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Touchstone Home Video presents
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

"The election is ancient history, Zaphod. If memory serves, you won, proving that good looks and charm win over brilliance and the ability to govern."
- Humma Kavula (John Malkovich)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: September 12, 2005

Stars: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel
Other Stars: Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, John Malkovich, Anna Chancellor, Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry
Director: Garth Jennings

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, action, mild language
Run Time: 01h:48m:57s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 786936258462
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C+A-A B+

DVD Review

It is never an enviable task to adapt a beloved source for the big screen; it is even more unenviable when the source material in question is Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams original work spawned a television series, a radio show, numerous books, countless websites, and a filmed version for the BBC in 1981. So now, after years and years of build-up, we finally have the first theatrical telling from director Garth Jennings, and thankfully it is faithful to the original—for the most part. This is good news for those who know all about Zephod Beebelbrox, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, and Marvin the robot, but those who are unfamiliar with these great creations may indeed have reason to panic.

As the film opens we see Arthur Dent (Freeman) as he stumbles through his morning while a construction crew plans to demolish his house in order to build a new expressway. What Arthur doesn't know is that there are bigger problems to come: while protesting to those preparing to destroy his home, Arthur's friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), arrives, and after downing a few quick pints at the local pub, Arthur learns that Ford is in fact from another planet. Normally this might be something of a stunning revelation, but before Arthur can process it, he is whisked into space just before Earth is destroyed to make way for an interplanetary expressway.

Once the two arrive in outer space, they are in the company of Zephod Beebelbrox (Rockwell), the two-headed president of the galaxy, as well as Trillian (Deschanel), another Earthling who just happens to like space better than Earth, and Marvin (voiced by Alan Rickman), a very depressed robot. This is the bulk of the plot, as the remainder of the film follows the group through the galaxy on a quest to find the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Previous knowledge of the universe that Adams so wonderfully creates in his book is key to understanding, and in essence "getting" the film. With its dry humor and an often razor-sharp wit, the screenplay by Adams (who passed away in 2001) and Karey Kirkpatrick does a good job of translating the novel, but as the film progresses the dialogue begins to feel hollow because the screenwriters expect the audience to already know about the characters from the numerous previous incarnations. Essentially, the movie has no real sense of gravity for those unfamiliar with the source material; this prompted my girlfriend to proclaim the film as a two-hour inside joke, and she may well be very right.

There are some slight changes from the novel, though. In an effort to add running time, we are introduced to a completely new segment created only for the film featuring John Malkovich as Humma Kavula, the spiritual leader of a planet and Zephod's opponent in the last presidential election. Also altered is the friendship between Arthur and Trillian into something more romantic, but the script never fleshes it out; instead, it seems like we will buy the possibility of a relationship because they are the last two humans in the universe rather than whether or not they have any chemistry.

Director Jennings, who made a name for himself in music videos, occasionally gets caught up in his imagination as the film's visuals routinely trump whatever else is occurring on the screen. But too much of the flash and wizardry that Jennings opts for becomes a bad thing, and too often the film seems overdone. Jennings does well to allow some of the broader comedic moment's room to shine, and one sequence involving Arthur on the floor of a factory that creates planets is breathtaking in its depth and computer-generated wizardry.

The cast is, from top to bottom, fantastic, with perfect choices to fill each of the key roles. Only Rockwell, who seems to have brought a tad too much George W. Bush to Zephod, stumbles with his over-the-top performance, but there are times where it's charming. Mos Def is the perfect choice for Ford and his understated manner of delivering his dialogue works incredibly well. The single best performance in the film is never seen but heard, as Alan Rickman's vocal portrayal of Marvin the persistently depressed robot is something of genius—as was the choice to cast him.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is done very well as it wonderfully represents the distinct look of the film. From the subdued tones of Earth and the Volgon spaceship to the bright white of Zephod's ship, the colors in this film pop off the screen with terrific depth and saturation. Sharpness and detail are also very well done, giving the film a very rich and film-like look throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is accompanied by an even better DTS track that is among the best I have heard recently. The split surround speakers are constantly alive with ambient and surround effects that are nearly constant. The center channel delivers crisp and clear dialogue that presents no drop-outs or distortion while the .1 LFE track will likely shake your house with its rich and deep bass. The DTS track is a tad more crisp and defined than its Dolby Digital counterpart, but both are phenomenal to hear.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and actors Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy and (2)executive producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams’ colleague Sean Solle
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. So Long and Thanks For All the Fish sing along
  2. Marvins set top Hangman game
Extras Review: The DVD for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy boasts two audio commentary tracks, one aimed at the making of the film, the other deals with both the creation of the film and its relationship to the book. The first features director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and actors Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. From the start, this is a very funny track that also manages to offer a look at the making of the film. The group discusses stories from the set, the CGI work, set design, and generally anything else related to the film that you can think of. Those looking for a more in-depth look at the film should chose the track featuring executive producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams' colleague, Sean Solle. While there are numerous moments of silence, this track does a great job of looking not only at the struggles to get the project filmed but also the influence of Adams both before and after his passing. This is the better of the two tracks, but it also suffers from prolonged moments where the pair heap massive amounts of praise for anyone involved in the project.

The remainder of the extras is disappointing given the cult following of the original works. We get a standard nine-minute look at the making of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew and is about as basic as promotional featurettes can get. Five minutes of deleted scenes—well, three deleted scenes, two"really deleted scenes"—are included, and while the really deleted scenes are clearly a joke, they are actually more enjoyable than the real deleted footage. Finally we get a sing-along to the song So Long and Thanks for All the Fish and a hangman game featuring Marvin and his wonderful one-liners.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

As a fan of the original work by Douglas Adams, I enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as simply being able to see another incarnation of the wonderful collection of characters. As a film, however, there is something lacking. It succeeds as a visual feast and with the help of an often witty screenplay, the movie works more often than it not. Keep in mind this is coming from a fan—those with no knowledge of the source material may see their mileage vary.

 


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