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Weekly Musings #37 Overdoing your expectations
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: May 2nd 2005

Expectations are both the lifeblood and the killers of the video game industry. No, I'm not saying this lightly. Expectations are what make players buy new games. A proper advertising campaign makes players want to buy in. A proper word-of-mouth campaign trumpets the gameplay and how fun it is, TV spots advertise the graphics (and sometimes the storyline). Previous games whet gamer appetites for more in their storyline or gameplay world to work with.

Think of all the big sellers. What do they all have in common? High expectations. Devil May Cry, Halo, Fable, and more; every game had gamers drooling to buy it. Sometimes the excitement was warranted; Halo and Halo2 certainly proved that. The sheer number of people willing to gripe about changes made to Halo's engine in creating Halo2 is a testament to the strength of both the original Halo and the strength of Microsoft's marketing campaign. Devil May Cry 2 and Fable, meanwhile, suffered from expectations that they couldn't live up to, at least not enough to survive.

A movie came out this weekend. A movie based on an old favorite series of books that I've read and re-read and re-read ad nauseum since childhood. The movie is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it despite the best efforts of trolls on certain news sites linking to bad reviews one after another (to their credit, it's not all bad).

Writers who have reviewed the film and hated it, seem to have one entire focus: whether or not certain scenes (a) exist in the book, (b) exist in ANY Douglas Adams book, or (c) if they exist in the book, are played out word-for-word with what is written IN the book. Of course, this sort of a reviewing process is going to give any book-to-movie conversion a bad name, with the possible exception of Forrest Gump, the only movie (at least in my experience) to have actually been better than the book that spawned it.

Now, granted, there ARE some omissions that I felt didn't need to be made, and some scenes are shortened somewhat too far. Many of the scenes in the books are skits as a whole, built for radio and/or book-style comedy with the audience imagining the visuals. Ford and Arthur's conversation in the pub, for instance, is a bit briefer than it needs to be, and rather than having Ford convince Mr. Prosser to lie down in front of the bulldozer, he simply bribes the workers with beer and drags Arthur to the pub.

On the other hand, there are plenty of new moments to enjoy. I challenge anyone out there not to laugh at Humma Kavula's church service (bless you!), or to notice the obvious parallels between British and American politics and Humma Kavula's "Don't Vote for Stupid" campaign when running for President of the Galaxy. The thinking cap is a nifty invention, and the Heart of Gold's motion through space, while not entirely what many had envisioned (having only the BBC's production value-challenged visions to compare to) is suitably laughable.

Overall, this is not a movie to sit down and have large-scale debate about. Especially when some of the elements, like the Point-Of-View Gun and Humma Kavula himself, were written into the script by Douglas Adams himself before he died. It's a movie to sit down and enjoy and have a good laugh at.

The acting is superb. Trillian is about as self-confident as one envisions from the books. Arthur Dent isn't the "leading man" of the books, so those expecting Martin Freeman to portray him that way can very well just be disappointed and move on. Freeman plays Arthur perfectly as the slightly irritated human who has very little clue what is going on, and it works quite well. Sam Rockwell does a brilliant Zaphod, exuding almost criminally the "he's just this guy, ya know" vibe, and despite the reservations many would have about Mos Def as a hip-hop singer, his acting talents shine through and he does an amazing job portraying the laid-back, towel-carrying Ford Prefect.

There are still fans griping about what Peter Jackson missed/changed when he did The Lord of the Rings. There are still fans griping about elements of the new Star Wars movies and even about changes made to the Special Edition cuts of the originals. There are fans pissed off about the digital removal of guns from E.T. And those last two, the Directors themselves are the reason.

Enjoy the movies, please. Set aside your expectations for 2 hours, and just sit back and enjoy what's been created. Especially when it's obvious that the directors and actors did a lot of work trying to do justice to something that you, and millions of others, have loved since childhood.

Now, if they turn out something like Garfield, then by all means feel free to raise holy hell.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!





Musings #37: Overdoing your expectations

Added:  Monday, May 02, 2005
Reviewer:  Mike Ahlf


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