Looking back at 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Feature Mark Harrison 3 Jan 2013 - 06:35

The 2005 adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy divided fans. Mark takes a look back...

In 2005, director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith, better known collectively as Hammer and Tongs, finally brought Disney's long-gestating film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy to the big screen. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. But as this article will contend, on the subject of the 2005 cinematic adaptation of the same name, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would have this to say: mostly harmless.

This is not a popular opinion amongst those fans who have derided the film ever since its release, but we don't intend to persuade people that they were wrong about this version of the beloved Douglas Adams story. But it was liked by some, including this writer, and so it's worth re-evaluating.

The basic story follows Earthman Arthur Dent on the day that both his house and his planet are demolished in quick succession. Rescued by his extraterrestrial friend, Ford Prefect, he thumbs a ride into the vast, huge, mind-boggling big-ness of space, and things only get stranger from there.

The film places more narrative emphasis on the hunt for the Ultimate Question that goes with the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, and so Arthur and Ford are brought aboard a ship that's been hijacked by Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox, in the course of hunting for the legendary planet of Magrathea.

Along the way, they tangle with bureaucratic Vogons, the pontiff of a bizarre religion, and the impending sense of randomness and dislocation that comes with travelling on a ship of infinite probability, without any home to which you can return. It's not a story that lends itself to an easy summary, which is perhaps the main reason why it took so long to get to the big screen anyway.

David Hughes' book, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, is an essential read for sci-fi movie fans, and it contains a suitably comprehensive account of the project's development from the late 1970s, through to the finished film. It details how Adams was approached first by an unnamed movie producer, and secondly by television network ABC, to make a version of the story Stateside. Adams turned down both offers, because the producer wanted to make “Star Wars with jokes”, and his experience with ABC "was like every horror story you've ever heard."

Terry Jones, Ivan Reitman and Rob Reiner all had a run at the material, clashing to various degrees with Adams' conviction in the story. In his inimitable fashion, the author described this period of development thusly: "The Hollywood process is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it."

Nevertheless, you can see the seeds that eventually germinated into the Hammer and Tongs version. Ivan Reitman originated the idea of making Ford appear to be American, to give American audiences someone to identify with, and it was thought that Bill Murray as the first choice for the role. According to producer Robbie Stamp, Adams approved of any changes in nationality, except for Arthur, who quite rightly remained English no matter what.

Adams came back into the fold shortly before his death in 2001, when director Jay Roach was using his clout from the success of Austin Powers and Meet The Parents to get the film into shape. The production was ready to go at Disney, with the hopes of casting Hugh Laurie as Arthur and Jim Carrey as Zaphod, when Adams passed away, just after his 50th birthday.

Development continued under Roach's supervision, even though he eventually took a producing credit and hired Garth Jennings to direct. The film opened strongly at the US box office, beating out the sequel to XXX for the top spot in its opening weekend, and ultimately went on to gross over $100 million worldwide; not a mega-hit, but for a film without any huge stars behind it, not a bad return.

There was just one big problem. The hardcore of fans didn't really take to it. That's not to say that they hated it unanimously, because that would just lend credence to the usual elitist fanboy polemic, whereby anyone who disagrees with a popular consensus isn't really a fan at all. As any fan of the pan-galactic gargle blaster will be aware, the effect of getting into fanboy arguments on the Internet is roughly like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped around a large gold brick.

Speaking personally, I became a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide in 2004, and by the time the film was released, I had devoured the books and the radio adaptations. When I first saw the film, it was actually my favourite of that year. My praise of it has been tempered by later viewings, but it remains that not every fan was either disappointed or outraged by the film.

It seems like an appropriate time to look back on the film, not just because we've just escaped another of those pesky predicted apocalypses, but because it was Disney's take on a much-loved sci-fi property. With Star Wars Episode VII on the way, it may well help to check ourselves and look at this one from a different perspective.

This film is another in a long, long line of adaptations of the source material - aside from the radio series and the books, the story has been told in a computer game, a stage show, a BBC TV series and even a set of towels. Even if Disney's version of a story in which God is said to have accidentally destroyed himself with logic isn't your preferred version, the finished film isn't the abomination that some have touted since its release.

It's a more “zany” version of the story than many fans might like, but it still captures more of the weird and wonderful tone than many would have you believe. Although the aforementioned sequence with God didn't make the final cut, it was actually animated, and can be seen on the DVD. So many of the jokes are preserved verbatim, and re-staged in fresh ways, (the scene with the whale and the flower pot made particularly enjoyable by Bill Bailey's vocals) that it does seem odd when the film diverges.

For instance, a scene that condenses Arthur's odyssey to find the council's planning department to the much less funny line “I had to go down to a cellar!” feels abashed by Adams' original words, a feeling that is uncharacteristic of the rest of the film. Crucially, it never feels like the changes are borne out of studio interference, but out of a desire to make this version distinctive from all of the others.

"The script we shot was very much based on the last draft that Douglas wrote," said Stamp, in an interview with Slashdot. "All the substantive new ideas in the movie […] are brand new Douglas ideas written especially for the movie by him." This included the Vogsphere, Humma Kavula, and even the embellished romantic relationship between Arthur and Trillian.

There's also a lot to be said for the cast of the film. With Martin Freeman having gone on to essay the roles of Dr John Watson and, most recently, Bilbo Baggins, this first run at an iconic British literary hero is perhaps the best performance in the film. He's got the exasperated everyman thing down, and it's tough to think of many suitable actors at the time who would've done a better job.

Not that the casting was note-perfect, of course. Mos Def is miscast as Ford, and Sam Rockwell's Zaphod seems to have traces left over from when Jim Carrey was considered for the part - although Rockwell is as watchable as ever, the character's also way over-the-top and far from his best work. Still, Zooey Deschanel does a fine job as Trillian, in a version of the story that pitches her as the only other survivor of Earth's destruction as much as a romantic lead.

There's also a truly superb voice cast. Alan Rickman as Marvin the paranoid android! Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide! Helen Mirren as Deep Thought! Thomas Lennon as Eddie the computer! The League of Gentlemen as the Vogons! This film has one of the best voice casts going, and it's sorely underrated for that alone.

There's also a very good musical score. Hammer and Tongs set the tone right at the start of the film with an entirely unexpected Busby Berkeley-style musical number called So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, which accompanies the dolphins' exit from planet Earth. If it lost you there, then fair enough, but the song, along with Neil Hannon's lounge-style reprise and Joey Talbot's score, makes a fine accompaniment for the film.

Likewise, the production design, which some could dismiss as 'toyetic', doesn't just make the film distinctive from other versions of Hitchhiker's, but from pretty much every other sci-fi film too. The animation of the Guide entries is enjoyable, the creature effects are very impressive, and it's also fun to watch the surreal transmogrifications that are dreamt up from the Infinite Improbability Drive.

But alas, even the film's cheeky sequel hook provoked ire. Yeah, we know that the Restaurant at the End of the Universe is at the chronological End, rather than the geographical End. But considering all of the good qualities that have been listed, and the solid foundation that they constructed in this adaptation, it shouldn't take an Infinite Improbability Drive to find another fan who would have liked to see Hammer and Tongs make that dinner date in a sequel.

Whatever your opinion of this film's quality, it is not, by any means, the cookie-cutter Disney-fied version of the story that was feared. While Adams wouldn't have tripped over any of the problems with wide-eyed reverence for his work if he had been able to see the script to fruition, the end result is a deeply unusual film, more than buzzwords like 'quirky' or 'zany' can encapsulate, with moments of real brilliance that are sadly overlooked: the Point of View Gun is a particular favourite of mine.

Only after 20 years of development, and fighting to preserve this much of the essence, could it turn out as unusual as it did, and yet it seems that most consider its greatest failing to be its difference from the source. Granted, Bill Murray is a much better actor than Mos Def, but just imagine if his Ford Prefect had been part of something that was little more than “Star Wars with jokes.”

Not that “It could have been worse” is a defence, because the relative merits of the film we got speak for themselves.

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Mos Def as a rapper, great. As Ford Prefect, not so great. I totally agree that casting was indeed a total misfire. That said, aesthetically the film looked great owing loads to all those classic Handmade films (Pythons, Time Bandits, Jabberwockey... ) even though Marvin was just a re-hash of the milk carton from H&T's Coffee and TV video they did for Blur.

Just because the new idea's are claimed to be "Douglas Adams ideas", it doesn't make them good. Nor should it be inferred that the execution of those ideas was in line with what Adams envisioned.

The film seemed to hack back on what made Hitchhikers good. The guide itself has most of it's lines trimmed back for the sake of a tacked on love story and some weird bit with John Malkovich as a space pope.

If you look at the film's run time compared with say that of the TV show, it gets to almost the same point but the TV show retains the humour and situations of Adams story.

There's so many little things wrong with the film that it turns into one big wrong thing. The casting way off in parts, Zaphod doesn't have two heads side by side, that "joke" at the end about the Restaurant at the End of the Universe "Actually it's at the OTHER end of the Universe" which to me clearly shows the people making the film haven't actually got as far as the 2nd book in their reading.

It was all just disappointing.

Still, at least they didn't go with that stupid idea to "have a more interesting answer than 42" that one Hollywood producer wanted.

Am I the only one that actually liked Mos Def as Ford Prefect? Of course, I'd seen the film before I'd read the books, and it took me a while to re-envision the character as he was supposed to be, but still I don't mind his performance and still quite like it. I love the movie in general.

Love the franchise, love this movie. Agree with almost everything you said. I actually like Sam Rockwell's Beeblebrox, and find the interplay between him and Arthur fascinating. The books will always be my fave version though

Oh this was not good. It really wasn't. For all its production faults, the TV series was far better.

Anything that Freeman's in he does that 'tilt and grimace' face which worked for 2 scenes in the Office and he hasn't managed to stop doing since.

Deschanel was alright, but far from a fine job. Again she's another actor who hardly has range.

2 things worked in the film, some of the graphics and Fry as the book. Everything else was just slightly off. It's not terrible, but it's hardly a fitting end for HH.

I'd love a new (well adapted TV series) of this with David Mitchell as Arthur and no-one from the Dirk Gently tv series involved.

As a family film it's fine, but as a Douglas Adams film it's definitely a misfire. So much of the dry humour is lost, and it's not just attributable to the Americans unfortunately. Whether through direction or actors' choices, Freeman and Nighy misstep a lot of their lines, missing what makes them funny. Arthur is a man completely unable to grasp what's happening, but Freeman made him far too naturalistic, too traditional an average man, not someone so stuck in their rut of mediocrity that everything takes that moment longer to process. For example, look at the dialogue:

'“Arthur, how would you react if I told you I was not from Guilford, as I’d previously claimed, but was in fact from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?”
“I don’t know. Why? Is it the sort of thing you’re likely to say?”

Arthur's response is a complete misunderstanding of what Ford is trying to tell him. He can't imagine it as anything more than a theoretical theoretical. Simon Jones nails the line in the radio and TV versions, but Freeman turns it into a joke, which ironically defuses the humour.

Meanwhile, Slartibartfast is a befuddled old man in the radio and TV versions. Like Arthur, he's thoroughly out of his depth, because he knows the life that he enjoys, and that's just doing Fjords forever. The uncomfortable response to his name 'I said it wasn't important' or the matter of fact 'It scares the willies out of me' both come from a place of having to cope with something he doesn't much want to be doing, because it is outside of his comfort zone. Nighy relishes it all too much.

Freeman and Nighy are both utterly excellent actors, but either by their choice or by the directors', they get it wrong here. That said, there are some exquisite moments in the film. The Magrathean base of operations is fabulous. The Vogon ship stuff was very good (I'm not convinced it's the best it could be, because I like the Vogons in the TV series), and some of the extra material on Vogsphere was very entertaining (maybe not the face-smackers...). And the song at the beginning was enjoyable, though not really in keeping with the tone of the story. Like I said, good family film, bad Adams film.

I agree with the family film element, My kids loved the movie and were singing the song for ages afterwards. However they couldn't get into the TV show which was too sedate and more subtle.

I think this version served Disney well enough, even if it wasn't quite what the fans would have responded to,

I could get behind a Mitchell version of Dent. Maybe Moffat's next project when Sherlock becomes impractical and he finishes on Who?

