Monday, May 02, 2005

"Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy" Opens in the U.S.

by William S. Kowinski

What can I tell you about "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" feature film that won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet? It opened the last weekend of April/first of May in the U.S. The look of it, beginning with the opening sequence, is glorious. Fans of the books and BBC TV series, etc. will find many of their favorite bits, and fantasize about how such lavish production will bring the other famous scenes to life in a possible sequel. And yes, you will be unable to get the dolphin's tune out of your head.

Fans of the TV series will be happy to know that there are generous excerpts from the Hitchhikers Guide, narrated by Stephen Fry who sounds very much like the TV (and radio) voice of Peter Jones. Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent on TV and radio, has a funny cameo in the film. And the signature TV theme is also used at least once.

The film opened at #1 in its first weekend in the U.S., although the total audience was down from the same weekend last year. This is remarkable enough for a story that was at the height of its popularity some twenty years ago. Whether the film continues to draw big audience remains to be seen. At the Sunday matinee where I saw it, there were hardcore fans who stood outside the theatre afterwards and talked about it. There were lots of children with parents at this showing, as there would be on a Sunday afternoon. There were a few general laughs during the show, a scattering of individual laughs at different things, and one person who laughed a lot (me.)

I suspect the movie won't be a runaway hit here. (I'll be pleasantly surprised if it is.) U.S. moviegoers aren't used to this English verbal humor, which hasn't been heard in films here for awhile, probably not since Monty Python, and then sparingly. References to a series of books culminating in "Who is this God Person Anyway?" early in the movie is oddly shocking now, suggesting how much we've reverted to a kind of 1950s phony public reverence. The Guide excerpts, so important to the TV version, slow the film down in terms of what young audiences are used to.

But I suspect that some of those kids in the audience, too young to have read the books or seen the TV series, will be taken in by the wonder of the imagery and perhaps dazzled by the odd take on things. They will know that the movie they've experienced is not Star Wars or like any other space opera, and that will turn off some and stimulate others. It's the others I think about.

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andrew and wendy said...

Just a small correction: the voice of the "Guide" in the film is done by Stephen Fry, not Simon Jones. Fry definitely retains Jones' sensitibility, though, which is why it's easy to think that you're actually listening to Jones himself.

andrew and wendy said...

Sorry about that... I meant to say Peter Jones, not Simon.

Captain Future said...

Hi Andrew and Wendy, and your picture, too:
Thanks for the correction. I've now frittered away two hours verifying this and I've changed the text. Of course that means your comment no longer makes sense. Sorry.
Thanks for stopping by, and for lending a hand---