Case Study #20
Where we explore the more
obscure movies that bombed
Somehow, all of the great
ingredients just didn't add up...
I am a monster fan of Douglas Adams and his series of books collectively known as The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
I also grew up on the British TV show of the same name, which was wonderful, silly and loads of fresh fun.
Naturally, I was very excited when the movie version came out in 2005, and I saw it on opening day. I left the theater, however, feeling a little flat.
HHGG didn't seem quite right, and certainly didn't do the original series justice.
A lot of critics tried to compare HHGG to Spaceballs or Galaxy Quest, and this isn't fair. British humor is a bit different than ours...a little drier and more cerebral.
Okay, forget the cerebral part
And the casting choices for HHGG were excellent, and the alien Vorgons - built by Henson Creature Shop - were amazing.
The script itself - and the cool new scientific ideas in it - were penned by Douglas Adams himself just before his death.
So, you have great actors, a world-class writer and awesome special effects. What the hell went wrong, then?
To this day I still can't precisely say why this film disappointed me.
On to the film...
If you aren't familiar with the HHGG universe, allow me to quickly refresh your memory.
You know those stories you hear about a zoning committee deciding to tear down someone's house to build a new highway or thoroughfare?
Well, HHGG is like that, but the Earth is the house in question.
Arthur Dent (played brilliantly by Martin Freeman) is a mild-mannered man living in England. His best friend is Ford Prefect - played by Mos Def.
Prefect, it turns out, is an alien journalist working for The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy...a popular travel book across the universe.
Prefect knows that the earth is about to be demolished to make way for a galactic bypass, and escapes to the Vorgon ship in orbit, taking Dent with him.
And I've always liked the way Douglas Adams lays out new information for his audience.
This is done either by amusing narration (in this case, by Stephen Fry) or through the eyes of the naive newbie Arthur Dent.
Prefect and Dent eventually hitch a ride on the Heart of Gold, a spacecraft stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox - played to perfection by Sam Rockwell.
Also on board is Dent's former girlfriend, Tricia McMillian. (Zooey Deschanel)
She's so cute
They team up and try to fix the problem Beeblebrox started in the first place - as President of the Galaxy, he signed the authorization to demolish the Earth.
I am going to stop here. Why is that?
Well, for one thing, you need to sit down with a loved one and watch this movie. Period. Like any British comedy, HHGG is loaded down with interesting characters and innovative ideas.
And I'd like to take a moment to talk about them...
The Heart of Gold spaceship has a new type of engine called Infinite Improbability Drive.
Heart of Gold
To go faster than light, the drive passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe at the same time. When you arrive at your destination, though, you might just be a different species.
The Point-of View Gun causes the person being shot to feel everything the shooter feels, and was invented by fed-up housewives. Heh.
Marvin the Paranoid Android (voiced by Alan Rickman) is stricken by depression and boredom, and is a failed prototype designed to solve problems.
Unfortunately, none of the problems are very hard for a robot 'with a brain the size of a planet'.
Deep Thought is a computer built by a hyper-intelligent race to answer life's ultimate question. Watch the film to see the hilarious answer.
Yes, this film should have spawned a series, but the box office receipts weren't exactly stellar. It is somewhat jumbled, slow-footed and clumsy - but you could do a lot worse.
Grab a loved one and watch HHGG.
Just make sure your significant other knows that the Point-of View gun is fictional.