DVD Review HTF Review: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... FAN Recommended

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Sep 14, 2005.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    The Hitchhiker's Guide
    To The Galaxy

    Studio:TOUCHSTONE (Buena Vista) Year:2005 RunTime:109 minutes Rating:PG Aspect Ratio:16 x 9 encoded 2.35:1 (OAR) Warning: Separate P/S version available…beware when ordering and give strict widescreen instruction for gift buying! Audio:5.1 DD English, 5.1 DTS English, French, Spanish SpecialFeatures:Commentary, making-of featurette, Deleted Scenes, more... ReleaseDate:September 13, 2005





    The Show...




    I’ll confess right up that I don’t quite “get” this movie. I come to this film with the disadvantage (I’m assuming it's a disadvantage) that I’m not familiar with the book upon which the film is based. Add to that the off-beat British humor and perhaps this is an unprofitable combination for this particular American viewer. However, there have been many other films based on cultish book material (Sin City) that I found very accessible without being a prior fan of the material, and there are also a host of British films that thrive on off-beat humor that entertain me immensely (Holy Grail, Time Bandits, etc.). My first impression is that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a well conceived idea that didn’t quite translate to the screen as well as its creative team expected. However, there is a wide range of opinions about this film and while I don’t want to discourage anyone from watching it who might enjoy it (or offend those who do), neither do I want to give anyone false expectations who might react to it the same way that I did.

    Regardless of whether or not you may consider this to be a “good” film in total, it has some definite qualities to be admired. Firstly, without a doubt it is a visual masterpiece—painting a strange/surreal yet tangibly material world that you feel you can reach out and touch. I have no hesitation to compare this film with Time Bandits or Baron Munchausen in that regard; it feels very much like those Terry Gilliam adventures I found myself searching the credits to find evidence of his involvement. Much of this “gritty” feel of tangible materialism comes from the film makers' (director Garth Jennings) minimal reliance on CGI character animation in favor of puppetry…assisted by the Henson folks. This was the right decision…the aliens look fantastic and have a palpable believability to them (touchability to them) that would have completely vanished with Jar-Jar CGI cartoonism. This film is eye-candy to be sure, and I found myself mesmerized in many scenes…just staring at the gorgeous 2.35:1 visuals on my 106” screen in child-like wonder.

    In fact, for the first 30 minutes or so I found myself intrigued beyond my expectations…amazed that such a gem had escaped my interest during its theatrical run. However, about 45 minutes into the film, for me personally, the developing characters began to feel “flat” and the humor wandered from “off beat British humor” to culturally independent “hokey”. It got so tediously, eye-rollingly bad for me and my roommate that we actually reached a point we couldn’t endure the experience any longer and started up another movie (I finished watching the film later for the review making liberal use of the FF on the remote). Your mileage may vary, and I don’t mean to pass judgment on those of you who found the film enjoyable from beginning-to-end…I well admit that I probably just “don’t get” this film. But I would venture to say that if you haven’t already seen this film (and aren't convinced you would want to own it regardless--such as if you’re a fan of the story and would want to have this DVD in your library even if you didn’t discover it to be your personal cup of tea), I wouldn’t suggest a blind-buy. This might be a good “rent with the option to own” title if you’ve got the option.




    Picture...


    Outstanding. Really, really beautiful. I could hardly believe that I was watching a live-action DVD title produced by the Buena Vista folks (hopefully this is a sign of better things to come from the studio…though this DVD bears the TOUCHSTONE logo which I’ve noticed typically do look better than “DISNEY” labeled BV titles). Black level is rock solid, contrast is dynamic with stunning shadow detail, and this rich, 3-dimensional image has sumptuous colors that never over, or under, saturate on the screen. Just gorgeous. And most importantly the level of fine detail is just wonderful. Not quite as razor-sharp as the best Warner Brother’s DVDs, but very natural, film-like, and satisfying. Not once did I get that “it looks too soft” or “It looks too filtered” feeling…this picture has snap even when stretched over a 106” canvas.

    Any sign of edge ringing also appeared minimal (though occasionally did see something that looked EE-ish from time to time but it never distracted from my 1.6 screen-widths viewing distance). Color banding and MPEG noise was nowhere to be seen. Folks…this is a great transfer. Those of you who are fans of the film have nothing to hear. Those of you with wide-angle/big-screen displays, I’d love to hear your own impressions.


    Picture Quality: 4.75 / 5

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    Rating Rationale...

    In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE), or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.



    Viewing Equipment:
    Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.






    Sound...


    Both a 5.1 English Dolby Digital and DTS mix are provided and they sound superb. The first think you may notice is the prodigious bass in this mix…it’s not shy and at times it shakes the room. However, the bass is always controlled and “audiophile-quality” tight and tonal. The audio mix also does an outstanding job throwing a nice 360 degree soundstage…surround use is much better-than-average… active or ambient given the appropriate context of the scene. The surrounds produce a great job of “dissolving” the sense of front/rear and just extending the envelop of sound to fill the room. The musical score is also well recorded as are many sound effects…rather than everything sounding placed right in the axis of the front speakers there’s a tangible sense of “space” in this mix that moves sounds far left, right, and back behind the speakers giving a deep and holographic soundstage. This is the way more movies ought to be recorded…it lacks the “over dubbed” character of most modern films that have all their effects and dialogue close-mic recorded and just pasted over the audio without any real context of acoustical space. On the contrary, even the dialogue in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a tangible sense of acoustic space that made me wonder if much of it was recorded on set. In any case, the audio mixer deserves some recognition for this great work.

