Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Having mentioned it below, we went to see it yesterday. £3.90 for two tickets, thanks to Orange Wednesday and going early. Lots of food for thought, which may well take several posts, but let's see how it goes.

I got into HHGG shortly after a friend of mine played me the tapes of what turned out to be the second radio series recorded off Radio 4 (inevitably). I didn't understand all the humour, but the brainy anarchy hit a nerve, and it wasn't long before I was able to recite large chunks of the dialogue (the radio scripts were only published in book format some years later), and we were attempting to produce our own material in a similar style.

I never watched the TV version, but my friend ended up directing performances of the stage version in sixth form, and I rattled through the five books in the trilogy as they appeared (though I only actually own one of them, which is unusual - there are so many books in my house that it should follow from the Uncertainty Principle that at least two should be part of that series).

I still think the radio series are the strongest, though again through one of those odd quirks of fate, I have only heard the first two series. I was particularly disappointed that the whole nutrimatic cup/Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth/Lintilla/Man at the end of the universe thing wasn't taken any further in any of the other media - perhaps it was a dead end, but it was a section that really worked well.

So it was inevitable that I'd want to see the film. The first comment I would like to make is that film as a media damages originals. This struck me really strongly with the "Series of Unfortunate Events" film - in which, whilst the film was very good, had likeable child heroes and a suitably dastardly villain and henchmen, the unremittingly doom-laden black humour of the books has to be replaced (by virtue of the medium) with a level of "closure" - perhaps otherwise, people simply wouldn't know that the film had finished. Also with the films of "The Lord of the Rings". Again, stunning cinematic feats. But the relationship between Eowyn and Aragorn? The neat conclusions to the first and second films out of the narrative sequence? They may have been inevitable from a cinematic point of view - but this just underlines the fact that film can't translate literature - it is a very separate medium.

So also with HHGG. The radio series could simply leave things unresolved and open - the film had to tie things off neatly. So at the end of the Secondary Phase, we are left with Arthur making his own way somewhere else and Ford and Zaphod stranded on a planet - simply wondering, "Where do we go from here?" At the end of the Primary Phase (if I remember right) we don't even know if the characters have survived. At the end of the film - well, I have to be careful not to spoil it too much - but the characters have a lot more choice in where they end up and what they do.

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