Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy Film

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Adapting any narrative piece to film is not the easiest feat to handle, regardless of the genre or source material. Due to the limitations that films contain compared to books or video games, it is impossible to include every element of the story. Hence, it might be extremely hard to satisfy the audiences, particularly those that are familiar with the source material. With this in mind, screenwriters and film directors often come out with original ideas that allow viewers to separate the movie from the book. One such example is Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the 2005 adaptation of which can be almost considered a standalone piece.
Same Ideas, Spiced Up
While the plot of the book and the film can be summarized with the same words, both contain unique elements that make each spicy in their own unique way. The narrative of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy follows Arthur Dent, a regular human, who wakes up one day to find out that his house is about to be demolished due to the local planning program agreed without Arthur’s consent. As the construction crew starts demolishing, they are disrupted by an alien invasion of Vogons who declare that the Earth is about to be demolished as a part of hyperspace expressway construction program. To save their lives, Arthur’s friend Ford Prefect hitches a ride on a spaceship with Arthur and both go on a space adventure through some of the strangest places in the universe (Adams; Jennings). Both narratives, that of the book and film, are also filled with humor as well as social and bureaucratic satire. Yet, the film omits or adds certain elements that make the works different in detail.
Many jokes and satirical references in the book differ from those seen in the film to be more screen friendly. However, as the co-writer for the film was Douglas Adams, those jokes and references did not suffer in terms of quality. As such, in the beginning of the story, in order to protest the demolition of his house, Arthur lies down in front of the bulldozer. Arthur’s friend, Ford Prefect, in order to tone the argument down, invites the local bureaucrat to replace Arthur, so that they could go for a beer to the local pub. In the film, however, Prefect offers beer to the construction crew to distract them from work (Adams; Jennings; Marrian). This was probably done in order not to incorporate another character of the bureaucrat into the film to save screentime. Nevertheless, the humor of the scene does not suffer in quality and remains the same in essence.
The setting in the film has been also changed compared to the book in certain aspects. For example, in the book, the characters visit only one planet on the ship Heart of Gold, which is Magrathea (Adams). In the film, however, the crew lands on two completely different planets, Vitvolde VI and Vogsphere as well as have adventures there (Jennings; Marrian). Considering that the script was co-written by Douglas Adams, the author of the original book, the setting was altered likely in order to extend the story and its universe.
The endings of the film and book are also radically different. The film ends with a happy ending with Earth being restored and Arthur waking up as if nothing has happened (Jennings). The book, however, has a more tragic ending with the Earth being seemingly lost forever. It is to be restored, however, in the fourth book of the series (Adams; Marrian). This was made due to the differences in continuity of the story in the book and the film. The book version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is, in fact, a series composed of six books. The film, however, does not have sequels as of 2022, and none were yet planned. Hence, ending the film happily was a reasonable move.
Conclusion
The list of difference between the narratives in the book and film versions of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can go on. Yet, from those mentioned above, it becomes clear that the works are largely different due to the director Garth Jennings’ vision as well as Douglas Adams’ conscious efforts to write a more screen friendly script. The case of the book’s 2005 film adaptation proves that adaptations can be oftentimes considered as standalone works that are largely spiced up or sometime limited due to the opportunities and limitations films provide correspondingly.
Works Cited
Adams, Douglas. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy: The Complete Trilogy In Five Parts. Pan Macmillan, 2017.
Jennings, Garth. The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, 2005.
Marrian, Lorinda. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy: 10 Ways The 2005 Movie Was Different To The Book". Screenrant, 2020, https://screenrant.com/hitchhikers-guide-galaxy-2005-movie-different-book/.

May 12, 2022
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