Well. I finally did it. I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey.
. . . I think I want two and half hours of my life back.
Some people discover a strange black monolith buried on the moon, and an expedition is sent to Jupiter to learn more. The main players of said expedition: Dave, Frank, and HAL-9000, otherwise known as Hal, their handy super computer.
Also: a bunch of other really weird shit happens, including ape-people and a shitload of colorful lights.
1. This doesn’t strike me as the kind of movie you can have a middle ground on. I mean, I guess it’s possible, but I don’t see how. And personally, I hated this film. Okay, maybe not hated. Hate is a strong word, and all that. But I really, really, really did not like it. I will attempt to do justice to the parts of the film that I could see were well done, but . . . no. No, I simply cannot imagine ever liking this movie, no matter how many second chances (or third or fifth or twentieth chances) I gave it.
2. Why? Well, generally, I like my movies to make sense. That sounds snotty, but it really does seem to come down to a fundamental viewpoint on filmmaking. People who tend to like avant-garde work, I think, are generally more interested in the visuals than in the message. (Note: you may or may not consider 2001: A Space Odyssey to be truly avant-garde, but I don’t think anyone can deny there’s at least an avant-garde influence.) The story is not nearly as important as the medium you’re using to tell it.
I, on the other hand, do not tend to like avant-garde films. As a writer, my focus is heavily on story, plot, character, and dialogue. Visuals can be compelling, and I can be moved by or otherwise enjoy them, but I primarily look at film as a medium to tell stories. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the story seems almost incidental to the craft of filmmaking, like the actual plot—such as it is—is used as an excuse to string together a lot of random, often beautiful images and pretend you’re watching a narrative instead of a two and a half hour music video.
I don’t expect movies to be boring. I don’t need every story told in a linear fashion, and I don’t always mind an ambiguous ending. But I do expect a sense of coherency or at the very least some measure of enjoyment from the finished product, and I found both of these things severely lacking here.
3. I’m trying to be careful about spoilers, but I feel the need to warn anybody who hasn’t seen this film yet: the storyline you’re expecting to see, you know, with Hal and Dave and whatnot? That whole plot doesn’t even begin until about 55 minutes into the movie. And then it ends with about half an hour of the movie still to go.
4. In fact, the first 25 minutes or so of the film and the last 25 minutes or so of the film have no dialogue at all. Which makes the original First Blood seem positively fucking chatty in comparison.
5. The movie also begins with a black screen that’s probably supposed to signify, like, nothingness or something. It goes on for about . . . what? Five minutes? Nothing but darkness and classical music for about five minutes, enough time to make you wonder if your TV is working properly.
And since I fully expect to get at least one angry commenter who has a thesis prepared on the brilliance of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I have to ask, sincerely . . . do you ever fast-forward this part? Do you talk through it? Contemplate? Use it for last minute snack time preparations? Also: do you use the Intermission as an actual, you know, bathroom break intermission? Or is this more contemplation time? I’m honestly curious.
6. One of the positive things I can say about 2001: A Space Odyssey is the attention to detail, particularly in zero-gravity scenes. I like how slowly the space stewardesses move, the bathroom instructions, the grip shoes, the shots of everybody walking up the walls. Sometimes, it makes me really sad to realize that I will never actually walk up a wall or have a tea party on the ceiling. Childhood dreams never fully realized . . .
Anyway, I don’t think anyone’s questioning Kubrick’s ability to set up a shot. The guy’s a visual master. I’m pretty sure we can all agree there. The problem is when you put all those shots together. That’s where you lose me. That’s where I’m like . . . what?
7. For example: I do not need 12,000 establishing shots. You show me a peek of stars, a shuttle, maybe a planet or a dude in an orange jumpsuit, and I got it: we’re in space. I don’t want or need to watch ten minutes of various satellites and spaceships floating around as classical music blasts from . . . well, wherever space music blasts from, I suppose. (God’s iPod? Hmmm. I’d love to know what’s on that. NIN?)
At one point during the film, Mek went to the bathroom, opting not to use the pause button considering the very real likelihood that the thing spinning on screen would still be spinning on screen when she came back out. And it wasn’t, actually . . . but man, it was damn close.
8. And while I’m on the subject of unnecessary repetition: there’s a lot of lovely music throughout this film . . . music that becomes boring and rather powerless, as Kubrick uses it to death. Music that builds and builds into a stirring crescendo is a wonderful tool in a movie, but you can’t use it seven times within the same film and not have people roll their eyes. The significance is lost.
Honestly, the music here reminds me a little of Zack Snyder’s irritating dependency on the soundtrack in his film, Sucker Punch. Music is supposed to help bring your movie together, not do all your fucking emoting for you. Unless the movie in question’s a musical, the soundtrack shouldn’t be shoved down your throat for two hours straight. And even musicals need to be careful with that kind of thing. If all the audience wanted to see was song after song after song, they could just go to a fucking concert.
