Douglas Adams’ classic science fiction The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been adapted numerous times, into a radio drama, a stage show, a TV series, and a pretty funny film adaptation released in 2005, starring Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, and Zooey Deschanel. Said film, in my opinion, is majorly underrated. It features a depressed robot called Marvin voiced by Alan Rickman, for goodness sake. What is there not to love about that?
As many sci-fi geeks will already know, Hitchhiker’s follows the story of Arthur Dent (Freeman), a man unceremoniously rescued by an unknown-to-him alien friend, Ford Prefect, after the Earth is abruptly destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass – a space motorway, if you will. Armed with only his dressing gown, tea-making abilities, and a rather battered copy of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which serves as a handbook to all things weird and wacky that one might encounter in space (the aptly chosen Stephen Fry provides the voice of the Guide), Dent begrudgingly travels through the universe as part of a ragtag band of misfits searching for ‘the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything’. Garth Jennings’ adaptation of Adams’ series is crazy, hilarious, and packs in everything sci-fi that one could possibly hope for.
The film captures the typical dry and sarcastic British humour to a tee, spearheaded by leading (every)man Freeman. Arthur fumbles and stumbles his way through a fledgling romance with Tricia, or ‘Trillian’ (played by Deschanel), nearly always overshadowed by the suave and charming Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell), the two-headed captain of the ship Arthur finds himself on. Arthur and the audience are made one and the same as we are both bewildered by all manner of alien lifeforms, from spiders with a hundred legs to the order-obsessed Vogons, with Freeman giving an honest and sincere performance as he continuously freaks out at each new encounter. It is as funny as it is strangely relatable.
The best part of the adaptation for me is in its combination of utter ridiculousness and mundane normalcy. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is absurd, yet it somehow makes complete sense at the same time. The film opens on a Broadway musical-esque sequence of dolphins fleeing the earth before its aforementioned destruction, all the while praising and thanking the humans ‘for all the fish’ they’ve gifted them over the years. Also, there’s a whole scene dedicated to how Arthur just really wants some toast. This juxtaposition makes the film (and its source material) wholly relatable and heartfelt, despite the literal otherworldliness of its context. In sum it is an overwhelmingly heart-warming and entertaining experience. If you haven’t caught Hitchhiker’s yet, or read the book, now is the time! Plus, the amazing Bill Nighy’s in it!
Watch the trailer below: