for National Geographic News
It's a question that has been asked since the dawn of humankind: What is the meaning of life, the universe, everything? The answer, of course, is elementary: 42. At least according Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Part sci-fi comedy, part existential pondering, H2G2, as the book is also known, tells the whimsical story of an ordinary Earthling who finds himself traveling around space after our planet is destroyed.
As our hero learns from a great computer, which took seven and a half million years to calculate the answer, the meaning of life is 42.
It seems like it's taken almost that long for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to arrive on the silver screen. Twenty-seven years after it first appeared as a radio play, the H2G2 movie opens in U.S. theaters today.
Alas, Adams himself will not be around to see the film; he died of a sudden heart attack four years ago at the age of 49. But his imprint on the movie is unmistakable.
"Douglas always wanted there to be a movie," said Robbie Stamp, who was Adams's business partner and is an executive producer of the movie. "This is a chance to introduce a whole new generation to his world."
Pleasing the Fans
The story opens with the Earth being destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway. The main character, Arthur Dent, escapes by hitching a ride on a passing spacecraft with the help of his friend, Ford Prefect.
Dent learns that the answer to everything anyone ever needed to know can be found in one book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
After it began life as a BBC radio series in 1978, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was quickly turned into a novel, which to date has sold some 16 million copies around the world.
The book was followed by four sequels, including The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, as well as a TV series and a computer game.
The movie has been a stop-start project for years. Before his death, Adams was working on an oft-rewritten screenplay of the comic science fiction saga, which features such memorable characters as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the ruler of the universe, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.
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