(And yes. Yes, I did just compare Stanley Kubrick to Zack Snyder. Ha!)
9. Surprisingly, I didn’t have an issue with any unlikable or irredeemable characters. (I often seem to, with Kubrick’s work.) There were a couple of instances where I was like, Dave, dude, have a fucking expression or something, but otherwise, I wasn’t seriously irritated with any of the characters or praying for anyone’s bloody demise. And as far as acting goes, it seems . . . okay? Honestly, it’s not the sort of movie that really showcases acting. The actors themselves don’t seem that much more relevant than talking prop pieces. I was amused to discover that Dave (Keir Dullea) was in the original Black Christmas, though.
10. Finally, this movie picked up for me about half an hour in. I started to feel better about it, like maybe it was really going somewhere after all, like those first thirty minutes that seemed to drag on for years might actually make some sense to me by the very end. I figured I could get through the ridiculous amount of time spent on one piece of space junk spinning in the atmosphere. I could get past the classical music being shoved down my throat. I could overcome these challenging quirks because the film was really going to do something amazing at the end that would make all these crazy aspects align.
That . . . fucking . . . ending . . .
That may have been the most disappointing, batshit crazy ending I have ever seen. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before in my whole life. I have disliked many an ending in my time, but possibly never one that pissed me off as much as the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The only adequate comparison I can think of is the total letdown that was the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, and at this point, I’m hard-pressed to say which one was worse. (Eventually, I’ll probably say BSG. I had years invested in that show, after all. But 2001: A Space Odyssey still has my blood up, so I’m not sure.) And please don’t comment to tell me that if a film made me angry, then it did its job. I’m still angry with Catwoman, too, and I’ve yet to find a single person in the whole universe who liked that movie. Maybe if they muted it and kept one hand down their pants the whole time.
Now. If you are not quite frothing at the mouth yet, the blasphemy will continue onward, this time with spoilers.
Okay. Back to the beginning, dear friends, and boy, do I mean the beginning. The first part of this movie (after the five minute overture, that is) is titled “The Dawn of Man” and it’s about monkeys.
Okay, they aren’t monkeys. I think they’re supposed to be the missing link between apes and people, but they mostly just look like a bunch of dudes dressed up in monkey suits. One of the guys that’s hopping around looks like he’s six feet tall, which I thought was hilarious. I wish we had watched this film in my physical anthropology class. That would have been hysterical.
So, ape-people. We get to see a lot of these ape-people leaping around for fifteen minutes, doing whatever it is that ape-people like to do. (Sue me, I’m not a Discovery Channel kind of person. Cash Cab and Mythbusters are really the only exceptions. I don’t even fucking like Shark Week.) And whenever we aren’t watching the ape-people, we’re looking at another fucking vista or sunrise or something. I mean, it’s pretty. I just kept looking at the clock, going, Shit! It’s only been seven minutes! SEVEN MINUTES!
But then something mysterious (finally) happens: a strange black monolith appears, freaking the fuck out of the ape-people.
Soon after, the ape-people learn how to use tools, and by tools, I mean they learn how to murder the shit out of other apes with nearby bones. They seem to be pretty gleeful about the whole thing. ‘Overkill’ does not appear to be a concept that exists to them yet, not in this stage of the game, anyway.
The murderous ape-man throws his bone up in the air, which Kubrick then match-cuts to a satellite or a spaceship or something up in the stars. I was surprised by the transition—I assumed that our passage of time would be shown by someone else—perhaps a Neanderthal—catching the bone, thus continuing our slow-as-molasses progression through evolution and driving me to drink. (I did have alcohol planned with the evening, actually, but the caramel apple drink didn’t really go with my pizza, so I decided to overload on soda instead. It wasn’t enough.) I found the transition a little jarring, but I was so excited to be away from the ape-men to space, the final frontier, that I totally didn’t care.
After watching orbits and satellites and whatnot for ten minutes, we start following around Dr. Heywood Floyd (who will henceforth be referred to as Dr. Schmuck for the remainder of this review). Dr. Schmuck’s in charge of this government cover up, pretending that some horrible outbreak has happened on some colony instead of what’s really going on: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life! Seems that another mysterious monolith has been discovered, this one buried on the moon. And, you know, I was never quite sure if Gyorgy Ligetti’s, “Requiem,” is supposed to be literally emanating from the monolith, or if it’s just sort of our monolith theme music. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Anyway, the monolith does suddenly let out a very piercing, very annoying sound that maybe kills the astronauts nearby? Or just hurts them? I’m not actually sure. At the very least, the guys writhe around quite a bit and appear to pass out. Before we can figure out what’s going on, though, we jump to the third act in the movie: Jupiter Mission.