On Casting:
Martin Freeman as Arthur - GENIUS. Ever since his turn as downtrodden Tim in The Office, Freeman has managed to have that worn down by life look that's essential to the role of Arthur Dent and is more than capable of delivering Arthur's ironic (tinged with sarcasm) enthusiasm.
Stephen Fry as The Book - GENIUS. Who better to voice the biggest collection of weird, wonderful, and largely apocryphal facts about the universe than the learned presenter of QI. Like Peter Jones before him, he lends the book a gravitas that is a superb counterpoint to the obvious lunacy of the content.

Alan Rickman as Marvin - GENIUS. Like Freeman, Rickman has the ability to really get across our paranoid android's dissatisfaction with life.

Zooey Deschanel as Trillian - ADEQUATE. I like Deschanel - she has a quirkiness about her that reminds me of a young Karen Allen from RAIDERS and ANIMAL HOUSE. But the truth of the matter is that, like many writers of SF and comedy at the time, Adams struggles to write believable, female roles. Therefore, any reasonably able, young actress would have been able to play this role. If anything, Deschanel is possibly TOO attractive - after all, we are meant to believe that prior to the events of HHTTG, she was close to getting off with Arthur at a party.

Mos Def as Ford - DISMAL. Like many of the characters in HHTTG, there is something quintessentially British about Prefect's alienness. David Dixon, from the BBC TV adaptation, drew many comparisons with Tom Baker's Doctor Who portrayal, because it was quirky and bizarre, but in a quite restrained, understated way. Mos Def isn't...

Sam Rockwell as Zaphod - DISMAL. I like Sam Rockwell - I felt his performance in Duncan Jones' MOON was exceptional - but this version of Zaphod felt like a character borrowed from a Mel Brooks movie. As others have commented, two heads side by side gives a certain amount of self-reaction that lends visual comedy to a scene. Zaphod is a guy who, on the surface at least, doesn't care...about anything, and rarely gets excitable or angry or hysterical unless staring directly down the barrel of a gun.

Story: The love story ending stinks of studio appeasement - this is a Disney movie, so the hero must get the girl. Even though the whole point of Arthur is that he never gets the girl, even when the girl has no other same-species choice. Humma Kuvala and the Vogsphere are pointless diversions from the main plot, and are classic examples of messing with the story just for the sake of having the opportunity to do it. As devotees of HHTTG are aware, across Radio, TV and Book, no two versions are alike, but they are BROADLY similar in progression.

Design.On the whole, its not a bad looking film. However, the design of Marvin from the TV show is fairly iconic, and suits the character perfectly. To have Alan Rickman lend his voice to what appears to be the Dyson redesign of Pac-Man, only for the TV version to appear in a cameo later, lends a glossiness to Marvin that jars with the character.

The movie version of HHTTG is a disappointment to longstanding fans of the franchise, I think, mainly because the anticipation of a big screen adaptation built up over decades, only to be a significantly different beast to the one beloved of Hikers everywhere. LOTR fans waited even longer to see their story on the big screen, and Peter Jackson delivered it - losing unnecessary plot points such as Tom Bombadil. HHTTG seemed to go the other way - inventing bits of plot that, had they existed in the original versions, would probably have been trimmed by more experienced film-makers. In short, HHTTG is an enjoyable space romp for those unfamiliar with the source material, which in truth was probably Disney's target market. As for what they will do with the Star Wars franchise, well....it could hardly be worse than what its creator did a decade ago, now could it?

I thought Arthur was played as too cowardly and not bewildered or annoyed as he should be which was a shame because I initially thought Freeman to be an excellent casting decision. Ford, not so, but Rockwell & Rickman made for an excellent Zaphod and Marvin, likewise Stephen Fry as The Book.

With regard to what I said about the casting above - I think most of them were good choices for the characters we know and love, but many of them did not portray them as the characters we know and love - both Marvin and Zaphod's cosmetic changes for the film were bizarre (the 'brain the size of a planet' complaint was supposed to be metaphorical!!).

Overall I would say that for casting AND getting the look and feel right, only The Book comes out trumps.

The reason why Zaphod didn't have two heads throughout the film, and instead had that hidden flip top head, was purely budgetery. Anytime he would have been in shot they would have had to create some fancy cgi effect and the relatively modest budget of the film simply couldn't afford it. I've always had a soft spot for the terrible second head on the TV version though. The way it flopped about occasionally opening and closing it's mouth, it had a certain bizarre charm all of it's own.

