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Don’t Panic: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy

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Audrey Nugent                                                                        2/28/17

MST 330: Cult Films

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        DON’T PANIC: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

        The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is a film, based on a novel, based on a radio show, written by the very brilliant and very underrated Douglas Adams. What makes this film a cult film starts way back in the late 1970’s when Douglas Adams pitches an idea about a radio show, stating that the idea came to him after looking at a book, titled “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe”(Douglas, 3) Fast forward a few years and Douglas is talked into creating a novel based on the radio show, conveniently also called “The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy” in 1978, which is the inspiration of the 2005 film, directed by Garth Jennings and screenwritten by Karey Kirkpatrick and Douglas Adams himself. The film’s very origins could only be described as one incredibly large sneeze from the “Great Green Arkleseizure” or in boring english terms,  a sheer bloody accident. This describes every cult film that can be found. No one ever imagines how big a film will be until after it hits its audiences, and in many cases, it takes years for them to even be recognized. What makes this particular film such fun to watch is all the humor, sarcasm, satire, and irony in which we encounter. The story itself is set up as a “Hero’s Journey” and its separated in a traditional three act structure. Aside from a few wonderful flashback’s, the film travels in chronological order from when we first encounter our main hero, to when he decides not to return to Earth when it is finally rebuilt. In order to fully understand THE GUIDE, we will break up a little of the film’s structure as well as the irony and satire that speaks to generations long passed Douglas’ original target audience in the 1970s.

The film starts off interestingly enough much like Broadway shows do, with a catchy tune. We hear the song “So long and thanks for all the fish” as we watch old vacation videos of families enjoying vacations at water parks with dolphins playing. The fun irony in this is according to THE GUIDE and the song itself, dolphins have  attempted to worn the human race of the impending doom of earth for years but we believe they are just putting on a show for us. It makes one wonder, what do animals think about when they do these stunts? Though this film constantly pokes fun of EVERYTHING, it also makes one actually think about many of life’s issues with humor.

The film is broken down into a traditional three act structure of the “Hero’s Journey” screenplay. In Act one, we meet our hero, average man Arthur Dent, who lives in ordinary England. Author has just discovered that his house is being bulldozed over in order to build a “bypass” or in American english, a highway. So now our hero is called into action in the hopes of saving his home and he proceeds by laying down in front of the bulldozer in the hopes of stopping it. Needless to say, this is a very dumb idea, and the film even explains this when the foreman asks Dent if he knows how much damage running him over would actually do to the bulldozer. When dent responds  that he does not know, the foreman responds by saying “Non At All” which queues a narrator into introducing the stories “wiseman” Ford Prefect who is in fact an alien currently stuck on earth. At the end of the first act, Prefect shows Dent how to hitch a ride on a spaceship, specifically the spaceship which is there to destroy earth, ironically to make room for an interstellar bypass. This alone is an interesting satire in which humor is used to tell the audience that no matter how big we feel our own problems seem to be, there are always bigger ones.

Act 2 starts off with Dent and Prefect hearing the destruction of earth as they struggle to regain their balance on the Volgon’s spaceship. Dent realizes the Earth is no more and Dent is reasonably freaking out which of course ends up getting them caught. After a few funny scenes, our hitchhiker's find themselves, literally, flushed into space. Of course this can not be the end for our heros, so they are conveniently rescued by earthling Trisha McMillan or Trillion, and Zaphod Beeblebrox, who are on their own journey of finding the “Ultimate Question”. Our hitchhikers decide to join them, Dent joins because he no longer has a home and is along for the ride, and prefect joins because he’s a hitchhiker, and traveling is what they do, thus allies have been united! We also meet Marvin, the clinically depressed robot. Marvin represents human doubt, and how annoying it can actually be, In this act we also encounter one of the protagonists of the story, Humma Kavula, an enemy of Zaphod. We see our heros being chased by Volgon’s and Zaphod’s former “allies”. We also see Trisha arrested for an apparent kidnapping of Zaphod, and our heroes attempt a rather humourous rescue.  With this we have Act 2 our hero’s journey.

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