Finally, 55 minutes into the film, we get to this guy:
This is Hal (technically the HAL 9000), and if you know anything about this movie at all, you know that Hal’s going to go fucking homicidal. I mean, that was like the only thing I knew going in: there’s a dude named Dave, and Hal tries to kill him. Exactly why Hal goes nuts seems a little fuzzy to me . . . but we’ll get to that.
So, it’s eighteen months after the whole moon thing. Astronauts Dave and Frank are heading off to Jupiter. A few other people are on board, but they’re in cryogenic hibernation, supposedly to cut down on life support problems. Hal, meanwhile, pretty much runs the ship, which no one’s worried about because he’s a HAL 9000, and nothing ever goes wrong with those. And I know this is set in the future and all, and even our culture today relies quite heavily on computers, but I also know that computers freeze and get viruses and seem to stop working for no fucking reason, and since I can’t imagine a world where computers won’t, on a nearly daily basis, drive you mad . . . I can’t find it in my heart to sympathize with these stupid people who let their computer take over all the engineering, navigating, and doctoring tasks. (This isn’t a real complaint about 2001: A Space Odyssey, though. It’s more a general observation about how people in the future always seem so dumb.)
Okay, so Hal says that a communications satellite or something is going to fail in a couple of days. Dave and Frank go to check it out but can’t find anything wrong. Hal suggests that the astronauts let the satellite fail and then replace it afterwards. Dave and Frank agree to this plan, albeit a touch reluctantly, but before they do, they alert Earth of the situation. The dudes on Earth are like, “Huh. Our HAL 9000 says that your HAL 9000 is wrong. Well, that’s damnably curious. Sure it’s nothing, though. Carry on, carry on.”
Dave and Frank are, understandably, much more concerned. They go sit in a pod where Hal can’t hear them and talk about the ramifications of this. If Hal made a mistake, then they’re going to have shut him down and fly to Jupiter thing themselves. They aren’t quite sure how Hal will feel about that. They also don’t realize that Hal can read lips. Cause they’re morons. Okay, they aren’t morons, but this pod thing they’re sitting in, it rotates. They rotate away from Hal and then rotate back so that they’re facing him while they talk. For for the love of God, why?
Well, what’s done is done. Frank takes a suit and goes outside to the not-really-failing satellite. Hal, the little bastard, severs his oxygen hose, I think, and sets him adrift. I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened at first, but he goes pretty quickly from frantically spinning around in space, trying to reconnect something to his suit, to floating aimlessly through space. So I’m assuming Frank’s dead within minutes. And I said I’d take note of the things I did enjoy when they happened, so: the scene where Frank is killed off, especially the close up on Hal and the sudden silence? That was a very cool scene. Muy creepy. I approve immensely.
Dave doesn’t immediately realize that Hal murdered Frank, unfortunately, only that Frank is suddenly spinning through the great black abyss. So Dave hops on a transport pod and goes to recover the body. When he comes back, Hal won’t let him back on the ship. Also, Hal’s murdered the hibernating crew. He had to, see, cause Frank and Dave were going to shut him off, and the mission is too important to let mere humans handle it. Apparently, the fact that he made a mistake with the communications satellite doesn’t worry Hal. Or he made the mistake as part of a cunning plot to get rid of the humans—but that seems a little far-fetched. I’m sure he could have gotten rid of them in an easier fashion, if that was the case.
Dave has to use the emergency hatch to get back on the ship. To do so, he needs to open the emergency hatch door with the claws on his pod. And to do that, he needs the claws free, and currently they’re occupied by holding Frank’s dead body. So Dave—who has a brief hesitation but is otherwise completely expressionless—lets go of Frank’s dead body (back to spinning complacently in the darkness for you, buddy)—and opens the door. Then Dave jumps through the hatch—with no helmet. He manages to not die, and good for him. That couldn’t have been very fun.
Dave goes to shut down Hal. Hal tries to plead reasonably with Dave, saying that he acted hastily and that he’s all better now, but Dave isn’t having any of it. As the Dread Pirate Roberts once said, trying to murder someone does put a damper on the relationship. (Obviously paraphrased.) As Dave starts shutting Hal down, Hal begins to get more childlike. He expresses fear and even sings a little song. (“Daisy Bell,” in case you’re curious. I had to look it up because it sounded just like this song Crichton sings in Farscape, and guess what? It IS the same one! I had no idea it was actually, like, a real song.)
When Hal is finally dead, a video starts playing. It’s Dr. Schmuck! He appears to still be among the living, but I can’t remember if he was actually standing next to the monolith when it started making that screeching sound earlier in the film, or watching it from afar. People seem to have conflicting opinions on whether the monolith killed the astronauts on the moon or not. I just can’t make myself care very much right now either way.
