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2001: A Space Odyssey

Filed under: — paco on November 12th, 2003 12:11:38 am

2001_poster1.jpgAfter having watched the digitally remastered DVD I just couldn’t believe that this movie is more than 35 years old! The revamping of this masterpiece has taken nothing away from the sheer genius of the original. Yes, the image is razor-sharp and the music and sounds are sublimely re-recorded, but the main work was already done when Stanley Kubrick and Douglas Trumbull created the original fantastic look of the movie. Again, this is a quintessential Kubrick-movie: alienating, eerie, beautiful and mysterious. The benchmark for all science fiction movies and possibly Kubrick’s best work.

2001_reception.jpgAlthough Arthur C. Clarke (co-storywriter with Kubrick) and Trumbull (SFX and design) have made essential contributions to this masterpiece, this movie is all Kubrick. It’s the story of a mysterious black monolith that presumably has an essential place in the evolution of mankind and our universe in general. The movie starts with the ‘Dawn of Man’ only to leap many millennia in the future through one of the most dramatic jump-cuts ever in film history. This is not the movie’s only revolutionary piece of cinematography, as you’re treated on a plethora of brilliant wide-angle shots, extreme close-ups, majestic pan-shots and the most incredible lighting I have ever witnessed in a movie. Furthermore, the set and miniature design, styling, still-action, costuming and typical (Kubrick-)use of colour leave you gasping for breath. After more than three decades this movie can still compete with any modern movie of this time ‘and still beat it hands down.

2001_control.jpgNext to the eye-candy there is another crucial element that makes this movie work: the music and sound effects. I have called Kubrick a painter, in the way he uses every visual tool to colour in his tableau vivant. That qualification would cut him short, since he possesses the unique gift of perfectly marrying sound and image to a mind-boggling experience. He seamlessly alters from pompous classical music to unsettling, harsh sounds. In this he is reminiscent (in more than one way) of the late great Sergio Leone, who possessed the similar gift to paint with sound.

2001_podbay.jpgAs in most of Kubrick’s movies it is not the plot on itself that reveals the true message, but the symbolism used that conveys the movie’s deeper meaning. In this movie we again find Kubrick’s Leitmotiv: the gradual dehumanisation of man. I’ve mentioned this theme earlier in my other Kubrick review of The Shining. In this movie we see ghosts kindle the latent rage and fundamental madness that is already present in man (Jack), where in 2001 we see this human degeneration surprisingly represented by a machine. We’re not talking just a machine here but an Artificial Intelligence named HAL 9000. HAL is supposed to represent the perfect image of mankind, free from its errors and weaknesses.

2001_memory.jpgOddly enough, it is not the humans that fail in this movie. Instead, it is their unholy bastard-child that shows it is capable of that mortal sin of man: murder. We see that the computer (which controls an entire spaceship) is driven to murder in an attempt to safeguard its own existence and thus acts out of primal fear. This completes the circle as far as the movie goes, as we are taught that despite our technology and so-called civilisation we have not grown past our primitive, destructive origins. Eventually man is responsible for HAL’s ‘malfunctioning’ since the machine has been created in man’s own image.

2001_12monkeys.jpgOf course people can read different references in this movie. That is another beauty of Kubrick’s work: he leaves ample room for interpretation. It was a great relief to watch a movie that does not insult the intelligence of its viewer by over-explaining the story or forcing a singular interpretation as to its meaning. This shows true movie-making guts, as Kubrick willingly forfeits the easy labelling of his movie that would comfort the majority of its viewers. This movie shows even more intelligence and respect to the viewers, since realism in this is at an all time high. Contrary to 99% of all sci-fi movies some crucial facts are truly being respected here: like that there is no sound in space or up and down. This only adds to the realism and together with the sparse -but effective- dialogue and the intelligence of the characters, this makes for an involving experience, as the viewer does not know more than the characters themselves.

I strongly recommend people see this movie on DVD or -even better- on the big screen. Take the time for this uncanny work of art, savour every detail of its visual and aural beauty and you’ll come to the inevitable conclusion that it deserves ***** out of 5.

author picture paco (89 posts)
Certified movie phreak and conspiracy theorist.

14 Comments

  • I’m a massive Kubrick fan and although there’s so much to admire in 2001 it’s a film i rarely return to watch again and again. I think it’s because the film is so cold and desolate. It’s not a comfortable watch, even though the cinematography is some of the lushest ever commited to film.
    It truly is a masterpiece, no question and as far as film scores go, you can cut the history of them into two distinct parts, before 2001 and after 2001.
    the problem is the film takes so much out of me every time I see it.It commands my attention for it’s entire length, even when there are periods (and there are LONG periods) where there doesn’t seem to be anything happening.
    This was the first film to showcase the fact that it is quiet in space, and thefore claustophobic. I was lucky enough to see this in Cinerama (the giant, three reel curved screen format) a few years ago and it remains one of the most stunning cinema experiences I’ve ever had.
    It’s a film that’s easy to admire, but I find it hard to love.

    Comment by damian — Wed November 12, 2003 @ 9:16
  • i love this movie, but i always fall asleep during that trippy, mesmerizing period in the middle with all the lights flashing. I’m always convinced that I’ve been hypnotized.

    Comment by marisa — Wed November 12, 2003 @ 16:42
  • the movie totally sucked if you are to watch any of his movies I would refer you to A Clockwork Orange. Movie again sucked and glad i fell asleep to not waste energy during intermission. Watch oddessy 2010 heard it was good. Hey the beam made me do it!!

    Comment by yvette gauna — Sun July 2, 2006 @ 6:29
  • 2001 is a truly beautiful mesmerising film. I agree with Damian’s comment that it’s slow pace and general coldness make it a difficult film to watch comfortably or too often. However once you’ve seen this film, you’ll never forget it. Kubrick was in a league of his own when it came to creating an atmosphere.

    Comment by James in Cala Dor Palma de Mallorca — Tue September 26, 2006 @ 16:22
  • I did not think much of it

    Comment by john — Sat July 7, 2007 @ 17:36
  • I agree, this movie sucked! I can’t believe people watched this whole movie… Oh, wait a second it was released in the 60’s that explains everything! Crud, if I were in a drug induced euphoria then I would probably have enjoyed it as well…

    Honestly though, the movie was slow, boring and extremely drawn out… This is one of those movies like Blade Runner where you wonder why people speak so highly of it but at least blade runner didn’t move along at a snails pace!

    Comment by pete — Thu February 21, 2008 @ 7:38
  • Slagging off 2001 and Bladrunner in one fell swoop, haha.

    Quite the comedian you are. I bet your favorite movie is Rambo IV along with Police Academy VII.

    Comment by paco — Thu February 21, 2008 @ 14:55
  • Paco,

    That couldn’t be further from the truth… I prefer to watch movies that entertain rather than put people to sleep to which 2001 managed only to bore!

    As for Blade Runner, it was average and the action in the movie was highly limited and mostly dull!

    If you want to watch some good Sci-Fi go buy or rent the Farscape Series or maybe Check-Out something like Alien or even a Steven Spielberg Sci-Fi as his are mostly interesting and dare I say even the Star Wars IV, V and VI series would be 10x better than either BR or 2001.

    As for Good Movies… Stardust, Schindler’s List and Braveheart are certainly on my list so those should give you an idea of what I qualify as good.

    Comment by pete — Sat March 1, 2008 @ 0:50
  • Well. let’s agree to disagree then ;)

    Comment by paco — Tue March 4, 2008 @ 0:23
  • 2001: A space odyssey is amazing. It is amazing that anyone could ever survive the horror that is this movie. It literally gave me a migraine. I mean I am all for the beautiful cinematography and wonderful imaginitaive directing and all but maybe there should have been more writing involved. I’m pretty sure the script went something like this:

    CLOSEUP: giant sperm shaped (see implications later) space ship moves across screen (25mins)

    PANORAMA: Even bigger phallic shiped space suit moves across screen (35mins)

    PAN LEFT: Tall but very narrow mysterious black object stand still and issues weird chanting sounds, don’t touch it, it’ll scream

    VOICEOVER (One of two idiot astronauts): Heavy Breathing (22 mins)

    MONTAGE: Multiple shots of Oklahoma and Arizona landscapes with many different colored filters

    CLOSE UP: star child (giant embryo planet)
    * the sentient being that represents humanity at the dawning of a new universe is an idiot who supposed holding his breath would save him from the vacuum of space – where did he buy his degree?

