While good movies are always the thing you’re hoping for when you make a film, we here at Republibot are well aware of the joys that only a really bad film can bring. Good movies may be a dime a dozen, but a truly bad film is forever, right? I mean, better to know excellence or awfulness than to be one of those timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory. My apologies to Teddy Roosevelt for paraphrasing him like that, but it’s true. A really good bad film has an unpredictable quality that no masterpiece can ever aspire to. As The Tick once told Arthur, “Sanity is a one trick pony, but when you’re good and crazy - hoo boy! - the sky’s the limit!” So be good if you’ve got the chops for it, but bad is definitely easier and its very nature allows you to blow the bell curve and subvert the format in unpredictable ways. Be great, or be awful, whichever you’ve got in you - we’re surprisingly nonjudgmental here - but don’t every me mediocre!
Thust he worst thing about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” movie isn’t that it’s bad, no. That’s a simple, passing badness that is easily dulled with time and eventually forgotten. No, the worst thing about this movie is that it’s the exact species of mediocre movie - specifically hand crafted and meticulously tooled – to appeal to nitwits. Not just any nitwits, either, but the exact kind of nitwits who are extremely evangelical about their nitwitery: the kinds of people who ask you what you thought of the movie, and when you reply, simply and rationally, that it was bad, they will then accuse you of ‘not getting it’ and explain, in nauseating detail, exactly how and why it was great. Yes, friends, the great pain of this movie was in knowing while I was watching its bland, noncommittal kind of badness that it had the power to reach out and annoy me for the rest of my life via pointless and endless conversations with artistically clueless-yet-insistent mouthbreathers next to whom the most rabid and compulsive of trekie would seem an urbane chick magnet by comparison.
The only other movie I can think of that annoyed me this much and in the same way was the also amazingly bad “Return of the Jedi” (1983), which people have been trying to convince me for twenty-six years – unsuccessfully, I might add – is not a cold-hearted attempt to mass-market teddy bears to the American public, but, rather is the high water mark of speculative fiction in cinema. The prequels made this a somewhat easier sell for them. Now all they have to argue is that it’s not the worst of the bunch.
Think I’m wrong? Seriously, I have very unpleasant memories of seeing this movie when it first came out, and this is based entirely on the crowd. I’ll spare you my reminiscences from opening night, but suffice to say that I’m the kind of guy who got beat up a lot as a kid for liking SF (Deservedly, it must be said), and yet even *I* wanted to murder the people in the audience around me. The movie got a standing ovation when the closing credits rolled, much to the surprise of myself and my wife, both of whom loved the books – and the BBC Radioplays – when we were teenagers.
“So what does any of this matter?” you ask. Well, time has a way of dulling old wounds, so I’m mentioning it to point out that any good word of mouth you may hear about this film should perhaps be viewed in the larger context of the evangelical nature of fans. The first book came out thirty years ago, to huge public acclaim, and for good reason: it was funny as hell. It, and to a lesser degree, its four sequels, were a huge influence on our outlooks, senses of humors, and polite disregard for authority. The fans – and I include myself in that set – had been waiting a quarter century to see it on the big screen. Need I mention that these are mostly Science Fiction geeks? (And I include myself in that set as well)
Now, despite the fact that the books were written without any intention of their eventually being filmed, and despite the fact that many Hollywood types have looked at the material and declared it “Unfilmable”, and despite the fact that Douglas Adams himself –