'Hitchhiker' Steps Into Big Shoes

Disney is reaching for the stars, bringing the beloved novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (search) to the big screen this weekend. But blowing up the world is not without its risks.

While many fans have been giving it the thumbs-up after sneak previews, M.J. Simpson (search), the unofficial biographer of "Hitchhiker" author Douglas Adams (search), called the film "an abomination" in a scathing 10,000-word review that was quickly beamed around the Internet.

But the movie's makers were prepared for this to happen.

"I thought there are loads of people like me that are fans that take this stuff very seriously and want it done properly, and that was a little daunting," director Garth Jennings, who has made music videos for bands including Blur and R.E.M., told FOX News.

A satirical sci-fi adventure that opens with bathrobe-clad human Arthur Dent escaping Earth just before it's destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway, the "Hitchhiker's Guide" began life as a BBC radio series in 1978. Adams turned it into a book, which sold 14 million copies around the world, and later into a TV series (and a computer game).

The series blended satire, memorably named characters such as Marvin the Paranoid Android and playfully witty philosophy, at one point supplying the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything." The answer: 42.

Adams died in 2001 at 49 while working (and re-working) on the screenplay; the script is credited to him and Karey Kirkpatrick.

Some regard the controversy as the usual conflict involved in adapting a story for a movie.

"'Hitchhiker's' has always changed as it's moved from radio to TV to book, and there's brand new material in here," producer Robbie Stamp told FOX News.

"'Hitchhiker's' never really had a plot and it needed to have some kind of plot in order for it to work as a movie, so it's hard to give something that never had something that thing and keep it in the spirit of 'Hitchhikers,'" Jennings added.

The cast includes Zooey Deschanel (search) as Arthur's love interest; Mos Def as his alien friend, Ford Prefect; Sam Rockwell as president of the universe; John Malkovich as Humma Kavula, a nasally fixated cult leader created by Adams for the film; and Martin Freeman (search), who won over American audiences in "The Office," a British television show, as Arthur.

The filmmakers are clearly protective of Adams' memory. The film is dedicated to him, and his image appears on screen several times. There is even a 30-foot model of his nose.

And in perhaps the best tribute of all, most of the Internet buzz from early screenings has been good.

"It's faithful, irreverent, fun, funny and in no way the disrespectful waste of celluloid Adams fans had secretly been dreading," said Scott Andrews on the FilmFocus Web site.

Actress Deschanel thinks viewers will find the movie quirky and touching.

"It takes place in outer space but the emotions are very human — so, I think it's that juxtaposition that makes it funny and interesting," she told FOX.

FOX News' Mike Waco and the Associated Press contributed to this report.