I liked mos def as Prefect. But now we know that Martin Freeman *CAN* do more than Tim-From-The-Office it's a real shame he seemed to be told to just be Tim from The Office.

Just to add something that may be an interesting bit of supporting info for your theory: Martin Freeman did audiobooks of Restaurant, Life, Fish and Mostly Harmless that came out around the time of the movie (I think) and his Arthur reading there is MUCH more in line with other interpretations. I think it's fair to say that the movie version of the character is a very deliberate choice.

You're not alone. After I watched the movie, I now have Mos Def pictured as Ford.

An example of how an author's involvement led to a critically acclaimed movie adaptation is John Irving's adaptation of his book "The Cider House Rules".

Don't you just love the interwebs for people making specious generalisations? Apparently believing or saying something (without any evidence other than one's own opinion) makes it universally true these days.

I actually like this movie. Mos Def got the job done, but he was the MOST MISCAST person in movie history for this role. It's not his fault. It's a fail on the directors part. Anyone who sees Mos Def as Ford must not have grown up with HHGTTG as I did. Either that, or they've been drinking copious amounts of PanGalactic Gargle Blasters. He got all the subtleties of the character wrong and lacked the charm of previous Ford castings. Also grossly miscast (or just misplayed) was Zaphod.....Zaphod was never an A%$hole, yet in this version he was the biggest of A*&holes...not a likeable guy at all....huge misfire! Arthur was very well-cast for this, thankfully. Martin Freeman did an excellent job...although he wasn't quite as irritable and annoyed as Arthur was supposed to be (another Director problem).
To summarize, I do enjoy the film, it's a fun romp. The visuals are great....and the whole Magrathea thing was amazingly done!! However, it definitely pales in a large way compared to every other version. The fault for this lies squarely on the Director's shoulders.

No. In fact, one of the few things I liked was Ford's entrance on a shopping trolly full of beer. Not a perfect Prefect, but I did like him.

Totally agree with the first paragraph.

I *like* the movie, but I've always felt unsatisfied after watching it -- it's as though I was invited over for dinner and then given a lollipop that tastes like roast chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. It tastes like Douglas Adams, but is not nearly as substantial or satisfying as it should be. There's too much "aren't we zany!" and not enough of the philosophy behind it. Which I understand is hard to convey in a movie, but still.

What I do *love love love* about the movie is the planet-building scene. I hadn't imagined anything on quite that scale when reading the books, and it was marvelous to see!

It's a very entertaining film. Obviously only based (loosely) on the book, but it works. Although Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel have no chemistry. At all. The scene where they're discussing "space names" is cringeworthy

I unabashedly enjoy this film. I own it and it enjoys the rare privilege of being one of the few DVDs I pull out regularly to re-watch. It isn't perfect but I dare say neither was the TV version, the game or a couple of the books (!). But it satisfies and speaks well of the source material. I'm happy with it in a way I did not expect.

Enjoy the film all you want...it was good in its own right, but it will still never be anywhere near as good as the tv version......Oh, and the books WERE perfect, my friend. Lol

just one little thing, wasn't it Stephen Fry that did the voice of the whale and the pot plant, not Bill Bailey? could be wrong though

Because Disney couldn't afford it? I think they just tried to do it different.

As a life long fan... being old... and hearing the radio series back in 79 or 80...

I think they waited until his body was slightly cold before green lighting it. Then they threw it together. My biggest issues are:
Most of the clever dialog was chopped down to punch lines. All Marvin ever really says is, "I'm so depressed."
A love story? Trying to force a romance between Arthur and Trillian was a mistake.
The Zaphod head thing. And he never comes off as cool-ish, but, as one comment said, an a-hole.
The Simon Jones cameo looked like rubbish.

I did like, for the most part, Def as Ford. His entrance was great.
The factory floor was awesome.
The Vogons were fantastic!
Some of the score was pretty sweet.

It wasn't the hit that Disney first tried to make it out to be... no sequel... not even direct to DVD.
Maybe one day. I love the (somewhat) recent radio series made of the last three books. Seamless! They restructured and improved the story without changing the heart and soul. I think Douglas would love what Dirk Maggs and his crew did!

Movie was fine. Contained all scenes from the short book, and they added a few to make a full length movie. As opposed to splitting the book into 3 parts, adding a bunch of crap, and making each part 3 hours long.

