The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (film)

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A man and a robot stand on a platform below the Earth as the title hovers above them.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Garth Jennings
Produced by Gary Barber
Roger Birnbaum
Jonathan Glickman
Nick Goldsmith
Jay Roach
Screenplay by Douglas Adams
Karey Kirkpatrick
Based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
by Douglas Adams
Starring Sam Rockwell
Mos Def
Zooey Deschanel
Martin Freeman
Bill Nighy
Anna Chancellor
John Malkovich
Narrated by Stephen Fry
Music by Joby Talbot
Cinematography Igor Jadue-Lillo
Edited by Niven Howie
Production
company
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • 28 April 2005 (2005-04-28) (United Kingdom)
  • 29 April 2005 (2005-04-29) (United States)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $45–50 million
Box office $104,478,416

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005 American comic science fiction film directed by Garth Jennings, based on the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. It stars Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and the voices of Stephen Fry (the guide book) and Alan Rickman (Marvin, the Paranoid Android). Shooting was completed in August 2004 and the movie was released on 28 April 2005 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and on the following day in Canada and the United States.

Adams, who co-wrote the film's screenplay, died in 2001, before production began. The film is dedicated to him.

Plot[edit]

One Thursday morning, Arthur Dent discovers that his house is to be immediately demolished to make way for a bypass. He tries delaying the bulldozers by lying down in front of them. Ford Prefect, a friend of Arthur's, convinces him to go to the pub with him. Over a pint of beer (as "muscle relaxant"), Ford explains that he is an alien from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and a journalist working on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a universal guide book, and that the Earth is to be demolished later that day by a race called Vogons, to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Suddenly, a Vogon Constructor Fleet appears in the sky and destroys the planet. Ford saves himself and Arthur by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship. The two are found and forced to listen to poetry. They are then thrown out of an airlock, but are picked up by the starship Heart of Gold. They find Ford's "semi-half brother" Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy. He has stolen the ship along with Tricia "Trillian" McMillan, an Earth woman whom Arthur had met previously, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Zaphod explains that he is seeking the planet Magrathea, where he believes he can discover the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to match with the answer "42" given by the supercomputer Deep Thought. Zaphod stole the Heart of Gold to use its improbability drive to get to Magrathea through trial and error.

During one of these attempts, they end up on the planet Viltvodle VI. Zaphod decides to visit Humma Kavula, his opponent from the election. Upon learning of Zaphod's plan, Kavula announces that he has the coordinates to Magrathea. He takes one of Zaphod's two heads hostage and demands they bring him the Point-of-view gun created by Deep Thought, which allows the target to understand the shooter's point of view. As they are leaving the planet, Trillian is captured by Vogons. The others travel to rescue her from the Vogon home world bureaucracy, facing long lines and frustrating form processing. Trillian is outraged to learn that Zaphod signed the authorisation for the destruction of Earth thinking it was a request for an autograph.

The Heart of Gold is chased by the Vogons, led by Galactic Vice-President Questular Rontok, who is attempting to rescue Zaphod from himself, after an incident in which Zaphod kidnapped himself in order to forgo presidential duties. As the Heart of Gold arrives in orbit above Magrathea, Arthur triggers the improbability drive to avoid the automated missile defence systems. The missiles transform into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale.

On the planet, Zaphod, Ford, and Trillian take a portal to Deep Thought. When they ask the computer whether it has calculated the ultimate question, it reveals that it designed another supercomputer to do so—Earth. When the trio finds the Point-of-View gun, Trillian shoots Zaphod, making him understand how she feels about the destruction of Earth. She also finds out how much she loves Arthur. Arthur and Marvin miss the portal and encounter a Magrathean called Slartibartfast, who takes Arthur on a tour of the construction floor where Earth Mark II is being built. Slartibartfast takes Arthur home, where the others are enjoying a feast provided by pan-dimensional beings who resemble a pair of mice. Arthur realises he has fallen into a trap. The mice, who constructed Deep Thought, used the supercomputer to build an even larger supercomputer, the planet Earth, to determine the Ultimate Question. Believing Arthur, the last remaining supercomputer component, may hold the Ultimate Answer, the mice attempt to remove his brain. Arthur kills the mice.