    Perhaps the only criticism I have is that some of the dialogue appeared to lack “focus” and I had to turn up my center channel a tad to feel like I was hearing everything distinctly. This was more pronounced with the DTS mix…which reminded me of the character of the dialogue in the DTS mix on the Return of the King Extended Edition DVD (which sounds a tad less defined, though more natural, than the DD mix). Which reminds me…we’ve got DTS on this disc. The difference between the two mixes is subtle…the dialogue perhaps having the most obvious effect to my ears. But I will say that after some careful A/B switching (not scientific so don’t get all huffy) the musical score definitely sounded a bit smoother and more naturally rendered in the DTS mix. The low-level resolution of the audio of the DTS just sounds more refined to my ears. However, if you find the dialogue difficult to understand and turning your center channel up doesn’t fix the issue, I suggest you try the Dolby Digital mix and see if you prefer it.


    Sound Quality: 4.75 / 5

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    Special Features...


    [*]Commentary:There are two. The first is with Director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and several of the actors. It’s more of a laugh-along free-form conversation where they have fun and cut up with each other for the 109 minutes…though mixed in you’ll find the occasional anecdote worth remembering. There is a definitely feel of “Monty Python” to this commentary style so if that’s your bag you’ll enjoy it.

    The second commentary track is with producer Robbie Stamp and Douglas Adams’ colleague Sean Solle. This is your typical (good) commentary that entails a more serious discussion about making the film, shooting the scenes, picking the characters and creating the effects. If you’re interesting in the making-of stuff behind the movie this is the commentary track you want to check out. Like most of Buena Vista’s commentaries, you can access both easily just by toggling through your audio options while the disc is in play.

    [*]Deleted Scenes: Just a handful…captured on “video” in 4x3 lbxed form. Half of them are categorized as “really deleted scenes” and are really bloopers more than deleted scenes. Check ‘em out.

    [*]Making of:A great featurette with the usual “it was such a wonderful experience” mantra by all the actors and creative team…but some great insights to the special effects and details with the Henson Creature-shop work on the Aliens (would have loved even more). Definitely more than a mere publicity piece…every one who watches the movie should take the time (less than 10 minutes) to check this out.

    [*]Game:A hang-man game that fans might enjoy testing their knowledge of film trivia. Personally, I want to see that robot HANG so I was happy to lose. [​IMG]

    [*]Additional Guide Entry:An odd little skit attempting to logically argue why God does not exist. It bases its conclusion on the assumption that God intended for the necessity of Faith to Prove his/her existence, which sort of zips by the listener unnoticed. I don’t remember God ever making it plain that he/she intended for philosophy to “prove” his/her existence to begin with…so how can that be decided as a given place to start the argument? Watch the short and maybe what I’m saying will make sense in the context of this brain-puzzle. Not intending to get too philosophical here but partial or avoidance-tactic logic always gets on my nerves.

    [*]Sing Along:A sing-along music video of the dolphin song (4x3 lbx). Cute for those who are entertained by this off-beat sense of humor...
    [/list]

    All Together...


    Ok…bottom line. Fans: rejoice. This DVD presentation is gorgeous…both picture and sound are exemplary and the bonus features are “decent” for a single-disc presentation. Those of you who haven’t seen the movie…this is one that I’m not going to go out on a limb and suggest you blind-buy…I’d recommend determining whether you like the movie enough to invest in a purchase before you plunk down the cash. If you’re curious, definitely give this one a rent. But as far as the DVD presentation is concerned, this is a great effort from Buena Vista and fans should be well pleased.

    Your discussion is invited…


    Fan Recommended
     
  2. PatW

    PatW Screenwriter

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    David, thankyou for your review, a great review as always. I was going to blind buy this movie but decided to rent it first. Boy am I glad I did that. I found the books quite enjoyable but did not have that experience with this movie. There were a couple of humorous moments but generally I found myself sitting though this movie mostly unsmiling. With the books especially the first, I found myself laughing out loud in places, something I rarely do.
    I do agree it is a stunning picture especially during the reconstuction of earth at the end.


    I certainly wouldn't recommend this to anyone not familiar with the source material and this viewer who loved the books was extremely disappointed in the movie. Of course that's just my opinion. I know others have enjoyed it immensely.
     
  3. Matt Czyz

    Matt Czyz Supporting Actor

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    Damn! That's a pretty good score! [​IMG]
     
  4. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    Hmmm. Bill Hunt at "The Digital Bits" (who enjoyed the film very much) gave the video & audio presentations pretty much the OPPOSITE of your review.

    Weird, eh?
     
  5. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    I thought it looked and sounded fantastic on my SONY 65" 16x9 set.[​IMG]

    I enjoyed this film tremedously despite not having read any of the books. Definitely had a Monty Python feel to it so that helped.[​IMG]
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I thought the transfer looked terrific
    on my 57" Toshiba.

    As I have stated in another thread, I
    thought the film was God-awful.

    Probably only for fans.
     
  7. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I'm a big fan of the books, but the movie just didn't do it for me. The humor just didn't work on the big screen in the way it did on the written page. The picture quality, though, was quite good on my 56-inch Toshiba RPTV.
     
  8. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Oh...so this is the official review...well I'll cut & paste my first comments and then follow up:

    Well...I...loved this film! True it isn't quite the same as the original radio series or books but it definitely captured the feeling of the originals and had me laughing all the way.
    Reminded me of an odd Time Bandits/The Meaning Of Life/Fight Club/Dr. Stranglove hybrid....if that makes any sense at all...right down my droll, philosophical, cynical & intelligent humor alley.

    Loved it.

    Having said that it does dry up a bit about half way through but I still enjoyed it quite a lot....but I'm a fan.



    BTW, obviously Mr. Adams has read the short story "question" as it bears considerable similarity to one of the major plot points in his novels:


    :just a side note & an excuse to spread around one of my favorite short-short stories. [​IMG] :


    Ok, so as far as the DVD goes, I thought it looked pretty damn good for being squeezed onto a dual layer disc with 6 audio tracks and a fair amount of extras & several trailers, the sound quality was fairly good on my system, both DTS & DD.
    The commentary was informative but hardly noteworthy IMO, it gives a fair amount of behind the scenes info..at least with the directors/actors track..the producers track was fairly dry & intermediate IMO aside from a few nice tidbits from Adams friend.

    Is this for fans or can non-fans enjoy it? I personally would say listen to the radio series first, then watch the film...it helps.
     
  9. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Yes, that perplexes me as well. Bill posted some comments to that effect in another thread here at HTF and I've invited him to comment here in the review thread (he may have avoided doing that out of "respect" for my review given that he's reviews for his own site, but I'd love to have his comments here to round-out the discussion). DVDfile's impressions more closely resemble my own. Interesting how different our impressions are...I believe that Bill has a good review system (FP) so I'd like to hear more of what he has to say.

    Those of you with the disc, please share your own thoughts as well and if you're commenting on picture or sound quality...let us know something about your HT system.
     
  10. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Nice review David. Count me in as a fan. I loved the film, and I'd recommend fans of the film/book/tv series/radio play etc to try and get the R2 2-disc version if you have a region free player, there's an exclusive one hour documentary which goes into a lot of detail and is also great fun, or just wait and it will doubtless pop up on next years "ultimate" edition R1 release.

    Here are some screenshots I took recently, in fact I've posted a whole bunch of HGTTG screengrabs on the forum if you know where to look, wink wink.[​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Kain_C

    Kain_C Screenwriter

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    I don't care how the movie looks or sounds because the movie itself was just plain bad. It's a terrible 'version' of the source material and NOT recommended to fans of the plays or novels, because those are much better than this horribly unfunny movie.
     
  12. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    I dunno, I'm a "fan" as well, and didn't think the movie was all that bad. I gave it an "EH". It was just OK, not much more than that. Worth a rental.
     
  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    By "Fan Recommended" I mean fans of the *movie* (those who already know they like the movie and are wondering if the DVD incarnation did a decent job)...
     
  14. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Screenwriter

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    Crap!!! I bought this yesterday, for the eye candy appeal, to use it as demo material for people when they come to my theater, but if it's that bad of a film, I might return it. Or keep it unopened watch the rental, then determine rather or not it's worth keeping for demo material.
     
  15. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    As someone who saw it twice in the theaters, I think people are disappointed that this isn't a GREAT film. I actually think for the most part that it was good. It falls down in a few places, but mostly gets the spirit of the book.

    I think part of the problem is that Adams was never great with plots. His books sometimes just jump from situation to situation with little reason at times. He's also an author where part of his appeal are his asides, which normally don't translate very well. Hitchhikers is able to deal with that by having the guide, which makes for a pretty good device.

    I also disagree that someone not familiar with the source material can't enjoy it. My best friend has never read Adams, and he really enjoyed the film. I think someone who has read the books will get MORE out of it, but it isn't required.

    In some ways, this was a missed opportunity, but I still think it is worthwhile.

    Jason
     
  16. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Ummm...in your opinion that is.

    I have spoken to a few fans of the books and plays and they liked this film a great deal.

    And the more I think about it, the more I love it![​IMG]
     
  17. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    As someone who is a fan of both the film and the books (and not so much of the TV series--too Doctor Who-ish), I'm glad to see another positive review of the DVD. I'll have to pick this up.
     
  18. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    I think I had expectations for this film that were too high...I dunno. Save for a couple of scenes/anecdotes, I pretty much remained disinterested. I thought Alan Rickman's talent was completely wasted. There was a lot of creativity, however, which I did find fun, but overall it just didn't do it for me.
     
  19. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  20. Shane_M

    Shane_M Stunt Coordinator

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    I personally found the video a little soft. Everything seemed just a little washed out, but it wasn't horrible.
     

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