I've always thought it was odd that they didn't change Ford Prefects name. It makes sense as a radio show and book written in the last 70's and early 80's but by the time the film came out it was meaningless. They should have renamed him Ford Focus, which refreshes the joke for both European and American audiences.

Not the only fault by A LONG WAY but one I think that highlights how un-evolved the script for the film was.

Agreed!

They could have made Alfred in Batman an African American or a Mexican to appeal more to American audiences. I mean, how many American families hire British servants?

Yes, you are wrong.

Bill Bailey did the voice of the whale and the plant did not speak.

It did, however, think "Oh, no. Not again."

They would if they could.

Wasn't actually my point. The point was that Ford Prefect wouldn't call himself that because the Ford Prefect car had long since disappeared by the time the film came out. In the 70's/ early 80's this joke works... see... Ford did so little research into Earth that he thought Ford Prefect was a good name for a human...

Got that?

I seem to be alone in thinking Marvin was awful. People seem to worship at the feet of Alan Rickman, but this version of Marvin sounded more like a poor sitcom version of depressed, and visually he was underwhelming.

It's a funny one for me. I saw the movie first and then devoured the books, went back and watched the movie a couple of years later and thought it was awful and Mos Def was an awful Ford. Yet I'm always going to imagine Marvin with that massive white head and Ford is always going to look like Mos Def in my head (though I still imagined him as having an English accent).

Yes, I have read the book.

My point was, why do they have to change a character's name just to please modern day audiences?

His name is Ford Prefect. End of.

End of... so rude.

But it's not the end of because the joke no longer works, not at all and they should have updated the name because it absolutely does not work now... not for a film that came out 30+ years after the radio play was aired. The film isn't set in 1979 where the joke still makes sense.

You get joke yes? You see how lazy Ford was in his research, yes? But if Ford had been stuck on Earth for a decade from before the time of the film his limited research would reveal that Ford Focus (or whatever) was a popular enough name for him to fit in. Ford Prefect would have taken a lot more research, it is after all a car utterly unknown by anyone over the age of 45... Yes?

Your example of Alfred is a false equivalency... I'm not suggesting they change a name to simply appease American audiences, I'm saying the joke doesn't work anymore because it is dated.

End of.

I think you should do more research into this topic.

Did you see the movie first or read the books first? It seems like most people that really like Mos Def as Ford Prefect are movie firsters.

Nope, I stand by my comments... one exception is not automatically the norm, authors should never be directly involved in writing adaptations of their work, and should serve as mere creative consultants at most.

I didn't mention any exceptions, but i could come up with many more than one. I think what you're saying is small minded and short sighted. Things like this should be approached on a case by case basis, and should depend on those involved. Just because you stand by your statement doesn't make it any less wrong.

....and now in The Hobbit he's just a ye olde version of Tim-From-The-Office

I liked the voice but I thought the look was all wrong - the costume designers obviously saw the phrase "Brain the size of a planet" and misunderstood completely

American audiences never got the joke because the Prefect was not on sale in the US - most Americans just believed it was funny because he had spelled 'Perfect' wrong.

Your argument is barely cohesive anyway because the British Ford Prefect car had already been out of production for over seventeen years by the time the radio show was broadcast. The film actually explains the joke - Arthur saves Ford from being run over by a Ford Prefect.

The voices in my head and I agree. They should have had Terry Gilliam film the version that plays in my mind when I read the books.

When I first read Hitch Hiker's as a teenager the Ford Prefect had not been produced for over 30 years - but it took just an ounce of sense to figure out the joke.

Seriously, I have never heard of such a ridiculously stupid idea as renaming a major and well loved character just because some younger or less knowledgeable people might not get the joke - a minor joke which is not important to the plot in anyway whatsoever apart from to let us know that Ford is a little eccentric - but that becomes blatantly obvious from the minute he opens his mouth anyway.

Ford is never fully named in the movie. Watch it all the way through and you will find that the word "Prefect" is never spoken by any other character - he is only ever referred to as Ford - which makes your whole moronic idea redundant.

Perhaps, when Disney release the next Star Wars film they should rename Luke since he doesn't actually walk in the sky and give Han a new moniker because, now that he's married to Leia, he's not 'Solo' anymore.

