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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy film based on the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. Shooting was completed in August 2004 and the movie was released on April 28, 2005 in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and on the following day in the USA and Canada.

The screenplay was begun by Adams, and completed by Garth Jennings and Karey Kirkpatrick after Adams' death in 2001, and the film is dedicated to Douglas.

Plot

In the film's opening, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Stephen Fry) narrates that the dolphins, the second most-intelligent creatures on Earth, had attempted to warn mankind about the planet's impending destruction, but humans had interpreted the dolphins' communications as tricks. The dolphins considered their mission a failure and left the planet, leaving their final message to humans as "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

The remainder of the film follows the Earthling Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) interspersed with narrated Guide entries. Arthur wakes up one morning to find his house about to be demolished by bulldozers and attempts to delay them. Ford Prefect (Mos Def), his best friend, manages to convince Arthur to come to the pub in order to get some beer as muscle relaxant. Ford tries to explain to Arthur that he is really an alien from Betelgeuse working on the Hitchhiker's Guide, and that the Earth is shortly to be demolished. As predicted, a Vogon planet destruction crew appears above Earth, announcing to humanity its impending demise to make way for a hyperspace expressway. Ford saves himself and Arthur by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship as the Earth is destroyed. However, the two are discovered by the Vogons and as punishment, are forced to listen to Vogon poetry, the third-worst of its type in the galaxy (the second being of the Azgoths of Kria, and the first being of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex). Despite Arthur's attempts to express admiration for the poetry, the two are thrown out the air lock, picked up shortly afterward automatically by the starship Heart of Gold before they die of asphyxiation. Aboard the Heart of Gold, they find Ford's "semi-half brother" (claiming they shared three of the same mothers) Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy who used his status to steal the ship, Tricia McMillan (Zooey Deschanel), an Earth woman that Arthur had flirted with at a party once before she decided to leave with Zaphod, and Marvin the Paranoid Android (voiced by Alan Rickman, acted out by Warwick Davis).

Zaphod explains to the others that he seeks to visit the planet Magrathea, where he believes he can discover the Ultimate Question to Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to match with the Answer "42" given by the supercomputer Deep Thought (voiced by Helen Mirren). Zaphod stole the Heart of Gold to use its improbability drive to get to the planet by trial and error - of an unplanned degree. To get the location of Magrathea, Zaphod must visit Humma Kavula (John Malkovich), his opponent in the election (his campaign being described as the "slanderous 'don't vote for stupid' campaign"), on the planet Viltvodle VI. Kavula accepts the offer but demands they return with a Point-of-view gun created by Deep Thought, as well as taking one of Zaphod's two heads as a "hostage". As they attempt to leave the planet, Trillian is captured by the Vogons, and the others are forced to travel to the Vogon homeworld, Vogsphere, to rescue her from the Vogon bureaucracy. The crew find themselves very annoyed with the spatula-like life forms that slap conscious thoughts (in the tangible head), long lines, and the brunt of frustrating yet effective forum processing. Before she is rescued, Trillian learns that Zaphod had inadvertently signed the authorization for the destruction of Earth, because he thought that it was a request for an autograph.

The Heart of Gold is chased by the Vogons, led by Galactic Vice-President Questular Rontok (Anna Chancellor), who is attempting to rescue Zaphod from himself. The Heart of Gold arrives in orbit above Magrathea, and manage to avoid its automated missile defense systems when Arthur triggers the improbability drive, changing the missiles in to a whale and a bowl of petunias while miraculously surviving the side-effect of unstable jumps: permanent improbability. On the planet, Zaphod, Ford, and Trillian take a portal that takes them to Deep Thought, where they find the Point-of-View gun. Trillian uses the gun on Zaphod to make him understand how she feels about the destruction of Earth, and ends up realizing how much she needs/loves Arthur from Zaphod's mouth. Meanwhile, Arthur and Marvin just misses traveling through the portal, and instead encounter a Magrathean called Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy) who takes Arthur on a tour of the "construction floor" where Earth Mark II is currently being built to replace the recently destroyed Earth. Slartibartfast takes Arthur to his house where the others are waiting for him, enjoying a feast provided by pan-dimensional beings currently poised as a pair of mice. Arthur realizes too late that he has fallen into a trap set by the mice; the mice, beings that had constructed Deep Thought, used the supercomputer to build an even larger supercomputer called "Earth" to determine the Ultimate Question, and Arthur, as the last remaining component of that computer, may have the Ultimate Question in his brain which the mice intend to cut him open to get. Arthur fights back, succeeds, and whacks the mice into intelligent pancakes.

