stating that if I so much as breath a hint as of what's to come these two bald geezers will come knocking 'round my gaffer to claim my kidneys......."

This quickly faded as I realised how ridiculous it sounded. The lights dimmed and Fry's voice began to narrate. Let me share something with you - I have an incredible (and somewhat inscrutable) fear of whales, dolphins are alright though. The first thing we see is a pool filled with dolphins performing tricks for the Floridian masses, while Fry explains how they are in fact the second highest form of intelligent life on the planet (with us falling in short at No. 3). After a foreboding start the music kicks into a python-esque number entitled, 'So long and thanks for all the fish.' It's pretty funny, coming to an apex with all the dolphins leaving the Earth. The book then introduces us to Arthur Dent [Freeman] - just to let you know, we've already had THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY etched on the screen - following the plot of the book, Arthur's house is scheduled for demolition, to make way for a bypass.

As Arthur's lying in front of a bulldozer Ford Precinct [Def] rides a shopping trolley full of beer and nuts to the scene, then convinces Arthur to come with him to the pub. Now, I have to say, my initial reaction to Mos Def was not a pleasant one. This man who was trying to keep up the pretence that he's from Guilford wasn't doing a good job with me by being American (but in the end he really did pull it off rather well and portrayed Ford as I had envisioned him). It is then made clear to Arthur -and the rest of the known world- that a Vogon Constructor Fleet has arrived to destroy Earth, to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Ford and Arthur hitch a lift and the Earth is subsequently, destroyed............ ah well.

And there it is again. Another title sequence! Normally I would have been outraged, standing up on my chair, shaking my fist at the projectionist screaming, "YOU DOLT! WE KNOW WHAT WE'RE WATCHING! IS IT GOING TO KEEP REMINDING US!?" The camera, flying through space, begins to zoom in on a dark-grey grilled object and as it spins to reveal it's covers, a smile started to smear itself from cheek-to-cheek as the original Hitchhiker's music kicks off in an orchestral fashion, followed by the book [Fry] explaining exactly what the Hitchhiker's Guide is.

The film then goes on to follow Arthur's adventures through space. I won't go into detail because either a.) you know the material already or b.) you have no idea what I'm talking about it and to try and explain it would be as difficult as trying to impregnate a golf ball. So what I'll do is talk about the 'changes.' I've put that in inverted commas because Adam's started to write this screenplay before he died, so they are HIS creations. Unfortunately, being his creations and him being dead, he didn't get to tweak, tone or even finish the threads - this stands out in the film, the new plot lines do feel somewhat rushed and incomplete, but they still brought a few laughs, and John Malkovich who played an interesting religious leader, Humma Kavula - which brings a nice solution to Zaphod Beeblebrox's [Rockwell] two head problem.

The casting has been done with such pin-point accuracy. Every character fits and blends perfectly. Being that I'm not a fan of The Office I haven't really seen Freeman in action much, but he pulls of Dent so well, it would do Simon Jones proud -as I think it did, considering he has a rather humorous cameo. Trillian is played by Zooey Deschanel, it took me ages to remember who she actually was - when her hair is down she looks similar to Reese Witherspoon, but in the end I remembered that I had seen her in Elf as Jovie - not a spectacular role and not a spectacular film but she manages to run this new love interest superbly - that's right, Trillian and Arthur have a thing now. As I said, in the end, Mos Def won me over and did a rather fine job of Ford. Then there's Rockwell who is just unbelievably fantastic. He has all the dim-witted bravado and stupidity of Zaphod that you just can't help but watch everything he does on screen. Marvin (the paranoid android) is voiced by Alan Rickman and I honestly can't think of anyone else to use, he's just hilarious and even if Marvin isn't the six foot card-board robot I remember, this new HUGE headed one is brilliant. Then there are the smaller roles, but I would just end up naming the whole cast, everyone is marvellous.

Alright, two more points and then I'll stop prattling. Firstly the visuals, if you've seen the TV series you'll know that even though they had a big budget for television in those days, it still looks crap by modern standards - sorry, but it always will, everything technological ages badly. Considering that this is a British production I wasn't expecting much visually, but these sort of effects are astonishing, they go on par with The Matrix or Lord Of The Rings any day! (the quality not the fighting). Although I couldn't actually watch the sperm whale, I heard it looked amazing (PLUS Bill Bailey - how can you lose?). As you leave the cinema you still aren't quite convinced it was a British product that originated on BBC Radio, but it did and it looks glorious. Secondly I'm going to revert back to what I said earlier "..S/F-Com... yes, that's important, but we'l.." Adams wrote a Science Fiction Comedy. Not a comedy in space. If you don't know the difference, it's the fact that the way Adams worded things was funny and due to the film's failure to convey this I feel it was a little lost. That doesn't mean that it's not funny, on the contrary, parts are side-splitting but it's mostly replaced with slap-stick. I have no objections to slap-stick, after all I'm a fan of Bottom, but that is not what Hitchhiker's was about. That is I think, the only quibble I really had, it's rather hard to find anything bad to say about this film - unless you're a chav or don't understand any of it. Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.... table for one please!

Release Date:
29 April 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Having arrived on Vogonosphere, Marvin, Arthur, Ford and Zaphod set off to retrieve Trillian. Only to be stopped in their tracks by a Vogon trap - large organic metal shovels that reach out from the ground and smack you in the face whenever you have a thought, notion or idea, which proves troubling for our heroes trying to think of a plan to save Trillian. Childish and cheesy ...but so am I.

Notable Characters:
This is incredibly difficult for me but after a long hard think about it I've come to the conclusion (yes it's stupid and dumb) that I have to pic three.
1.) 80's Marv cameo on Vogonosphere - not a major character but made me smile a lot.
2.) Zaphod - simply because Rockwell is a comical genius
3.) Adams himself - right at the end you see Douglas Adam's face for a breif blurry moment, followed by 'For Douglas' and you remember that all this came from a man over thirty five years ago and it still doesn't seem dated, it would be like somehow motion-capturing Tolkien and making him one of the Nine Kings Of Men or something.

Highlighted Quote:
"Trill, you wearin' my underwear? 'Cause I'm wearin' yours... and they ain't doin' the job!"

In A Few Words:
To Quote Jonathan Hedges: "Superb, superb... awesome, awesome"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon