Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak/Roger Nicholl (11th February 2007).
The Film

Could there be a better time for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to make it to the big screen? Douglas Adams' sci-fi comedy can finally be filmed without cheap prosthetic second heads and clunky space ships. The resulting film gets the look of the 'Hitchhiker's' universe right but is just amusing, not hilarious. It's an adaptation that Adams' fans can be pleased with rather than proud of.
The story follows Englishman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), who discovers his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien. It's fortunate he is as Ford manages to get them off Earth as it's demolished to make way for an interstellar expressway. They find themselves on a ship run by the maniacally bureaucratic Vogons, are ejected out of the air lock and, luckily, picked up by Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell).
Coincidentally, Ford has been dreaming about Trillian ever since they met at a party. But she left that party with Zaphod instead. Zaphod happens to be the President of the Galaxy, but he's just stolen a spaceship fitted with an Improbability Drive to take him to discover the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
From here the film follows their travels around the galaxy. To explain the various things they encounter the film cuts to an animated Hitchhiker's Guide which explains the alien races, history, etc. The animations are excellent, but some things that are funny written down aren't funny when read out. Particularly when read by Stephen Fry. He not only narrates the Hitchhiker's Guide entries, but the film in general. His narration fails to generate a single laugh. It's the sort of thing that someone, somewhere, would find funny. I finally worked out who that person was. Me, when I was reading the book twelve years ago.
Of the characters that appear on screen, Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox is probably even less funny than Stephen Fry. Not only isn't he funny, but it's hard to tell just what the hell his character is. It seemed like unfocused manic screeching to me. And despite the CGI, the second head just does not work. Marvin the android (Warwick Davis) isn't funny either, but seems a bit of an afterthought anyway. Mos Def as Ford Prefect is fine, but the character seems a little underwritten (and possibly retarded).
When the film focuses on Arthur and Trillian it generates the emotional weight it needs to avoid being just a series of jokes about humorous alien races. Freeman and Deschanel are perfectly cast; Freeman makes a great hapless hero and Deschanel is the perfect object of his affection that may not be too far out of his reach. As the last two humans (and possibly the only sane creatures) in the universe they really make the film. It's a pity the universe isn't funnier.
When I've read the book, an adaptation often seems like a filmed 'Classics Illustrated' comic to me. "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe" is a bit of a sprint through the story, but not to the extent that it isn't enjoyable. Despite the faults, the fact that the source material is so strong means that there's far more good stuff here than in your average film.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen this transfer is a 1080p high definition image which uses AVC MPEG-4 codec. The resulting image is fantastic. The color contrast is simply beautiful, the colors are bright and well balanced, skin tones are natural with blacks exhibiting a boldness and depth that makes standard DVD look like a relic in comparison. I was impressed with the overall sharpness and detail was superb. I didn't see any flaws associated with this transfer, no halos, no edge-enhancement, and compression issues, nothing at all. As far as this disc is concerned we have ourselves yet another reference quality image from the folks at Buena Vista.

Audio: Four audio tracks are included on this disc, an English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 transferred at 48kHz / 16-bit, as well as standard English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose top view the film with its PCM audio. Much like previous Buena Vista Blu-ray releases the sound has been phenomenally good and "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" is no exception, with it's sci-fi sound scape the film is rich with effects, score elements and directional noise that the track is rich with atmosphere enveloping the viewer into the film. The dynamic range goes from subtle and ambient to aggressive displaying excellent 5.1 separation that never feels out of place or unnatural. Much like the visuals we are provided with yet another benchmark sound track.

Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included on this disc, an English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 transferred at 48kHz / 16-bit, as well as standard English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose top view the film with its PCM audio. Much like previous Buena Vista Blu-ray releases the sound has been phenomenally good and "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" is no exception, with it's sci-fi sound scape the film is rich with effects, score elements and directional noise that the track is rich with atmosphere enveloping the viewer into the film. The dynamic range goes from subtle and ambient to aggressive displaying excellent 5.1 separation that never feels out of place or unnatural. Much like the visuals we are provided with yet another benchmark sound track.

Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has released this film with a selection of the extras previously seen on the standard DVD release, these include two audio commentaries, a selection of deleted scenes, really deleted scenes and an unused animated segment. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Note that all the video extras on this Blu-ray disc are presented in 1080p high definition video.

First up we have the first feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and cast members Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. This is one the most entertaining and engaging tracks I've listened to in quite some time. The participants happily share their experience in working on this film as they provide a wealth of behind-the-scenes information for fans of the film, there's the occasional back patting here and there but that's kept to a minimum. Overall this is well produced track that makes a worthy addition to this disc.

The second feature-length audio commentary is by the film's executive producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams' colleague Sean Sollé. If you're a Adams fan and admirer of his work then this track is a essential listen, these two have worked with Adams for years and provide some insightful and informative banter throughout detailing the project and it's ever changing adaptations and the intentions of its creator. Wonderful stuff can be found here in this track, it's rare that a film possess not one but two excellent tracks that rarely repeat themselves.

Next up are a collection of 3 deleted scenes that include:

- "Earth: Mostly Harmless" which runs for 48 seconds, in this extension we get a few more seconds of Argur coming to terms with Earth being destroyed.
- "'We're Going To Win'" runs for 26 seconds, in this scene the Vogons are seen singing a tune.
- "Impossible Forces" runs for 59 seconds, Questular Rontok makes out with Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Next are 2 really deleted scenes which include:

- "Do Panic!" which runs for 1 minute 51 seconds, this is a staged improve sequence featuring Martin Freeman, Mos Def and Sam Rockwell.
- "Arthur Escapes" which runs for 55 seconds, in another staged sequence Arthur escapes from Slartibartfast.

Also featured on this disc is the "Additional Guide Entry: The Man and the Fish" animated sequence which runs for 44 seconds, this is an explanation of the existence of the Babelfish which proves the non-existence of God.

Also included is "Movie Showcase" which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

This film has been reviewed by Roger Nicholl, the specs and extras have been reviewed by Noor Razzak.

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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