    There was probably a total of seven minutes of dialog in this film, half of which are delivered by a faceless computer.

    It is unfortunate that this is the first SF Stanley Kubric film I have seen but I can’t even imagine watching another one without a burning desire to overdose myself on vicodine. If ever you were looking for a wonderfully long torturous, anti-drug advertisement, this is it!

    Comment by Ebony — Fri March 21, 2008 @ 1:54
  • If you are after a passive experience without having to think whilst you watch, this isn’t the film for you. The imagery is clever, the sound track superb and the concept (without giving the end away) is very clever. Sci-fi for the thinking viewer. For everyone else there is of course Starship Troopers etc…

    Comment by Raljex — Mon April 28, 2008 @ 20:13
  • Three hours of my life I will never get back. I love sci-fi and had high hopes for this movie, but to say I was disappointed would be like saying 2000lb bombs make smoke.

    This movie is SO DAMN SLOW! I forced myself to watch this “masterpiece” that i had wanted to see for so long, thinking it would end up a new favorite. And it was a piece… of something; every slow, drawn out, endless second of it! You could easily edit this movie down to 5 minutes.

    2001: A Space Oddysey should be retitled- 2001: Real-time Space Flight Torture Test Oddysey From Hell, Prozac Edition

    Example:
    Wanna know how long it takes to exit a space ship for routine ship repair? FOR FU%#ING EVER!!!!!!!!!

    Example:
    Wanna see the same scene of the moon rotating in the same damn window framed in grey with no edit or cut away for 10 damn minutes with the same damn music playing over and OVER and OVER AGAIN?

    CAN I GET AN EDIT?!?!? OR A BULLET?!?!
    PLEASE?!?!?!

    2001 is aggravating!!!!! I was screaming at the movie to hurry the fu%# up!!!!!!!!!!! Do I need to know (and SEE) that it takes 5 WHOLE MINUTES for a hatch to open up into space? DO I?!?!?! REALLY?!?!?!? AND HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO SEE IT?!?!?!?! WAS ONCE NOT ENOUGH?!?!?!?!

    Add in 30 minutes of Dave unplugging/killing HAL (sooooooooo slowly), 25 minutes of astronauts holding there helmets(?) in pain from the annoying alien dog whistle/radio signal with accompanying choir/orchestra music (scene does NOT CHANGE EVER!!!!), a 40 minute trip thru a crayon-colored time-warped hyperspace Dr. Who tunnel with still shots of Dave trying out for Madonna’s “vogue” video (if you like drugs, you might like this part of the movie), and 2 or 3 months of real-time space flight (with elevator music), and you have the DULLEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!!

    I dont know what was harder to watch, 2001:a space oddysey or an episode of the Teletubbies. I love Bladerunner, even though it is slow at time, its one of my favorite movies. This one sucks badly!!!

    Comment by Marcus — Mon January 26, 2009 @ 9:13
  • Have a beer and chill, man.
    ;)

    Comment by paco — Tue January 27, 2009 @ 23:26
  • Just watched this movie tonight on blu-ray. I had high hopes for this film, with the amazing reviews on rotten tomatoes and Ebert’s praise of this film as an example of cinema as art.

    The picture is razor sharp, visually the film stands up to the best even by today’s standards. Unfortunately the story and pacing leave much to be desired. This movie is loooooooooooooooooooong!! The pacing is slower than hell, the plot devices are clever but ultimately pointless because it takes so f*cking long for this film to make its point. This is three hours of my life that I wish I could get back.

    I can’t help but think that this film is the product of a different era, where this sort of pacing and subtle plot devices were perhaps more accepted. It just does not hold up well to the way that cinema has evolved. Seriously this film could have been cut down to 90 minutes and still gotten its point across.

    In short, if you value your sanity avoid watching this film.

    Comment by Jackson — Fri April 30, 2010 @ 10:50

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