The core of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is an origin story. A creation mythology. A satire on religion. A love story.
Douglas Adams was an architect of the absurd, his style of humor combined irony and satire with obscure coincidence and he plays with language in a masterful manner. It’s difficult to explain without specific examples and a short plot summary.
The movie begins with a construction fleet prepping to bulldoze Arthur Dent’s (Martin Freeman) house to put in a freeway bypass. Coincidentally, this was also the day that the planet Earth was also scheduled for demolition for a hyper-space bypass. Fortunately, Arthur is rescued by his alien friend Ford Prefect (Yasiin Bey). We are told the unlikely escape had a mathematical probability of 2 to the power of 2079460347 to 1. Moreover, 207-946-0347 also happens to be the phone number of the house where Arthur met Trisha McMillian (Zooey Deschanel).
This is the type of dry and convoluted humor that Adams was best known for. The main plot of the film involves searching for the “ultimate question.” Millions of years ago, an alien race made a computer (Deep Thought) to calculate the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” The computer spent 7.5 million years thinking about it, and declared the answer to be 42. Dissatisfied with this conclusion, the aliens asked the computer to define the ultimate question, and in answer Deep Thought designed Earth to do the calculation.
For those not familiar with the book version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the movie will seem very random, filled with non-sequiturs, and not very well explained. For those who have read the books, listened to the radio drama, and seen the TV show, the movie will seem perfectly natural.
Douglas Adams was a comedian who knew how to use media. Many of the same jokes appear in the various forms of the Hitchhiker story, yet they are all catered to the format they are being told in. The movie has many visual gags added that are not possible to put on a radio drama, or even in print. The book and radio versions play with language a little more, and draw out some of the jokes and explanations a little longer.
If your familiar with the series, enjoy it, and haven’t seen the film, you probably should. You’ve put it off for 10 years and you’re not getting any younger.
If you aren’t familiar with the series, the movie is a great introduction. It gives you a taste for Adam’s silly humor, and satirical wit, and if those things tickle you, I would definitely recommend reading the book as a followup.
So long and thanks for all the fish.