Monday, September 05, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide out on DVD today

Oh mighty Arkleseizure, thou gazed from high above. And sneezed from out thy nostrils, a gift of bounteous love. The universe around us emerged from thy nose. Now we await with eager expectation, thy handkerchief, to bring us back to you
Aaaaachoooo! Bless you

Today sees the long anticipated DVD release of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the film of TV show of the book of the radio series of the script by Douglas Adams.

For a more general review of the film – which stars Martin Freeman (of The Office fame) and is narrated by celebrated gay thesp Stephen Fry - check out Empire Magazine. Of course, I intend to review the DVD from an atheist’s perspective, because Adams of course was a radical atheist.

In an interview with David Silverman in The American Atheist, he said:

“I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as "Atheist," some people will say, "Don't you mean 'Agnostic'?" I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference)... It's easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it's an opinion I hold seriously. It's funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism - both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.”

So, that radicalism permeates through all his writing, and I’m happy to announce that it hasn’t been omitted by the makers of the film. It is always a fear that anything controversial – especially something likely to upset the strong fundamentalist Christian lobby – will get watered down, if not bowdlerised completely.

In fact, the film-makers are quite up-front about it. They include the famous babel fish conundrum (“and [God] promptly vanishes in a puff of logic) as a special feature on the DVD.

For those who don’t already know, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a guide book (a sort of futuristic Rough Guide) around which the movie is based. It is said to be an inter-galactic best seller, shifting more copies even than popular titles like “Where God Went Wrong,” “Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes” and “Who Is This God Person Anyway?”.

The film does its best to highlight the absurdity of religion and faith by lampooning it. The hymn that I quoted right at the beginning is from a church (whose charismatic Billy Graham figure is played by John Malkovich) who believe the universe came into existence on a sneeze. Their logic is as internally consistent as these Christian morons.

Speaking of which, perhaps the best recommendation of the film is that the silly website Christian Spotlight on The Movies doesn’t like it. Proving more paranoid than Marvin the Paranoid Android, their reviewer says:

“There are also poorly written sops to gays and feminists which fill out the film’s politically correct liturgy. Clearly, Jenkins interprets Adams’s books polemically, and he works hard to insert these lame, ideological winks and nudges into the screenplay…”

Alas, I saw none of that.

It is a flawed film, but highly enjoyable, and as humanists, knowing what we know about what Adams was really critiquing, it is filled with little gems.

And of course it contains the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and, indeed, everything….

The Positive Atheism website has a compilation of Adams quotes to get you in the mood. You could also visit the official Douglas Adams website or check out the movie’s official website.

The DVD is available from all good High Street stockists and of course online as either a double-disk DVD (the second disc has an hour-long documentary) and as a gift pack (which includes the DVD, the book, and assorted goodies).

1 Comments:

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Oddly enough, I'm in the middle of listening to tapes of the orinal radio production of Hitchhiker at the moment, and very enjoyable it is, too. I've also just finished reading the original scripts (complete with occasional notes from Adams to various actors if he wants a particular effect or interpretation). I feel it was made for radio, so I shan't be rushing to see the film, although I will no doubt watch it in a couple of years' time when it appears on TV.

It will be difficult - much as I like Fry - to get the voice of Peter Jones (who plays the narrator known as 'The Book') out of my mind. Bill Franklin does a reasonable job of it in the later radio Hitchhiker series, but there's something rather unflappable, level-headed, equable, dispassionate, unemotional, tranquil, serene, composed, collected, placid, call it what you will, about Jones that it's hard to think of anyone else in that role.

 

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