As the crew regroup outside the house they are surrounded by Vogons and take shelter in a caravan as the Vogons open fire. Marvin is left outside and shot in the back of the head, and uses the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to become depressed and unable to fight. As the Vogons are taken away and Questular rejoins with Zaphod, Arthur chooses to explore the galaxy with Trillian and lets Slartibartfast finalise the new Earth without him. The Heart of Gold crew decide to visit the Restaurant at the End of the Universe while Marvin points out they are going the wrong way.

Cast[edit]

Voices[edit]

Pre-production and production[edit]

Preparations for the premiere of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Leicester Square.

Spike Jonze was one of several directors asked to do the film; Jonze turned the job down, recommending that the producers hire Hammer & Tongs.[1]

In a Slashdot interview, Robbie Stamp, one of the film's executive producers, noted the following about the cast of the film:[2]

  • The hardest character to cast was "the voice of the Guide itself and in the end came back to somebody who was one of the people Douglas himself had wanted, namely Stephen Fry."
  • "Douglas himself is on record as saying that as far as he was concerned the only character who had to be British, indeed English, was Arthur Dent."

Stamp also commented on how large a role the studio and screenwriters other than Adams played in making the film:

  • "I think that a lot of fans would be surprised to know just how much of a free hand we have been given in the making of this movie. I know how easy it is to see every decision to cut a scene as 'studio' pressure but it was always much more to do with pacing and rhythm in the film itself."
  • "The script we shot was very much based on the last draft that Douglas wrote.... All the substantive new ideas in the movie ... are brand new Douglas ideas written especially for the movie by him.... Douglas was always up for reinventing HHGG in each of its different incarnations and he knew that working harder on some character development and some of the key relationships was an integral part of turning HHGG into a movie."

Marketing[edit]

The film trailer featured voice over work by Stephen Fry as the Guide, describing the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's entry on movie trailers.

The "Hitchhiker's Guide to Technology" claims that if you make yourself a cup of tea and attempt to get an object working and the tea goes cold before you finish, you are dealing with technology. Other guides include the Hitchhiker's Guide to Blogging and the Hitchhiker's Guide to Deadlines and the Hitchhiker's Guide to How to be Cool which discusses how an individual can truly be cool, instead of by following crowds, but concludes by suggesting the listener attend a showing of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Guide to websites described a website as "a wonderful new invention that allows people you neither know nor care about to inform you what they had for breakfast this morning, without all that tedious mucking about in the postal system". The Guide to Fanboys, written by Touchstone Pictures' copywriters as part of their promotion of the movie, only ever appeared as website text. Though released at the same time as the iTunes entries, it was never intended to be recorded and is otherwise unconnected with the Fry/Talbot/Browse works.

Reception[edit]

Critical reaction[edit]

The film received mixed to positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 60% fresh rating, and reported the consensus opinion, "A frantic and occasional funny adaptation of Douglas Adams' novel. However, it may have those unfamiliar with the source material scratching their heads."[3] Metacritic gives it 63/100, indicating "generally favourable" reviews.[4] Empire magazine rated the film four stars out of five and said it was a "very British, very funny sci-fi misadventure that's guaranteed to win converts".[5] Roger Ebert, though giving two stars, viewed the film very negatively, noting that:

You will find the movie tiresomely twee, and notice that it obviously thinks it is being funny at times when you do not have the slightest clue why that should be.

You will hear dialogue that preserves the content of written humor at the cost of sounding as if the characters are holding a Douglas Adams reading ... I do not get the joke. I do not much want to get the joke, but maybe you will ... To me it got old fairly quickly. The movie was more of a revue than a narrative, more about moments than an organising purpose.[6]

Manohla Dargis called it "hugely likable" with a story arc structured "more or less" as "a long beginning and then an ending"; she calls Henson's Creature Shop's Vogons "beautifully constructed" and noted that Sam Rockwell's performance is "sensational, ... riffing on Elvis and the current President George Bush."[1] Peter Bradshaw gave the film three stars out of five, saying the "film is no disgrace, and honours the Guide's gentle, low-tech BBC origins. But it doesn't do justice to the open-ended inventiveness of the original. The inevitable Anglo-American accommodations of casting have muddled its identity and the performances of the new American stars can be uneasy. It somehow seems heavier-footed and slower-moving than Adams's concept; the gravity is stronger.... The savour and flavour of the Adams original, its playfully ruminative feel, has been downgraded in favour of a jolly but less interesting outerspace romp."[7]