Stephen Fry was The Book and not, as you suggest, the Whale and the bowl of petunias.

You liked this movie and call yourself an author. Nice use of paradox.

Ah - the perfect example of the 'my opinion is the only one which counts' comment. Well done on that.

Oh come on, don't be so precious. Of course I think the idea is terrible as was the film but to say you should never change anything because it's well loved is the very definition of obsessive geekdom. You don't own it. HH evolved, it didn't just translate the radio show to book, tv etc... that was always the great thing about it. And as much as I dislike the film I don't care they changed things, this was always inherently what HH was.

As it happens I doubt very much indeed that 'most Americans' believed the joke was a misspelling of 'Perfect', why did you get that from.

And Cake Face, your example is terrible, Han Solo was with Chewy when we meet him, he wasn't Solo to being with, so that doesn't work. Well done.

The thing about Prefect/Perfect has been well known for many, many years. It is a well established joke amongst HHGTTG fans on both sides of the pond.

Did you really think I was being serious with those Star Wars examples. Your sense of humour and irony is severely lacking my friend. No wonder you worry about people not getting the Ford Prefect joke.

Most Americans just didn't know it was a joke at all. They just thought it was his name. No "lol they spelled 'perfect' wrong" or anything like that.

Sorry to correct you but that is actually a true story - it is a well known fact amongst HHGTTG fans and has been since the early 80s. There's no shame in it and it is certainly not a slight on Americans - it is absolutely true that the majority of US fans believed it was spelled wrong because Ford himself was eccentric and likely to make that mistake - not having heard of the make of car, of course, helped towards that misconception.

I first heard this at Hitchercon in Glasgow in 1980 direct from the mouth of a US fan and it has been a good natured joke between hardcore US and UK fans ever since - it has been mentioned in ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha's Mostly Harmless magazine countless times - Even Adams himself was aware of it. Starburst Magazine, back in the early 90s, ran an article entitled Perfect Prefect on how the jokes of Adams', and other British comic Sci-Fi & Fantasy writers, such as Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, Robert Rankin and Piers Anthony sometimes don't translate across the pond.

A note on your final Disney/Star Wars comment: I wouldn't worry about it. If anything, I have a ton of confidence in Disney handling the saga. They owned Marvel during the production of the Avengers. They oversaw all of that. That's got to count for something!

Maybe it's a sign of how little research Ford did that he's called 'Ford Prefect' on 21st century Earth. Maybe he looked at old evidence and thought it was up to date? Criticise the film all you want, but that's a pretty nit-picky issue you're poking at there.

I believe this movie was very well done screw all the stupid talk about adaptations Sam Rockwell was perfect cast for zaphod. Mos def as ford was helped me to relate and quite frankly one of my fav characters. I love bill murray and jim carrey but could not say that these actors would have made the movie all that much better by being casted of course it would be another big budget film with overpaid actors (minus bill murray). the more that I actually watch this movie I find very little wrong with it it seems to be a good film packed with silly jokes and 1 liners. I believe it causes you to use your imagination and think of the possibilities of exploring the unknown. to those who are fans of the book understand that movie adaptations a lot of times do not do justice, but rest assured I do not find very much wrong with this movie at all I have no complaints.

I'm an American, and frankly the only time in my nearly seven decades of life that I ever heard of a car named Ford Prefect was a few years back when my son told me that's where the character's name came from. As "Ford" is of course the name of an actual family, and as last names are rather commonly borrowed for use as a first name, I hadn't really found anything strange about the character's name.

This is exactly the point I am making - it's funny to British because of the car, not funny to Americans because the joke references a British cultural icon - It did our friends in the US no harm in not getting the joke, just as it will do our younger HHGTTG fans no harm in not getting the joke. It does not affect the story in any any whatsoever so changing it would be pointless if just for one small laugh near the beginning of the film.

I grew up with the books :)

Well every film has a limited budget. Just because Disney could spend a fortune on bringing Zaphod's second head to life doesn't mean they are going to. Trust me I know what I'm talking about. Sorry this reply is so late it's ridiculous!

agreed! Sam Rockwell was amazing :P

as I watch the movie again the only thing I found annoying was Marvin..he should have been more in the background, his annoying voice was too present for me.

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