Book vs Film: On Douglas Adams’s birthday, we debate about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Hindustan Times | BySupriya Sharma and Rohan Naahar
Mar 21, 2018 01:46 PM IST

In a new series, we discuss over texts the merits and flaws of famous books and their screen adaptations. Our second edition looks at Douglas Adams’s cult classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was made into a 2005 film by Garth Jennings, starring Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel.

It is a testimony to the undying popularity of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (1979) that a cherry red Tesla car floating in space right now has the words ‘Don’t Panic’ written in “large friendly letters” on its dashboard. The car also has a copy of the book in its glove box.

Sam Rockwell (centre), Yasiin Bey (on right), Zooey Deschanel (far right), and Martin Freeman (left) in a still from the movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).(
Sam Rockwell (centre), Yasiin Bey (on right), Zooey Deschanel (far right), and Martin Freeman (left) in a still from the movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).(

If multilingual aliens do find the car and the book, they’d probably think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy is the most popular book on planet Earth. And they wouldn’t entirely be wrong.

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Douglas Adams’s all-time best-selling sci-fi comedy is something of a popular culture phenomenon, which has been adapted across multiple media: radio, books, stage, TV, comics, computer games, and made into a very successful film.

Even nearly 40 years after its publication, Adams’s dark, absurdist humour, inventive plot twists and loony characters continue to delight and win over readers.

Adams also co-wrote the screenplay for the movie based on the book before his premature death in 2001.

There are many kinds of adaptations. Sometimes, they’re very faithful and on other occasions they’re almost separate entities. Garth Jennings’ film is the best of both worlds - warmly nostalgic for fans, but with its own unique personality as well. It’s worth mentioning that it was Jennings’ first feature film, and featured a host of fine character actors, including the recent Oscar-winner, Sam Rockwell, in a role that could possibly have inspired Donald Trump.

Watch the FB Live discussion between two people, one who loves the book, and the other who found it (fans of the novel, brace yourselves) to be boring!

Here’s a longer chat version. Rohan is white and Supriya is green.

We’ll take our discussion live on the Hindustan Times Facebook page on March 14 at 4pm. Join us and share your thoughts, opinions and objections.

You can read our previous chat, about Kingsman: The Secret Service, here.

Next week: Annihilation, the first book in American author Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The movie adaptation, starring Natalie Portman, releases on Netflix on March 12.

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