On the dumbing-down of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

So, last night I went to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, movie style. I was expecting to be disappointed, although positive reviews from the movie show (“fans of the book won’t be disappointed”) meant I was looking forward to it.

I won’t dissect all the problems with the movie, as others have done far more eloquently, but suffice to say:

  • They cut a lot of the funny verbal jokes (e.g. “I wish I’d listened to what my mother told me…”) for no apparent reason.

  • They cut a lot of the funny diversions out, presumably to save time, but this backfires because in Hitchhiker’s the side stories actually matter to the plot. For example, instead of the ship’s guidance systems being jammed because the computer is trying to work out how to make tea (or why Arthur likes tea, as the radio series had it), it’s jammed because the mice are (inexplicably, and apparently suicidally) messing with it.

  • They left in a whole lot of stuff without adequately explaining it to the non-fan audience, e.g. towels.

  • They inserted a really random side story that doesn’t make sense, and hardly matters to the plot.

  • They (predictably, I guess) turned it into a romance, in the traditional movie happily-ever-after style (even Zaphod gets a girl).

On the other hand, every version of Hitchhiker’s is different, and some of the new material was really good (I liked the bit on Vogsphere, and the animated guide entries were really cool). In the end it was an average movie, which could have been really good. They spoiled it for the Hitchhiker fans, by dumbing it down and taking out the jokes we know so well.

I’d love to know what someone who hasn’t read the book (or didn’t really like it) thinks, because I suspect that without that background knowledge the movie would be too confusing and hard to follow. I fear they’ve tried to please two different groups, hit somewhere in between, and will end up pleasing nobody. I doubt we’ll see a sequel.