In most films, the destruction of the Earth would be a catastrophic event. Movies like Knowing, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Don’t Look Up, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World center their entire plots around the end of human life. Usually, those films also explore the lengths most humans would go to stop their own destruction.
But no movie handles the end of the world quite like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The 2005 sci-fi comedy begins with a musical sequence in which all the planet’s dolphins — who, the film informs us, have been trying to warn humans for decades — join together to sing a farewell song to humanity. The catchy track revolves around a simple message: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
It’s an amusingly absurd sequence, and the perfect opening note for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which takes immense joy in exploring and playfully poking at the weirdest corners of the sci-fi genre. The film is leaving HBO Max on February 28, and if you haven’t seen it yet it’s well worth seeking out.
Shortly after the dolphins sing their goodbye ditty the Earth is, as they predicted, destroyed. However, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is rescued from his species’ extinction by Ford Prefect (Mos Def), a friend Arthur doesn’t know is secretly an alien.
Stowing away on an alien spaceship, Ford and Arthur find themselves linking up with Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy, and Trillian McMillan (Zooey Deschanel), a woman Arthur knew on Earth. Together, the four embark on a zany trip across the cosmos accompanied by Marvin, a depressed robot impeccably voiced by Alan Rickman.
The film, based on the radio play and novel of the same name by Douglas Adams, consistently manages to surprise viewers with its various genre subversions, increasingly absurd comedic moments, and surprising instances of humorous insight. It’s an endlessly enjoyable sci-fi romp, and director Garth Jennings manages to keep the movie as visually inventive and playful as its script requires.
The movie also boasts a handful of great performances, including Rickman’s note-perfect vocal turn as Marvin. But the film is almost totally stolen by Rockwell, whose performance as the sleazy Zaphod once again showcases his ability to bring endless amounts of charisma and charm to the most ridiculous of characters.
Rockwell, like everyone else involved in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, knows what kind of movie he’s making. That collective understanding among the film’s cast and crew ensures the movie manages to strike the right tonal balance from its first scene to its last. It’s a movie that never takes itself too seriously, but never lets its tongue-in-cheek humor or sci-fi absurdity become grating either.
The fact that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy still ranks as one of the most underrated sci-fi movies of the 2000s is probably the result of Adams’ humor being a bit of an acquired taste. But at its most basic, the movie is a sci-fi adventure flick that’ll offer you a good time and put you in a pleasant mood.
If you’re looking for something more than that, you’ll probably be delighted to find that the film manages to say a whole lot about humanity’s numerous shortcomings and strengths without ever making you feel like it’s beating you over the head, which is more than we can say about a lot of the other sci-fi blockbusters of the past 20 years.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is streaming on HBO Max until February 28, 2022.