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OBS BOOK VS. MOVIE: THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

by Dawn, October 10, 2009

OBS has a new feature: Book vs. Movie Adaptation. Every other week, we will bring you a new set and tell you how true to the book it’s movie is. This week in honor of the book’s 30th anniversary on Tuesday, we bring you The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this sun at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”

So begins The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the story of Englishman Arthur Dent, whose home is scheduled for demolition. He doesn’t realize the danger he is in, but luckily his friend Ford does, because Ford is actually an alien and much more aware of the workings of the Universe than Arthur does…

Originally published on October 12, 1979, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was written by Douglas Adams when he was 27 years old. The entire series has a fanatical following, and for good reason.

The script is based in part on the one Douglas Adams worked on before he passed in 2001. Though the 2005 movie was the first theatrical adaptation, it wasn’t the first time the books had come to life. They had previously been adapted into a TV series and were born as a radio program on the BBC.

The movie itself is based mostly on the first book of the Trilogy in Five Parts, though it does borrow parts from other books (the vanishing dolphins, for instance). But this makes it better. Not just for the people who have read the books and get the inside jokes, but for those who haven’t read them. It adds depth to the movie. I know there were a lot of upset people when the movie was released because of the changes. Of course it isn’t as good as the books, because you can’t contain the genius of Douglas Adams into two hours. If it helps, the radio shows contradict the books as well, since Douglas Adams’ rewrote parts of the story depending on the setting. Plus, the first book is over 200 pages long and there is at least one brilliant line on every single page. I’ll admit I saw the movie before I read the books, but I went and bought the first book the next day and have since devoured the entire series. My biggest problem with the movie was how much they left out, but of course the movie would be 12 hours long in everything was in. The writers tried to overcome this, and you catch references; such as “Belgian bummer”. They also added obscure quotes from the book, things that are there simply for the sake of being there, like “Zaphod’s just this guy, you know?” Changes do happen when you have to condense a book, and sometimes it’s done well and sometimes it’s not. In this case, the spirit of the books is the same, and some of the changes were Adams’ idea (like Humma Kavula and the “point of view” gun). It’s witty, funny, and made with real puppets instead of CG. The actors are well cast, especially Sam Rockwell as Zaphod. I don’t think they could have done a better job. The people who made the movie truly cared about the books and about Douglas Adams, and it shows.

The greatest thing about the movie is that it entices you to read the book. You are given hints to the Ultimate Question, but you’ll have to read the books to find out what it really is. Oh, and exactly why the bowl of petunias said “Oh no, not again”.

Similarities

– I love that they used puppets instead of CG. It means the special effects characters will look real in 10 years because… wait for it…they ARE.
– Lines straight from the book. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
– Wonderful casting. I already mentioned Sam Rockwell, but Mos Def as Ford and Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin are brilliant too.

Differences

– Some of the actual story of Deep Thought and the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything was lost. Key details were cut that explain why. It’s so much more dynamic in the books.
– Character development was cut. You don’t get just how mad (as in, crazy) everyone truly is. Oh, and there’s something about Trillian you should know…
– I know it would have made the movie days long, but some of the funniest scenes were cut. One in particular involving a Chesterfield sofa and a field comes to mind.

Overall Accuracy: 4 out of 5.
Because they did well, considering the amount of material they had to work with.

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