Friday, May 14, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

You guys! I finally saw 2001: A Space Odyssey! This is a momentous occasion because now I believe I can more accurately call myself a SCIENCE-FICTION FAN. Before, no matter how many other awesome sci-fi movies I devoured, the term was meaningless in the face of the one film I hadn't yet seen. Thankfully, those times are over now and I believe we can all begin anew with a better understanding of one another. Divided into three segments, the film traces the discovery of three mysterious shiny black pillars with mystical powers. The first appears at the dawn of man, with much grunting amidst the first usage of tools, the second is found on the moon in a technologically-advanced future, and the third is detected on Jupiter several months later. I guess that's really all you need to know, plot-wise.

Some movies are about plot, some about character, some about action; 2001 is about... well, I'm not entirely sure exactly but certainly the visuals play a major role in anyone's appreciation. It is with no exaggeration aesthetically astounding , and I was completely entranced the entire time. I know for the period its special effects and filming techniques were revolutionary, but the fact that it still looks absolutely stunning today is a real testament to its validity as one of the most significant films ever made. I'll admit that until now I didn't really "get" Kubrick- I just didn't quite see what the big deal was- but now I think I have more of an understanding. He definitely becomes self-indulgent at certain parts of 2001 (the severely drawn-out shots, scenes that linger longer than necessary, etc), but he knows he's doing something very special, and it is certainly not my place to belittle him for bringing greater attention to his achievements here.

There is very little dialogue and a fairly long running time, yet somehow it manages to hold the viewer's (or at least my) attention the entire time, seemingly through sheer force of will. The visuals are so deliberately and meticulously arranged, combining with the sweeping orchestral score to make for a gripping experience. The characters are interesting, developed not so much through dialogue but more through meaningful actions, especially in the more character-driven third act featuring the infamous HAL 9000 supercomputer. Much of the plot is ambiguous and laden with symbolism, but these aspects are approached with intelligence and a palpable sense of wonder. This is probably one of the most realistic science-fiction films I've seen, with much care taken to applying certain basic principles of space life than a lot of other movies will (not that I mind either way- if you want something to explode in space, go ahead).

I feel like I'm losing myself here. I guess I can't very well sum up anything about this movie in any vaguely coherent manner. Oh well. Suffice to say, it's an excellent film with enormous scope- in its visuals, music, and storytelling- and I certainly enjoyed it. It can be a bit self-indulgent and overworked at times, but I can forgive that. Its impact on science-fiction cinema has been immeasurable, as I am only just now fully beginning to realize.


Further Reading:
Dear Jesus review (with special attention to the score)
Le Mot du Cinephiliaque review
Movie Mobsters review


  1. 2001: is the kind of movie that you just have to sit back and let wash over you - it's an experience rather than a narrative. I don't know if I'll ever fully "get" it, but I can watch it over and over again without getting tired of it.

  2. I think 2001: A Space Odyssey says something about human endeavour and devine grace, and the attempt to understand the latter and bridge the gap between the two. Also, it's great movie eye candy. Nice review.

  3. Sigh, I wish I could watch it again for the first time!

  4. Norma: I think "an experience" is an apt description!

    Ronan: I would agree with that. It seeks to fuse the concepts of advances in technology with specific inhuman intervention.

    Alexa: Aww I guess now I won't be able to, either!

  5. Wow, your first time eh? I bet it won't be your last either ... it's a film that grows on you. Being based on the Arthur C Clarke novel means that the concepts are scientifically valid, which for me makes the film more pure 'science-fiction' as opposed to 'science-fantasy'. Always a good thing in my book.

    What blows me away is how realistic the film looks. Despite its age, its still one of the most believable looking sci-fi movies out there. I believe its because Kubrick built models of everything instead of using CGI (which obviously hadn't been developed yet).

  6. I frame 2001 as an examination of man's inner, using his exploration of the external as a framework. It's such a good film. I would avoid the sequel 2010 (if you haven't already screened it) until you've had a lot of distance from 2001, because Peter Hyams, while ambitious and delicious is NO Kube.

    And while 2010 is a decent film on its own merits its pedigree casts a very long shadow. That said, watch it for Helen Mirren who is very good.