Philip French, after describing the Vogons as "a species resembling Laughton's version of Quasimodo" and noting it is "not, except in its financing, anything resembling a standard Hollywood production", called the film "slightly old-fashioned (few things date as rapidly as science fiction and our view of the future) and somewhat commonplace through its embracing familiar special effects. The jokes have to compete with the hardware and the actors executing them often exude a feeling of desperation.... It's funnier, and obviously cleverer, than Spaceballs, Mel Brooks's puerile spoof on Star Wars, but a good bit less engaging than Galaxy Quest."[8]

Commercial earnings[edit]

The movie was released on 28 April 2005 in the UK making £4,200,000 in its first week. It was released a day later in North America, making $21,103,203 in its opening weekend, opening in first place. In the US, the movie remained in the box office top ten for its first four weeks of release. The movie's total box office gross was $104,478,416 worldwide.[9]

Awards[edit]

The movie was nominated for seven different awards and won one. It won the Golden Trailer Award under the category Most Original.[10] It was nominated for: the Artios award from Casting Society of America, USA under the category Best Featured Film Casting-Comedy in 2005; the Empire Awards from Empire Awards, UK under the categories Best British Film and Best Comedy in 2006; the Golden Trailer from Golden Trailer Awards under the category Best Voice Over; and Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie: Action/Adventure and Choice Rap Artist in a Movie: Mos Def.[11]

Sequel[edit]

Martin Freeman confirmed to MTV Movie Blog in 2007 that a sequel was unlikely to happen, commenting, "I found that out from the horse's mouth, [director] Garth Jennings. I had dinner with him and he said [the first one] just didn't do well enough."[12]

Soundtrack[edit]

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Soundtrack album by Stephen Fry, Joby Talbot
Released 12 April 2005
Genre Soundtrack
Label Hollywood

The complete motion picture soundtrack was released as an iTunes Music Store exclusive (in the US and UK) on 12 April 2005, two weeks before the scheduled CD release. The iTunes Music Store also has two further exclusive sets of tracks related to the movie:

The soundtrack CD was released on 26 April 2005,[citation needed] by Hollywood Records. The CD has the same 33 tracks as the previous iTunes release. The enclosed booklet includes acknowledgements from Joby Talbot and notes on the creation of the song "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish", written by Garth Jennings.[citation needed]

The track "Huma's Hymn" on the soundtrack is notable for the fact that it was sung in St. Michael's Church in Highgate, London by members of local church choirs along with a congregation consisting of members of the public. The recording was open to anyone wishing to attend, and was publicised on the internet, including in a post to the Usenet group alt.fan.douglas-adams.[13]

The first version of the song "So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish" is a Broadway-style, lively version sung by the dolphins before they leave Earth. The second plays over the end credits and is in the style of 1950s male singers. The song was written by English composer Joby Talbot, conductor Christopher Austin, and Director Garth Jennings and performed by the Tenebrae Choir. Neil Hannon, founder and frontman of the Irish pop group Divine Comedy, lent his vocals to the version of the song played during the end credits. The song, in its "bouncy", opening version, was translated into and performed in Spanish for the Latin-American Region 4 DVD release.

Home release[edit]

The movie was released on DVD (Region 2, PAL) in the UK on 5 September 2005. Both a standard double disc edition and a UK-exclusive "Gift Set" edition were released on this date. The standard double disc edition features:

The "Gift Set" edition includes a copy of the novel with a "movie tie-in" cover, and collectible prints from the film, packaged in a replica of the film's version of the Hitchhiker's Guide prop.

Single disc widescreen and full-screen editions (Region 1, NTSC) were released in the US and Canada on 13 September 2005. They have a different cover, but contain the same special features (except the Don't Crash documentary) as the UK version.

Single disc releases in the UMD format for the PlayStation Portable were also released on the respective dates in these three countries.

The movie was made available as a paid download in the iTunes Store starting in September 2006, for the American market only. A region-free Blu-ray Disc version was released in January 2007.[14]

References[edit]

Specific references:

General references:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy UK Region 2 DVD Release, 2005. Includes commentaries by Garth Jennings, Nick Goldsmith, Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy, and Robbie Stamp with Sean Sollé. Also includes the documentary Don't Crash: The Making of the Film of the Novel of the Radio Series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Stamp, Robbie, editor (2005). The Making of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Filming of the Douglas Adams Classic. Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-2585-5. 

External links[edit]