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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Expectations high for Hitchhiker's
By David Sillito
BBC News arts correspondent

Science fiction, it seems, reflects life around us.

Zooey Deschanel, Stephen Fry, Martin Freeman and Billy Nighy
The new film features a galaxy of British stars

In the 1950s American science fiction responded to the fears of communism and the "enemy within" with a series of alien invasion movies.

In the early 1970s, in the wake of Vietnam, the films became dark visions of a perfect world gone wrong.

Then in 1977 we got Star Wars, a western in space, a dramatic battle of good versus evil and an overture to the optimism of the Reagan era.

Back in Britain we had Dr Who and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a story of a man whose response to the glory and grandeur of space is to moan that he cannot get a good cup of tea.

Everyday frustrations

Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Slartibartfast were simply people you would recognise in real life trying to come to terms with space, time, technology and towels.

Space was funny but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be

Space was not a place to experience awe or witness life and death struggles, it was a place filled with everyday frustrations, bureaucracy and quirky humour.

The universe reflected all the horrors and disappointments of being a student in the 1970s.

Creeps like Beeblebrox still managed to get the girl, Vogon poetry was even worse than that of any lovesick English student and hitchhiking in space was just as boring, dangerous and unpredictable as putting out your thumb on the M6.

Even the answer to the meaning of life was as incomprehensible as any philosophy lecture. Space was funny but it was not all it was cracked up to be.

That is what made the Hitchhiker's Guide so popular.

It was science fiction for people who wanted to laugh and loved footnotes. The plots often did not make a lot of sense and the characters were a bit thin.

Perfection in detail

But fans enjoyed the ideas and the inventions - they liked a world in which an adventure could be driven by a need to have something to eat rather than an epic quest.

Douglas Adams

It was the detail that made it perfect to sit and discuss and it was the detail that made it hard to film.

The idea for a movie came not long after the radio series began in 1978, a time when there still were hitchhikers standing at the slipway to every motorway in Britain.

Through the years of the radio shows, the "trilogy" of five novels and a TV series, Douglas Adams was attempting to get it turned in to a film.

Rumours repeatedly spread about a deal having been signed and that filming would start, only for them to evaporate.

No wonder so many the fans turned out to Leicester Square at the recent world premiere.

One group from the fan club, ZZ9, were among the first to arrive.

Three of them appeared dressed almost identically in a familiar fan uniform of black t-shirt, jeans and beards.

They joked that they would end up seeing the film a number of times and then go out and buy it even if it was not very good. They all mentioned a review they had read by MJ Simpson.

Website bombarded

Mr Simpson is a journalist with a passion for science fiction and the work of Douglas Adams.

He has written books, visited the set of the film and runs a website dedicated to the Hitchhiker's Guide. He also got to see the film and he did not like it.

ęDISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

His review is beyond comprehensive, it is a scene by scene dissection of a movie he wanted to love but felt deeply let down by. Much of the detail which he had loved for so many years was missing.

Some of the jokes had been changed and new ones added. His website was bombarded with 70,000 hits in one day.

Some agreed with him but many others were appalled and it had an impact on MJ Simpson.

He has now said that his website is being closed and he will never write another word about Douglas Adams.

The film is, for many fans, the culmination of a long love affair that began in the late 70s.

It is no wonder then that expectations have been huge and some have been disappointed.

Others, especially those who do not know the books quite so well, will probably love this journey around a very quirky, essentially British science fiction universe.




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