Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

Nutrition and pleasurable sense data?

A short while before this, Gavin Greig had set out from his cabin in search of an amusing movie. It was not a quest he embarked upon with a great deal of optimism, because he knew that the dominant source of movies on the entire planet was a benighted den of populism akin to the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. It was called a Nutri-Matic Comedy Hollywoodiser, and he had encountered it before.

It claimed to produce the widest possible range of movies personally matched to the tastes and appreciation of whoever cared to use it. When put to the test, however, it invariably produced a plastic pap filled with a humour which was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Oh dear. I'm afraid I reluctantly have to join the ranks of those thinking that the new Hitch Hiker's Guide movie is... disappointing. I wanted to Share and Enjoy, I really did, but as it dragged on I felt a sinking sensation rather like Arthur Dent must have felt when faced with the Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer.

I think my biggest beef is with the characterisation. Zaphod and Ford are far too hyper, and Arthur is far too normal. Marvin is OK, I suppose, but needs more than about a line at a time to really establish his character. Trillian - well, Trillian has always been a bit of a non-character, so she may have improved slightly.

Returning to Zaphod, Ford and Arthur, Zaphod in particular is very in-your-face. I wasn't quite sure why this annoyed me, as Zaphod has always been a jerk, but listening again to the original radio series it dawned on me. Previously, Zaphod was an entirely self-obssessed hippy - he's desperate to appear cool, laid-back and dismissive, not just plain desperate! Ford was fairly guy-next-door and suburban (whether in Guildford or in space), with oddities that were only odd because they fit in somewhere else, not here. He was not hip, cool and hyper.

And Arthur! Martin Freeman's movie Arthur entirely misses the point. He's a normal guy. He tries to get things done. The audience is plainly meant to wish they were him. Wrong! The audience is meant to sympathise with Arthur, but be glad they're not him. Arthur Dent, as originally written and performed, is not good at adapting, though he's forced to get better at it as time goes by. The original Arthur is incensed that the Nutri-Matic can't make him a decent cup of tea. He argues with it. He insults it. He keeps insisting it try again to get it right. Finally, he explains tea to it in such depth that it locks up the circuits of the whole ship trying to figure out how to make the taste of dried leaves boiled in water with milk squirted out of a cow, while the ship is under Vogon attack. The movie Arthur? The movie Arthur is served tea in a cocktail glass, and obviously doesn't like it.

Arthur should not be a capable, if fairly average, hero; he's someone who finds it very hard to cope with what's thrown at him. I never questioned why Simon Jones' Arthur Dent kept wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown, as he clung on to what was left of his Earth. I don't know why Martin Freeman's Arthur hasn't climbed into some decent space clobber by the end of the movie. And that's just wrong! :-)

Maybe I am Arthur; people who don't know older interpretations seem to like this movie, and msinvisfem, although familiar with the TV series, enjoyed it more than I did.

Other people have commented that a lot of the humourous dialogue or narration has been dropped from the movie because it had to be kept down to a reasonable length and have a tighter plot than the originals. I recognise that films have to be snappier and that they can't necessarily go to the lengths that serialisations or books can. I can accept that some cuts may be necessary. A one hour fifty movie couldn't possibly spend as much time on verbal humour as Douglas Adams did in the radio series - where much the same story is told in the first four half-hour episodes!

The corners of my mouth twitched a few times; I felt a brief rush of excitement as the missiles rose from ancient Magrathea; the final resolution of the Vogon menace would have been satisfying if I'd had more chance to get to know the character responsible.

"If you have enjoyed the experience of this film," continued the Hollywoodiser, "why not share it with your friends?"

"Because," said Gavin tartly, "I want to keep them."
Tags: humour, movies

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