May 1, 2005

It’s been a geeky evening, where I’ve watched both the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film, and the latest Doctor Who.

<lj-cut text=”HHGTG – contains spoilers”> I thought the film was entertaining, but I can see why some of the fans are annoyed. First, the bad things.

  • The language has been simplified, which spoils the rhythm of some of phrases and makes them less funny. For example, in the book, Paula Nancy Millstone Jenning’s poetry “perished with its creator in the destruction of the Earth”, whereas the film says it “was destroyed when the Earth was”. Ouch. Some of the extended sequences which play with language have been cut (Arthur’s rant ending with “Beware of the Leopard”, for example). The film is less erudite than previous incarnations of HHGTG.

  • I didn’t object to the Arthur/Trillian love interest in itself, since we’ve always known he fancied her. But it was overplayed in places, especially in Arthur’s speech about what the important questions were. The speech was American self-help babble, not the sort of thing a nervous Englishman would come out with. (Weren’t you glad when the mice interrupted him to continue their attempt to cut out his brain?)

  • I wonder what someone who had never seen any other members of the mighty HHGTG franchise would make of the film. There were several unexplained nods to the earlier works (such as the jewelled crabs on the planet Vogosphere). Not a bad thing if you’re a fan, though.

  • The sub-plot about Zaphod’s rival for the presidency was irrelevant and largely unfunny. They could have ditched that and had some of the actually good bits from earlier versions, and set up for the Point of View gun (which was funny) some other way.

  • Similarly, what was the vice-president actually for, other than to distract Zaphod from Trillian so that everyone (except Ford) gets the girl at the end?

There were good things.

  • The film made good use of visual gags which weren’t in the previous works but which fitted with the tone: how the dolphins left earth, for example, or the people in the pub lying down with paper bags over their heads just before the Earth was blown up, or the visual effect for the effect for the Improbability Drive jumps.

  • Stephen Fry is a good Book.

  • The factory floor scenes on Magrathea were really pretty.

  • Trillian was a cipher in the radio series, TV series and first book, a product of Adams’s self-confessed inability to write women. It was good to see more being made of the character in the film. Some people have complained that it wasn’t made clear in the film that Trillian is an astrophysicist, so she just looks like a thrill-seeker, but there are hints that she’s educated (dressing as Charles Darwin at a fancy dress party and carrying a beagle, muttering “so much for the laws of physics” as the Heart of Gold does an improbability jump).
  • The film is energetic and good natured and, silly speeches aside, very English.

Overall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an enjoyable adaption. While I still liked the other incarnations more, and can think of ways it could have been better, it is certainly not deserving of the OMG! sacrilege! stuff which was coming from some of the fans. It’s worth seeing.

<lj-cut text=”Doctor Who – likewise contains spoilers”> So to Doctor Who. This week’s episode was the first one where I’ve felt that the programme was being made for grown-ups. The Doctor, who we now know is probably the last surviving Time Lord, encounters the last surviving Dalek. Both are refugees from a cataclysmic battle which destroyed their races. The story played with the the idea that we become like our enemies, with the Dalek starting to show compassion, and the Doctor determined to exterminate it.

There’s still room for some humour. Line of the show: “It’s downloaded the Internet. It knows everything.” Haw!

Further to my last posting, Penny Arcade has Serenity spoilers (or rather, not).