As the crew recovers, outside the house they are surrounded by the Vogon forces, and take shelter in a caravan as the Vogons open fire. Marvin, left outside, uses the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to become very depressed and unable to fight anymore. As the Vogons are taken away while Questular rejoins with Zaphod, Arthur realizes that he now has the opportunity to explore the galaxy with Trillian, and lets Slartibartfast finalize the new Earth without him. The Heart of Gold crew decide to visit "the Restaurant at the End of the Universe" as their first stop, though Marvin points out they are going the wrong way.

Production

In a Slashdot interview, Robbie Stamp, one of the film's executive producers, noted the following about the cast of the film:
  • 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."
Preparations for the premiere of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Leicester Square
Stamp also commented on how much 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."


Differences from preceding versions

The sequence of events in the film generally resembles the story in prior editions. Although the radio series, books and TV series are famous for their inconsistencies, they each describe the same story until the characters get to Magrathea, except for some narrative rearrangement. The movie also rearranges the narration, but to a far greater extent than any of the other media. Not only are scenes omitted and reworked, but entire new storylines, characters and locations are introduced, such as the Point-Of-View gun, which Trillian uses on Zaphod. Also when the main characters use the improbability drive the second time they go to a planet on which Zaphod's rival "Humma Kavula" resides. Humma Kavula (played by John Malkovich) is also a character not present in the earlier versions of the story.

Reception

Critics

The film opened to mixed though generally favourable reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an overall score of 60%, but the better score of 75 % according to their Top Critics, with Metacritic giving 63%. Empire magazine said that it was "A very British, very funny sci-fi misadventure that's guaranteed to win converts", although Roger Ebert wrote that "[The viewer] 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", although noting that "I do not get the joke. I do not much want to get the joke, but maybe you will."

Box office earnings

The movie was released on April 28, 2005, in the UK, making £4,200,000 in its first week in the UK. It was released a day later in the USA, making $21,103,203 in its opening weekend, opening in first place. The movie remained in the US box office top ten for its first four weeks of release. The movie's total box office gross was $104,478,416 worldwide (as of December 2006).

Soundtrack

The complete motion picture soundtrack was released as an iTunes Music Store exclusive (in the US and UK) on April 12, 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 April 26, 2005, by Hollywood Records, a division of The Walt Disney Company. 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.

The track "Huma's Hymn" on the soundtrack is notable for the fact that it was sung in St. Michael's Church in Highgatemarker, 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.

The first version of the song "So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish" is a Broadwaymarker-style and 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 Region 4 DVD release.

Releases

The movie was released on DVD (Region 2, PAL) in the UK on September 5, 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:
  • Making Of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
  • Additional Guide Entry
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Really Deleted Scenes (scenes that were never meant to be in the movie)
  • Sing A Long
  • Audio Commentaries
  • Set Top Games Marvins Hangman
  • Don't Crash (68 minute UK exclusive "making of" documentary, directed by Grant Gee)
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 U.S. and Canada on September 13, 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 U.S. market only. A region-free Blu-ray version was released on January 2007.

Marketing

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 Guide Entries are a collection of sound recordings read by Stephen Fry, set to music by Joby Talbot and written by Tim Browse and Sean Sollé (with the exception of the How to be Cool entry, which was also co-written by Yoz Grahame). Four were released on the iTunes Music Store to promote the Hollywood movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and a fifth, the Guide to Websites, can be heard on the official UK movie website.

The "Hitchhiker's Guide to Technology" claims that if you make yourself a cup of tea, and then attempt to get an object working, if 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 HitchhikersMovie.co.uk describes 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.

