It’s always tricky seeing the film version of a book you love (and yes, I know Hitchhiker’s was a radio play before it was a book – but it was the book that I first read and loved). I find it interesting to see how close the filmmakers’ vision of the book is to my own interpretation. Normally there’s something to like, though this can often be outweighed by the aspects that just seem wrong.
I loved this film’s version of Marvin. He looked a lot more like “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun To Be With” than the one in the TV version (though it was nice to see that one having a cameo in the film). And when you add that to Warwick Davis’s depressed slump, and the ironic world-weariness of Alan Rickman’s voice … well, I’ve never had a strong visual impression of Marvin before, but I think this one will stick with me.
I read one review that said Martin Freeman was perfect as Arthur. Well, that’s just silly. The only person who is perfect as Arthur Dent is Simon Jones. However, I ended up liking Martin Freeman more than I expected. He wasn’t Simon Jones, and he wasn’t quite middle-class enough, but he did seem to capture the essence of Arthur. The rest of the main cast were a bit more disappointing. Ford’s part was cut right back, and Zaphod was a bit too over the top (though I’ve never been much of a Zaphod fan). I quite liked Trillian, although the development of the relationship with Arthur meant that she was fundamentally a different character.
I guess I can see why they built up the Arthur-Trillian relationship, though I don’t think it was really necessary – I think the film would have still had a good linear plot without it. However, having decided to put it in, I wish it had been a bit less conventionally bland: it was pleasant enough, but it didn’t have the slightly offbeat nature of the Arthur-Fenchurch relationship in So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad film. Much of the classic Adams stuff was there (though it’s a shame they dropped “on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard“), and some of the new stuff was fun – especially the Point-of-View gun. If I’d never read the book, I would probably rate the film higher than I do – certainly, it was funny and enjoyable. But it just didn’t have the offbeat zaniness of the book, which was disappointing. In spite of the cheesy special effects of the TV version, I think I preferred that over the film – though neither of them will ever take the place of the book.