Pop culture is a funny thing. Things that are furiously discussed and widely anticipated prior and post release – books, albums, films – often end up being just ... forgotten. That might seem a terribly obvious statement, but it's surprising just what holds on to the public imagination, and what doesn't. I'm not even talking about hugely successful, iconic things like Clint Eastwood westerns or Lord of the Rings, but just average stuff like the Fast and the Furious films (still going strong a decade later) or Babe (an award frenzy I still don't understand), or Napoleon Dynamite that cling to the popular and profitable imagination.
And then there are things that are just forgotten. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is, I think, one of these.
Remember it? It came out in 2005. No one really talks about it for good or ill. It just sort of exists. Someday, it will have a second life as a trivia question to be dug up post-The Hobbit when Martin Freeman is a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost level of superstar. ("Freeman starred in this adaptation of a popular sci-fi novel in 2005...") When you bring it up in a discussion, people will often say it flopped or was universally loathed, though this wasn't the case. It made its budget back (but wasn't a blockbuster, which certainly screams "flop" in studio terms) and it was fairly well received by critics at the time, especially in the United Kingdom.
Someone out there is probably reading this and taking umbrage at the whole thing. You remember it well, you know people who were/are furious about it, it was all over the place in 2005 ... and hey, I'll give it to you. I was knee-deep in Russian history at the time, and writing a lot of papers about revolution. Lots of things passed me by, and when I rented Hitchhiker later on, I fell asleep during it. That's what reading so much Lev Trotksy does to you.
Anyway, my long winded intro was simply to argue that Hitchhikers the film doesn't occupy any place within our popular culture. It's not a Daredevil, widely loathed, derided, and shrieked about when comic book movies come up. Nor is it breathlessly revered, a'la Spider-Man, where the thought of a reboot/remake brings on confusion and cries of "Too soon!" and "I liked Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire!"
So, isn't it time to remake it? It's a hugely popular novel, after all. It's impossible to avoid saying "42" without hearing someone giggle. Mention dolphins in a well-read group, and someone will sing "So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish." The book has had far more impact than the milquetoast movie ever will, despite some truly fantastic casting choices and performances.
I think we can remake it. When I posed the question to Twitter (a cheap move, but it was 7am my time, and the UK was awake and chirping), quite a few responded that it couldn't be made – as evidenced by the movie – but that if there was any place it could fit, it would be cable television. Give HBO or AMC the budget, they said, and it would justify a remake.
Well, we'd all like to see a particular work given the cable treatment. Certainly, it's more feasible than ever, and it's been done on tv before. It's also been done on stage, which suggests all the fuss about it being unadaptable is silly. (Granted, I've never seen a stage production. Maybe they're terrible?) Subversive and quirky it may be, Blood Meridian it is not.
Barring HBO or AMC – as we should, this is a film site – I think it would do just fine if placed in the hands of Edgar Wright and Graham Linehan, who are probably the only two writer-directors who can keep the wit, charm, self-deprecation and rather surreal tone of the book, and make it watchable. Both have managed to make global successes out of very British comedy – a task that's actually easier than screenwriters and studios seem to think it is.
And the plot itself is simple. People get so caught up in giggling about the whale or the Restaurant at the End of the Universe that I believe they forget it's a fairly simple story about the destruction of the Earth, and why Arthur Dent was saved. The sheer brilliance of it is in the language. And people can get behind that. They sit through Quentin Tarantino, don't they? Good dialogue that's well performed (something missing from the 2005 film, where some of the actors seem to be awaiting cue cards instead of keeping it snappy) can keep audiences very riveted in between mice and klaxons. I'm sure of it.
Come on. It's been 6 years. By the time they wrote a new script, budgeted it, cast it, scouted its locations, and started shooting, it would be ten. A decade is plenty of time, especially when the original film was all but forgettable. (Remember, we're now in a world where Hollywood is optioning an Icelandic thriller for a remake before it even hits Icelandic theaters. 10 years is an eternity!)
Let's do this, Hollywood! If done right, there's even a sequel. Six of them. And I want to see the dolphins replace Earth!