References to Adams and his works

TV and radio series

  • At the beginning of the film, Mos Def as Ford Prefect pushes a cart filled with cans of beer past a sign for the village of "Cottington" — a reference to the radio series.
  • The original Marvin prop from the 1981 TV version of the story can be seen in one scene, in a queue on Vogsphere, albeit with yellow eyes, instead of the original red. Arthur, while passing, does a double-take at this Marvin.
  • The song "Journey of the Sorcerer" (written by Bernie Leadon and originally recorded by The Eagles), which was used as the theme tune for the BBC radio and TV series, is used in the film with a new arrangement by Joby Talbot.
  • "What a Wonderful World," sung by Louis Armstrong, was used as background music for the first part of the film's teaser trailer. This song was also used at the conclusion of the first radio series and at the conclusion of the BBC TV series, both set on prehistoric Earth.
  • Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent in the radio and TV series, makes a brief cameo appearance. He is credited as the "Ghostly Image," a floating head which appears when the Heart of Gold approaches Magrathea, and warns them that the planet is currently not open for business. When they continue approaching the planet, he reappears and politely informs them that two thermonuclear missiles are headed towards the ship, and their (presumably imminent) deaths "may be recorded for training purposes." He then grins and floats away.


Book series

  • Ford's last name is never mentioned in dialogue in the film, though the character is listed as "Ford Prefect" when first introduced in the screenplay and when listed in the credits. Also, Ford is called "Ix" by Zaphod when they meet on the Heart of Gold, which is Ford's previous nickname; this is the first time in any format other than the book that the nickname is mentioned, though it is without context in the film.
  • In one of the trailers, as Arthur Dent wakes up and shuts off his alarm clock, it reads "7:42". The alarm clock is sitting on a book by Kurt Vonnegut, whose own writings Adams' were compared to, and next to a BBC ID badge for Arthur Dent. This was not used in the actual movie.
  • The theatrical release of the film includes references to the titles of every Hitchhiker novel (which are all references to the first novel), except for Mostly Harmless. This reference is included as a deleted scene on the DVD.


References to other Adams works

  • One of the planets in the Magrathean display case is Shada, from the incomplete Doctor Who serial of the same name that was written by Adams in 1979.
  • Trillian's desire to visit Madagascarmarker also relates to a trip Douglas took to study some of the vanishing species of the island for his book Last Chance to See.


References to Adams himself

  • Deep Thought has a logo for Apple Computermarker just to the right and above its electronic eye (which can be seen in closeups when Ford, Trillian and Zaphod are speaking to the computer). It is said Douglas Adams owned the first two Apple Macintosh computers to enter the UK and that Stephen Fry, who is the voice of the Guide, allegedly owned the third. (It is elsewhere reported that Adams owned the second Macintosh in the UK, while the first belonged to Fry.) Adams and Fry were both passionate Macintosh enthusiasts and were friends.
  • The scene where Arthur Dent and Trillian meet at the party contains a nod to Douglas Adams' interest in evolution. Arthur stands reading The Selfish Gene by Adams' friend Richard Dawkins, and Trillian is dressed as Darwin.
  • During the panic scenes in the beginning of the movie several members of Adams' family participated. The elderly woman calmly reading a newspaper is Douglas Adams' mother.
  • A Douglas Adams-shaped planet can be seen under construction on Magrathea.
  • In the last sequence of the Improbability Drive activating before the end credits, the face/head of Douglas Adams is clearly seen as the final morph of the Heart of Gold before it disappears.
  • All of the sculpted noses on the planet Viltvodle VI were fashioned after Douglas Adams' own. The creators used a 3D model he had created for the game Starship Titanic.
  • As the escape pod crashlands the noise of the ship coming down is the same noise for the Stuka Pink Floyd used for In the Flesh? on The Wall. Adams helped Pink Floyd a lot with their works and came up with the name for The Division Bell.


Awards

The movie was nominated for seven different awards and won one of them. It won the Golden Trailer Award under the category Most Original. 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 from Teen Choice Awards under the categories Choice Movie: Action/Adventure and Choice Rap Artist in a Movie: Mos Def.

Notes

  1. Slashdot interview with Robbie Stamp.
  2. http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galaxy/?critic=creamcrop
  3. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy?q=hitchhiker's
  4. http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/ReviewComplete.asp?FID=9807
  5. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050428/REVIEWS/50413005/1023
  6. Box office statistics
  7. Message announcing the recording of "Humma's Hymn" on the alt.fan.douglas-adams newsgroup.
  8. Buena Vista Press Release
  9. Hitchhiker's Guide DVD site, with the second trailer and clips.
  10. Golden Trailer Awards for 2005 at IMDb
  11. Full list of all award nominations for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at IMDb.


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.


External links




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