Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hitchhiker Disappoints

Saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this week, and was disappointed.

I confess that I often have trouble seeing the point in remaking something that has already been done, and expect that if someone is tackling a classic they do so in the belief that they can do it better. I'll reluctantly concede that there may be a certain logic in remaking classic B&W films since modern audiences are often impatient with B&W and have difficulty relating to the styles and issues of other times with which they are unfamiliar, though I feel this reflects badly on the media literacy of our graduates. But where is the purpose in remaking a recent TV series?

Of course I am perfectly aware that the answer is "to make money". The producers have cast around for some popular product and then asked themselves how they can carve out a piece of that pie for themselves, regardless of the relative merits of the proposed remake. But hope springs eternal, and so I had opted for optimistic explanation that the producers loved the original books, and after seeing the cheesy production values of the original BBC series, decide to invest in Star Wars level special effects to 'do it right'.

The reality, needless to say, did not live up to this expectation.

There were some nice elements here and there, including decent casting. Alan Rickman is perfect for the voice of Marvin, for example, though I hated the new robot itself -- which looks like the annoyingly enthusiastic robot from Power Rangers -- a bad piece of 'casting' rendered even more distracting by the appearance of the original Marvin as an 'extra' in the waiting line in the Vogan bureau...

But the fundamental problem was the slobby abridgement of the original scripts... it often seemed like the producer /director just didn't 'get it.' Many of the memorable lines were there, but with all of the lines that build up to the punch line absent, the jokes fall flat. This was even more the case with the lack of character development -- Hitchhiker may never have been great literature, but it did develop a certain movie two-dimensionality through the repetition of predictable characteristics, e.g., Dent’s search for a cup of tea, or his resentful, whining, pessimistic “this is it, we’re all going to die” or Marvin’s “brain the size of a planet” theme or whatever. Instead, the abridgement left almost nothing to hang on to… By trying to cram in too many of the original scenes, each individual scene was necessarily so abbreviated as to lose its coherence and significance, with the result that the whole movie is reduced to pointless silliness.

Worst of all, the Guide itself only puts in a few random appearances; without the guide narration tying the pieces together, the whole premise of the movie is undermined.

My recommendation: get the original BBC production on DVD and watch that over again instead.

No comments: