The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Since I reviewed the theatrical version of Hitchhiker’s I’d normally pass this one on to someone else to review. But I’m a selfish bastard and didn’t want to let go of the disc. Instead I took it out of my mailbox, clutched to my breast, and spun in circles humming “So long and thanks for all the fish”.
This is my second time reviewing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie on this site, so rather than rehashing everything I said the first time around let’s focus on how well the movie holds up on multiple viewings.
First, a positioning statement: When it comes to Hitchhiker’s Guide I’m completely biased. I love the books, I love Douglas Adams, I love these characters, and I love this universe. For me that’s translated into a real love of the movie, though for some other hardcore Hitchhiker’s fans it hasn’t. Some hated the movie so much, they gave up HHG entirely and ran off to join the circus after seeing Garth Jennings’ film. These people are unbalanced and generally just unable to let go of their own personal interpretation of the novels. This is a movie that captures the spirit of Adams’ material, not every tiny, detailed, ridiculously anal specific. Not that I’m not unbalanced too, but in a blithely (and hopefully slightly more reasonable) positive way.
That said, I find I like the movie less with each subsequent viewing. That’s become compounded by the experience of seeing it in my living room, on a small screen, alone because my wife has had enough Hitchhiker’s Guide this year already. The film’s still good, but the laughs aren’t quite as big because they’re simply no longer surprising. The effects are still brilliant and the characters well drawn, but it loses a little bit of the sparkle it had the first few times I saw it. And then there’s the weird Humma-Kuvala subplot and the kind of awkward love story between Arthur and Trillian. The film drags longer and longer in those places every time I’m forced to see them. Really guys, you should have dropped the Humma thing and just let Zaphod keep his extra arm. Damn the effects budget! Cut from somewhere else.
The only thing that really has gotten better after a second, third, or fourth viewing is Zaphod. For some reason Sam Rockwell just gets funnier. He claims to be basing his performance on Bill Clinton, but his take seems more hilariously Bush-like than ever. In fact, all the performances remain pretty brilliant; it’s only that the movie’s flaws drag a bit heavier the more you watch it.
But now it sounds like I’m backpedaling to trash a movie I gave a glowing review to the first time I saw it. I don’t want to do that, because Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is still a hilarious, fun film and a pretty solid adaptation of Douglas Adam’s absolutely genius work. Could it have been better? Almost certainly. But what’s there is still pretty darn good. As a fan of the books, I’m still not disappointed in what ended up on screen. What’s really frustrating is that for all of its flaws, Hitchhiker’s Guide would be a great jumping off point for a series of these films. With the characters so well established, things are only going to get better. I’m dying to see the gang hanging out at Milliways. Sadly, unless this DVD flies off the shelves like “Firefly” that’s not going to happen. The movie was a mild flop, and no studio will ever invest the cast necessary for a sequel. That investment capital is needed for a new skateboarding movie… or something. God I’m so depressed.
This isn’t a special edition, or a director’s cut, or the Hitchhiker’s “Thanks For All The Fish” Edition. It’s just a run-of-the-mill, plain-Jane, single-disc release from Touchstone; as you’d expect with a movie that performed a gentle belly-flop in theaters. So lower your extras expectations accordingly. That’s not to say Touchstone has been lazy. Despite the film’s low box office performance they probably know that HHG’s devoted fan base is guaranteed to buy the movie for their collection, and because of the oddball nature of the film itself there’s a chance it could become a cult hit on DVD. So even though this is a pretty basic release of Hitchhiker’s Guide, they’ve done a decent job with it.
The first thing you’ll notice is the DVD menus. That’s because the menus is the first thing to pop up on the screen once you insert the disc and skip past all those annoying trailers. It feels good to verify the obvious. They’ve chosen to do the menus in the style of the Guide itself. It’s an obvious choice; I mean what else were they going to do? But it’s a little bland. Pink buttons and bars… basic navigation. It could have been a little more tricked up. There’s some attempt at hilarity with the inclusion of an “Improbability” button, but clicking it results in nothing entertaining. It just randomly starts one of the special features available from elsewhere menu. I’d have preferred something a little weirder; perhaps the entire menu could have turned into a bowl of petunias or something.
This is a basic release, but it does include a few special features. You’ll find a short, but entertaining documentary called “The Making of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” included, deleted scenes, fake (and funnier than the real ones) deleted scenes, a dolphin sing-along (follow the bouncing ball!), and an annoying DVD game called “Marvin’s Hangman” which serves no real purpose except as a depressant.
More interesting than all the above mentioned crap are the commentary tracks, of which there are two. Actually, that’s kind of rare. It’s not often a basic release like this gets one commentary, let alone two. Nicely done Touchstone. What’s really great about them is they both approach the movie from two completely different directions. The first commentary track features various producers and actors from the film, and tackles the movie from a strictly filmmaking prospective. It’s full of comments on what it took to make the movie, amusing on-set anecdotes, and the usual. The second track takes on the movie from the perspective of fans of the book, with commentary by the film’s executive producer and a close colleague and friend of Douglas Adams Sean Solle.
Touchstone has done a solid job here; they’ve released a decent single disc set without having to bother with the expectations of a Special Edition. If for some reason the movie does become a cult hit, expect a double dip from them, but this is a release that should hold up well enough to take its place in any good hitchhiker’s collection.
Reviewed By: Joshua Tyler