Dr. Schmuck reveals that the mysterious monolith on the moon hasn’t really done much of anything except send this one huge transmission to Jupiter, hence the whole mission. So Dave continues onward alone and arrives at Jupiter. And then . . .
. . . and then, while in a pod orbiting Jupiter, Dave discovers another monolith just sort of floating around. But before he can do much about it, his pod gets sucked into a big tunnel of really bright colors. Dave travels through the LSD Tunnel at warp speeds, finally bothering to have an expression or two, although probably not the one I would be having at this point:
But that’s okay. Dave continues going through the LSD Tunnel, for . . . what? Ten minutes? (Music blasting all the way, obviously.) I’m not sure if it’s really ten minutes or not, but it certainly seems like a long fucking time. Finally, Dave’s pod randomly pops up in this room in some palace somewhere, like . . . okay? The whole place has got kind of a Versailles thing going for it, although with a touch less gold than Louis XVI would have asked for, I think.
Dave kind of twitches out in his pod for awhile, which yeah, that’s totally understandable. Eventually, he sees a dude in a red astronaut’s gear across the room. Only then the astronaut turns around, and it’s . . . Dave!
Er . . . .
Dave’s a little older now, maybe in his fifties? The pod with Younger Dave has completely vanished. Middle-Aged Dave walks around the palace for awhile and eventually sees another old guy sitting down, eating dinner. Of course, the old guy is actually Old Dave, and we promptly switch focus to him. At this point, if I were Dave, I might close my eyes and start feeling around the room, but Old Dave does not do this, naturally.
Instead, Old Dave glances around and sees Practically Dead Dave, lying in bed. Practically Dead Dave starts to sit up very slowly in bed, and we see the black monolith has appeared in the center of the room. It does not go with the decor, frankly.
A strange, fetus shaped bubble has replaced Dave on the bed. We then see the fetus up close. It is the creepiest looking baby-thing I have ever seen in my life.
We then zoom into the black monolith. On the other side of it, presumably, is the moon. And then there’s Earth. And then there’s a bubble beside Earth. And inside the bubble is Fetus Dave, watching over the Earth. And then the movie ends.
. . . my brain hurts. Possibly my soul, too.
I think there’s a matter of personal taste that cannot be overcome when you watch a film like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Those who love it will defend it to the death, and those who hate it, I suspect, will never be swayed. I like to think myself as a relatively open-minded person (well, don’t we all), but I cannot imagine ever liking or even truly appreciating this movie. I can look at certain scenes objectively enough, but as a whole . . . this film frustrates me so much that I really can’t stand it.
HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain). He was pretty creepy. I really did like the scene where Frank bit the big one.
Gosh, there are several, aren’t there? Don’t trust computers. Birthdays herald death. Evolution is best assisted by Ligetti-spouting black monoliths from beyond.
Take your pick, buddy.
39 thoughts on ““Look, Dave, I Can See You’re Really Upset About This.””
I totally agree with everything that you’ve said about this movie. 🙂 After I finished watching it, I was like, what the fuck just happened? I don’t get it, I don’t like it, and I don’t understand how people do. However, I have the book and I’m going to give that a try, and 2010, the sequel to 2001, is a guilty pleasure for me. I love that movie. 🙂
I’ve talked to a few people who didn’t like the movie, and most of them seemed to really enjoy the book. I’ve never read it, so if you try it, let me know 🙂
“I don’t get it, I don’t like it” rather sums it up, for this poster and the blogger. Let’s all close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears, and think about big explosions and mindless dialogue (ooh, and doesn’t Justin Timberlake act well?). If you would like to watch a film like this with your goldfish, I suggest the sequel 2010: Odyssey Number Two.
Well, I’d argue with such a well thought-out and clearly mature response to somebody disagreeing with you on a particular film, but you caught me: I don’t think Justin Timberlake is a bad actor. Admittedly, I haven’t seen all of his work, but he really surprised me in Black Snake Moan, so that coupled with the fact that I really didn’t care for 2001: A Space Odyssey obviously means that I have no capacity to appreciate or respect any movie that isn’t a mindless popcorn blockbuster. You may feel certain of your superiority, and of course your condescension is very much appreciated.
I like your reviews; often times I do not agree with you but you make a good effort to explain your perspective. We’re 0 for 2 on the Kubrick, though. It just so happens, actually, that most of the complaints you have about Clockwork Orange and 2001 are complaints people generally leverage against Kubrick’s work as a whole: dead characters, strict compositions in much looser narratives, etc. I have not looked to see if you have any other reviews on Kubrick but you pretty much face a lifetime of having to convince insistent people that you mean it when you don’t like it. Don’t worry, it works both ways! Kubrick types pretty much spend a lifetime trying to convince people that they mean it when they say they like it.
Kubrick used to be one of my favorite filmmakers but I did get over it, so for what it’s worth, your impression that this movie falls into the extremes is also not the case. I like most of it but, I mean… the tired commentary on branding in the space station… some of it’s not really THAT clever.
“I have to ask, sincerely . . . do you ever fast-forward this part? Do you talk through it? Contemplate? Use it for last minute snack time preparations? Also: do you use the Intermission as an actual, you know, bathroom break intermission? Or is this more contemplation time? I’m honestly curious.”
…and the answer for me is: contemplation time.
There’s actually a term called “contemplative cinema”, and Kubrick is often cited as part of that genre, though like all genre terminology the definition gets arbitrary under scrutiny and often breaks down. Paul Schrader called it “Transcendental Cinema”. Nevertheless, why would we sit and soberly watch a black screen for like five minutes while music plays?
Well, I can either type out the thesis you don’t want, or point out that the ambience and pacing of the film allows for a lot of time to explore our relationship to space. I guess the shortest way I can explain this is, I have to take 16 hour plane rides straight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi and even as a non-claustrophobic it makes me want to tear a whole in the side of the plane. Right now in New Mexico they are building a space port and the general idea is to have rich people pay tickets for some supra-strata day trips and perhaps, someday, a two-week vacation to the moon. All in good fun but could you sit still on a spaceship for two weeks? Call it claustrophobia or agoraphobia, space is a tense place. That tension plays well here, I think.
And yes, there’s a bit of antinarrative in the fact that this came out at roughly the same time as Alien, where the crew sleeps through the boring space travel stuff, and Star Wars, where space is just this fun fantasy filled frontier where the actual travel part will be literally wiped away as an homage to Kurosawa movies. Someone pointed out once that Kubrick was the only filmmaker to make space actually sound-free at parts. I have not yet been able to disprove this statement as I haven’t yet seen another movie set in outer space where there isn’t at least some sound effect for lasers or explosions or spaceships whirring by or whatever.
And yes, that’s also the purpose of the LSD trip. The “What the fuck will we find and how can we even describe it?” scene.
But anyway, that said, tension is not anger–no, the intent of this film is not to make you mad. I do not believe I have heard anyone make that justification for this movie but like you I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did.
Re: Computers and trust; a typical theme of Kubrick’s work is of technology increasing faster than human conscience to control it. However, this also came out before computer viruses were a thing. On the other hand, http://www.cracked.com/article_18697_5-things-that-are-being-automated-that-probably-shouldnt-be.html . Humans.
Finally, disagree entirely on the Zack Snyder comparison for two reasons: one, for the reason you included it, which is to piss me off (jk), and two (seriously) because several of the scenes where the floaty long not-moving-fast stuff is happening doesn’t, in fact, have the music over it to substitute how you’re supposed to feel in the scenes. Snyder also has a bad habit of choosing the WRONG music for the emotion of the scene, whereas Kubrick was not nearly as tone deaf.
I’m pretty sure the space in Sunshine was completely sound-free. Same with Firefly the TV show, although they unfortunately added sound effects in the movie.
I need to give Sunshine another go. I had mixed feelings on the first viewing, but now I don’t remember very much about it.
Oh, so they did add sound effects for the space scenes in Serenity. I couldn’t remember. I’m a bit more familiar with the show, and I loved the absence of sound there.
I don’t think the tension works for me as well as it works for you in this movie—clearly, I feel more aggravation than anything else—but that’s an interesting way of looking at the black-out overture, that and the film in general. Cause you’re right, space IS creepy, and a lot of films don’t seem to really get that across (or, at least, they don’t focus on that particular aspect). I just didn’t personally feel any real sense of claustrophobia here. I did like that one scene I mentioned with Frank, but overall, I didn’t feel much tension.
I’m pretty sure Teacups already commented on this, but I know there wasn’t a lot, if any, sound in Firefly during the space scenes. Probably not in Serenity, either. I remember because Firefly was the first place I had seen anyone use that absence of sound, and I fell in love with it immediately.
Perhaps I should have made a better comparison in regards to music. I think you’re correct that Kubrick isn’t using the music to tell you how to feel. That’s a problem I specifically had with Sucker Punch. (Although I don’t mind the music selection or usage in other Zack Snyder films.) But I do feel that the music here was overbearing, and that Kubrick was relying on it for . . . something. I’m having trouble articulating what, exactly, but it seemed almost like it was trying too hard, calling too much attention to itself, over and over again? And that did remind me of Snyder.
I haven’t reviewed any other Kubrick films besides this and A Clockwork Orange. I do plan to give The Shining a second chance, someday . . . but I didn’t care for it the first time, and considering my track record with Kubrick, it doesn’t seem promising.
I ended up fast forwarding through the end bit through the LSD tunnel because it was like the Energizer Bunny of movie takes, it kept going and going and going and GOING. Best part of the movie for me? HAL going psycho on the crew.
Only looked up the movie after seeing the sequel, which to my memory was MUCH more coherent and made me kinda interested to see this movie. And discovered that watching this one didn’t help at all with the sequel in understanding what was going on.
I had no plans to ever see the sequel, but I looked up the cast and became interested despite myself. Maybe I’ll give it a whirl someday, but man, I need a break for now 🙂
Sequel sucks. And mainly by comparison. Think of 2001 as the British Office (groundbreaking and unique) and 2010 as the American Office (just another sitcom/sci-fi film)
Mostly, I do enjoy 2001, but for reasons that have little to do with the art of the thing. I can agree that some of the scences seem to have little point — perhaps until you consisder that when the movie was made, the whole concept of space travel and space habitats was fantastical. Clark and Kubrick, in my opinion, wanted to show the general public what it would actually be like to fly and live in space — and that along with the wonder of it all, comes the mundane as well, like phone calls home and boring board meetings (and the corporate mindset that would consisder putting that much faith in a computer), and having to chat with colleagues because you’re a politician and just might need them as contact someday.
I grew up with this movie, and with Clark’s writings, so maybe that is why I appreciate the film a tad more. The novelization of the script does explain some points a little better, but I do have issues with the explanation given for HAL’s breakdown given in the sequel, 2010. Other things that help are watching the movie with a buzz on, and I must admit my fondness for the LSD tunnel trip as more to do with what my (at the time) new wife and I were doing during the scene than the movie itself.
Still, I agree that despite the stunning visuals — or perhaps because of them, the flim’s story and pacing have not aged well. Kudos to you and Mek for giving it a shot, and I look forward to your next review.
Hee. Thanks, Betred. Maybe what I need on a second viewing is something to make the film a little more exciting, like alcohol or drugs or manly companionship (or all three).
You make a good point about the era this film was made in and exploring the more mundane aspects of space travel. I did like a lot of those details. Just, you know, not enough 🙂
I expected you to not like it, actually. Chicks usually don’t.
However, I can’t help feeling that it’s people like you who were the reason The Cage never worked as the Star Trek pilot and it had to be retooled to have more action and things blowing up real good.
The only thing I didn’t like about it was the soundtrack. They should have gone with the score they had done for it rather than the Classical music which just comes across as pretentious and trying too hard.
You probably wouldn’t like Moon (2009) either as it has a similar tone and could be seen as dull by some viewers.
Well, I couldn’t say as to how “people like me” were the reason that the Star Trek pilot had to be dumbed down. I don’t know much about either version. I’ve seen very little of TOS. Of course, I’m pretty sure I made it clear that I had more problems with 2001: A Space Odyssey than the fact that it was slow. I did have serious issues with pacing, but it was really the ending that ruined any chance I might have had at liking the film. But it’s nice to know that my opinion of the movie didn’t shatter expectations, I guess?
I actually did like Moon quite a bit, and I already reviewed it here: https://mygeekblasphemy.com/2011/02/23/youve-been-up-here-too-long-man-youve-lost-your-marbles/
It seems strange that you would like Moon but not like 2001 which is its spiritual ancestor.
I made it clear that I had more problems with 2001: A Space Odyssey than the fact that it was slow
I re-read it and that does seem to have been your main problem with it (even though there were others) along with finding it hard to understand. Maybe reading the book (which I liked a lot better anyway) would help. The LSD tunnel sequence is a lot shorter, and there are no black screens.
Well, I couldn’t say as to how “people like me” were the reason that the Star Trek pilot had to be dumbed down.
Roddenberry said that the problem many people had with that first pilot was that it was “too cerebral.” So they made another which had fist fights and a big laser cannon. And you did say you didn’t understand 2001, so… Aren’t you one of those people?
But it’s nice to know that my opinion of the movie didn’t shatter expectations, I guess?
Well, your review of Moon did. Based on this review I’m surprised you liked that one.
I can’t say I’m in the camp of the hardcore lovers of this movie but some of your criticisms of it aren’t rational.
It seems strange that you would like Moon but not like 2001 which is its spiritual ancestor.
I understand that 2001: A Space Odyssey was a huge influence on Moon, but they’re also completely separate movies. Moon has terrific acting, an intelligent storyline that I could still follow from beginning to end, a beautiful score that I didn’t find intrusive or overbearing. It’s asking questions that I’m interested in. I’m emotionally involved in what happens to the characters. It’s also just a lot more entertaining, and it doesn’t come with the problems that I had with 2001 (namely, ape people, long scenes staring at nothing but satellites for several minutes, an ending that I find completely incomprehensible.)
Roddenberry said that the problem many people had with that first pilot was that it was “too cerebral.” So they made another which had fist fights and a big laser cannon. And you did say you didn’t understand 2001, so… Aren’t you one of those people?
No, I’m not, because I’ve never seen that first pilot of Star Trek. I didn’t understand or like 2001: A Space Odyssey. That has no bearing on how I feel about Trek. Cerebral or not, they’re completely different universes. I’m not sure why you keep attributing my negative reaction to 2001 to the rest of the science fiction genre, but my disliking this one particular movie doesn’t mean I’m incapable of liking other intelligent, sci-fi stories.
I loved “Moon” too. Duncan Jones is really good at directing simple but effective sci-fi stories. The problem with 2001 clearly wasn’t it’s visual style, so I’m glad it’s influenced films like Moon without making them adopt it’s slow pacing and bizarre idiosyncracies at the same time.
Yeah, some of the visuals in 2001 were great. That just wasn’t nearly enough for me to like the film as a whole.
Moon had so much going for it. It was easily one of my favorite sci-fi films I’ve seen this year.
Btw, I didn’t have any trouble understanding it. If you want a movie is really incomprehensible, try Primer (2004).
It’s not so much that it is hard to understand as that it has nothing to say.
So aliens are trying to communicate with us (represented by the black rectangular shape) and transferring the power of reason to us. The protagonist’s transformation into “space fetus” represents that he has come to understand the aliens and been sort of ‘reborn’.
It’s a bit cryptic and, when the plot is spelled out, it hardly seems to justify the agonisingly slow pacing, repetitive soundtrack or the ultra annoying sound effects.
Huh, that’s a coincidence. I’d been thinking I should pick this movie tonight when I go to the DVD rental shop. I guess I still will – I’m probably going to end up seeing it anyway eventually, and it’s be better to do it while I’m in a crafty phase. I’ll have something to work on while I watch.
I did not realise that the HAL/Dave stuff was only in about half the movie. I thought it was more like ten minutes of monkeys, then onto the whackjob AI for the rest of the movie.
Well, when you watch it, I’d love to hear what you think 🙂
I didn’t expect you to like it, but I didn’t think you’d hate quite as much as you did. I just watched it recently for the first time and I loved it so much I went out and bought a copy of it the next day. It’s definitely one of those love/hate films— there’s no middle ground. And I understand why so many people find it boring and slow and impossible to sit through, although the only section that bores me a bit is the second one.
Even people who hate 2001, though, surely have to admire the technical aspects of the film. The special effects blow away a lot of films today, and this movie came out over 40 years ago. If it’s ahead of its time even now, imagine what it would’ve been like to see it in 1968. There were several shots that I was in awe and that made me wonder how Kubrick accomplished them. Like the first few minutes of the segment with Hal-9000, for instance, when the guy is seemingly jogging around a circular room, ceiling and all. Apparently that set was like a giant ferris wheel that Kubrick had built, and it was turning while the guy ran in place.
I plan to read the book at some point. Things that aren’t obvious in the film or that are barely hinted at, like Hal’s breakdown, are apparently given more depth and detail in the novel. From what I’ve been told, the spacecraft we see after the famous jump cut from prehistoric age to space age is actually a nuclear weapons platform, which adds extra symbolism to that transition.
I’m not a big fan of science ficition. Aliens shooting lasers don’t interest me. But I am fascinated by space. I think the answers to all our great questions lie somewhere out there in the universe: Is there a God? Is there life after death? How was life created? Why was life created? Etc. Etc. Etc. It’s these kind of mysteries that 2001 explores. It’s more of a religious, meditative experience than anything. Perhaps that’s why it struck such a chord with me.
Apparently NASA just launched a Jupiter probe, too. It’ll be there in 2016. I wonder if they’ll tell us if they find a mysterious black monoloth orbiting around the planet.
The jogging around the circular room was a pretty cool scene. I have no problem at all with the special effects, particularly given when the movie was made.
Obviously, I enjoy me some alien shooting laser action. But I’ve also never had much problem finding deeper meaning in sci-fi. I mean, the genre is all about humanity and who we are as a species and our place in the universe and that kind of stuff. I am interested in the more metaphysical questions you mentioned, but 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t even come close to being a meditative experience for me as it did for you. I guess we all just have to find God in different places.
I’ve also never had much problem finding deeper meaning in sci-fi
This doesn’t really fit with what you wrote in your review.
Um, I was talking about a whole genre right there. Just because I didn’t find meaning in one science fiction film doesn’t mean I can’t find a deeper truth in other science fiction films. I just didn’t have that experience at all with 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I didn’t expect you to like it, but I didn’t think you’d hate quite as much as you did.
