A quintessentially British film of a quintessentially British story, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy gets – for the most part – a surprisingly traditional orchestral treatment from a composer who has been involved with other quintessentially British projects. Joby Talbot, who provided the music for the TV series The League Of Gentlemen (as well as for the League’s big-screen debut), had a lot of masters to serve when creating the music for Hitchhiker’s Guide, and did his best to please them all.
Hitchhiker’s Guide actually has quite a rich musical history, from the use of existing works in the original BBC Radio series to the completely original, largely electronic music composed by Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for the short-lived TV series. Talbot manage to strike a balance between these and a more traditional SF-a-la-Hollywood approach nicely; the long legacy of Hitchhiker’s Guide is acknowledged by a nice new rendition of the Eagles’ “Journey Of The Sorcerer”, which has been the de facto theme song of the Guide since its first radio performance in 1978. For those segments of the movie which show entries from the Guide itself, Talbot is ably assisted by Nigel Godrich (who produced Radiohead’s OK Computer and worked on Jason Falkner’s Can You Still Feel?) in creating almost-retro synthesized cues that emphasize the animation and inject a bit of “Don’t Panic” levity into the proceedings.
One of the things that struck me so vividly upon first seeing the movie was the big, boisterous, movie-musical-style opening song “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”. Even without the dolphin visuals, it’s a striking way to open the movie, and quite frankly, it does an incredible job of straddling the line between what one would usually expect from a musical showpiece and offering a musical prelude to the end of the Earth. Its opening measures are jaunty and deceptively cheerful in doom-laden minor keys, a brilliant piece of musical storytelling (and misdirection). That tune recurs throughout the score.
One of the hardest things to judge about a movie score is whether or not it works away from the movie. It can still be great music, and film music isn’t always necessarily designed to be heard away from its accompanying visuals, but sometimes a score comes along that doesn’t make for the most satisfying stand-alone listening material. Hitchhiker’s, ultimately, falls into that latter category. There are several cues that make one sit up and take notice, but they’re the punctuation at the end of what sometimes amounts to fairly long musical sentences. I don’t ask that every soundtrack album out there should be wall-to-wall action cues, either. But some stretches of Hitchhiker’s Guide mean that this isn’t a soundtrack that stands up to all-in-one-sitting listening.
That said, there is some good stuff on here. Bringing up the rear as the last track is a real surprise, a remake of the original “Marvin” single “Reasons To Be Miserable”. Written by Douglas Adams himself (and originally performed circa 1980 by Stephen Moore), this is a more modern remake told in the third person by the new voice of the Guide, Stephen Fry. While I still prefer the original to this version, the fact that the song is even here is just another indication that the folks behind Hitchhiker’s Guide really did look back on the story’s origins with reverence. This soundtrack is a worthy addition to the canon.
- The Dolphins (1:00)
- So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (2:26)
- Arthur Wakes Up (2:53)
- Shoo-Rah! Shoo-Rah! performed by Betty Wright (2:51)
- Here I Am (Come And Take Me) performed by Al Green (4:13)
- Destruction Of Earth (1:31)
- Journey Of The Sorcerer (1:15)
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1:14)
- Inside The Vogon Ship (2:46)
- Vogon Poetry (0:48)
- Space (1:00)
- Vogon Command Centre (1:00)
- Trillian & Arthur Reunited (1:45)
- Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (1:40)
- Tea In Space (1:08)
- Deep Thought (2:06)
- Infinite Improbability Drive (0:55)
- Viltvodle Street Music (0:45)
- Huma’s Hymn performed by Gabriel Crouch (1:02)
- Capture Of Trillian (4:27)
- Vogcity (1:02)
- Love (1:44)
- The Whale (1:53)
- Planet Factory Tour (2:29)
- Earth Mark II (6:29)
- Magic Moments performed by Perry Como (2:37)
- Shootout (3:23)
- Finale (1:50)
- Blast Off (0:16)
- So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (Reprise) (2:54)
- Careless Talk (1:42)
- Vote Beeblebrox (3:27)
- Reasons To Be Miserable performed by Stephen Fry (3:37)
Released by: Hollywood Records
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 70:08