Film: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
May 1, 2005
Reporter : Peter Thompson
Director: Garth Jennings
As every good hitchhiker knows, Australia is already ruled by Vogons. But as the Guide says, don’t panic! There’s a whole galaxy out there! Soon after the first radio series was broadcast, talk started about a feature film of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Douglas Adams worked on it for more than 20 years. Simultaneously, he wrote several more spin-offs and other original works and the BBC-made a television series. Now the movie has arrived and it seems very likely that he would have approved. Two reasons for this: the project was well advanced four years ago when he died; and, it has been made by devoted followers committed to getting it right. The problem, if there is a problem, is that many other films, inspired by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, have come and gone, potentially stealing its thunder. Once again, don’t panic! There’s enough originality and joyous enthusiasm bouncing off the screen to blow all doubts away.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy follows the perilous adventures of a very ordinary man, Arthur Dent, as he travels through space after the Earth is obliterated. But Arthur and his friend Ford Prefect have one big adventure.
ROBBIE STAMP: “No other science fiction movie has had this wonderful thing called The Guide, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this voice of intelligence and humour."
GARTH JENNINGS: "It doesn't just tell you what's going on in the film. It tells you wonderful things about the universe that our hero is in."
ROBBIE STAMP: "The guide graphics will surprise people. They are going to be very beautiful two-D animations."
VOICE OF THE GUIDE: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the most successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporation of Ursa Minor."
EXCERPT: "You can say to the guide, "Vogon", and a load of information comes up about Vogons”
VOICE OF THE GUIDE: "Vogons are one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous."
The Hitchhiker’s Guide is an astonishingly accomplished debut for its director Garth Jennings who made his reputation creating music videos and commercials.
GARTH JENNINGS: “I read it and really loved it. And I loved it so much that I thought, My God! I can’t do this! ‘Cause this is just too … It’s a whole big world of people’s expectations and there are so many people like me who want to see it done properly. And at first that was intimidating but only for a weekend.”
Jennings’ cast includes English actor Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, Mos Def as Ford and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, the girl Arthur adores. And then there are the Vogons.
GARTH JENNINGS: “It was always supposed to be like a surreal spin on everyday life. So with the Vogons it was a case of creating a grotesque version of a human being that would symbolize that kind of hideous bureaucracy and relentlessness and that stupidity and that lack of humanity.”
Instead of exclusively following the now accepted path of computer generated imagery, Jennings and his team opted for animatronic imagery, created by Jim Henson’s Creature shop.
“The advantage is that the live actors can relate to the Vogons and their otherworldly characters in real space and time.”
Over it all presides if not the ghost then the spirit of Douglas Adams. The executive producer is his friend Robbie Stamp.
ROBBIE STAMP: “I think he was one of those people, that very thin layer of people who truly was a genius. He was a primary creative person and he created this extraordinary galaxy of characters, ideas, concepts, thoughts which has somehow found its way into the hearts and minds of millions of people all over the world.”
There are three core qualities in Hitchhiker’s: it’s very, very funny, it’s very, very inventive and it’s intelligent and I think between that mix of things there’s something there for everybody. So you’ve got philosophy, you’ve got ideas, you’ve got thoughts about the environment, thoughts about the nature of language, the nature of existence, but there’s always a joke that goes with it.”
GARTH JENNINGS: `”I really want the audience to have a really brilliant time and hopefully see something that isn’t the norm. I think one of the great things about the material is that it’s very, very different from everything else.
While there are millions of Douglas Adams fans around the world, a generation has grown up since he created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So the film has to find a whole new audience willing to connect to its weird and wonderful vision. To their credit, the filmmakers have remained true to that vision instead of jazzing it up to compete with contemporary special effects movies like The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. The great charm of The Hitchhiker’s Guide is its uniqueness. It shares qualities with The Goon Show and Monty Python but it has a wonderfully refreshing innocence all its own. In a world sorely in need of optimism, it’s come at the right time.
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