I’m not alone then, although you don’t seem to have drawn the same heat for saying it.
Aliens shooting lasers don’t interest me.
I’ve found that people who like the aliens shooting lasers stuff don’t enjoy a movie like this one. I liked Star Wars, but I also liked this one.
I plan to read the book at some point. Things that aren’t obvious in the film or that are barely hinted at, like Hal’s breakdown, are apparently given more depth and detail in the novel.
It’s definitely worth reading, and will add a lot to understanding. It’s a case where the book and movie kind of complement each other rather than one being seen as better than the other.
Yeah, I agree with everything you wrote.
Oooh, neat little fact I found out on Mark Kermode’s review show recently. You know how Planet of the Apes won an Oscar for its costumes? Well Kubrick’s explanation for why he didn’t win a similar award for the apes in 2001 was that the Academy must have thought that he used real apes. *facepalm*
Really? Wow . . . er. No.
Oooh, also one thing that confuses me more than anything is when people who loved 2001 criticise “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” for being too boring. I loved “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” because it had both the wonderful visuals AND an interesting sci-fi plot. It also didn’t have long drawn out scenes of apes whooping.
I just finished watching it. I have to say I really wouldn’t want to sit through this movie without having something else to do as I watch. A few times I had to remind myself I was supposed to be watching the movie because I was starting to pay more more attention to attempt at embroidery, which didn’t happen when I was doing it while watching Haven or Splice earlier today.
I agree about the ending. Often I like endings that leave things open ended, but not like this, when it’s apparently throwing a bunch of random WhatTheFuckery onscreen and leaving it there with no explanation whatsoever. I mean, what is the audience supposed to do with that?
I liked HAL, the visuals, the clear effort put into making the sci-fi realistic, and Frank’s death scene – especially that. Him silently flailing about trying to reconnect his oxegen was rather creepy. Everything else was… You know, I can’t say I hated it, exactly. It just gets a very large “Meh,” from me. I was very rarely engaged in it at all, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to watch it again. Sort of like Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, if you know that film.
Oh, and since PolarisDiB started it, I might as well get in on complimenting you – I also like your reviews quite a lot. They explain your perspective in a much more detailed and straightforward manner than most reviews do, meaning even when we disagree (…Rosemary’s Baby) I can see exactly where you’re coming from.
Thanks. It’s appreciated : )
I actually don’t know Gerry, but I know what you mean, having watched a number of films where I just . . . didn’t . . . care. It’s not necessarily that it’s an awful film, just one that’s hard to engage in or feel anything about. Yup, been there, done that, got the T-shirt : )
2001 is typical Kubric for sure. Kubric was not only misanthropic, he was firmly convinced of his own superior intellect, I suspect.
Ok, I’m being harsh on Kubric, but he was misanthropic and relies on symbolism an awful lot to make a point.
The ape scene, entitled “the dawn of man” is supposed to depict the first hominids becoming fully human. They do this by learning to kill. After killing, the ape throws the bone in to the air leading to the dissolve that “shows” how man brings that primitive with him. While Hal is a sentient computer, when it becomes fully “human” it also learns to kill.
You might find 2010 a bit more palatable. It does not rely so heavily on the symbolism and is far less heavy handed.
At some point, I might try 2010. I also thought about reading the book 2001: A Space Odyssey and seeing if I liked that better, since I know a few people who really liked the novel and hated the movie. But at this point, I think it’s best for my sanity if I just distanced myself from the whole thing for a couple of years 🙂
After reading the comments I definitely need to watch Moon again, sigh.
Though the avant garde feel of 2001 is evident, the visuals are truly unbeatable. I think a lot of the problems for the audience come from the fact that the plot seems to have been set into a precise 4 story arc, like the books themselves. This causes problems with the slow beginning, the barren setpieces, and the distressing ending.
In response to the black screens and intermissions in general, they aren’t that weird. These have been staples of film since pictures moved. The abandonment of these older methods happened slowly as movie theaters became more dominant than playhouses in most cities. I liked them just fine, even as a younger viewer.
That said, you’re definitely spot on about the audience’s opinions typically being very black and white.
I saw 2001 as a kid in 1968 and loved it. I appreciate your very well thought out and well expressed review. Yes, this is one that people will either love or hate. I do suggest however that you take the time to read A.C. Clarke’s novelization. While there are differences (the novel takes them to Saturn and Jupiter is only the target of a short lived automatic probe), it does do a lot to explain what’s really going on.
I’ll have to make sure I’ve added it to my To-Read list. Mind you, my To-Read is ridiculously long, like, way longer than my Netflix queue, which isn’t exactly short itself. But enough people have recommended this book by now, I feel like it needs to be on there. I’m not sure that reading the book will make me like the film any more, but I might still enjoy it on its own.