2001: A Space Odyssey review by Tom Blain
The steps towards appreciation
The first time you watch it you think, Well that was a waste of my time. Seriously.
The first few minutes are completely black. Starting from the first few moments your patience is tested! There is some creepy 1960s music, but what good does that do on a black screen. After that dust settles, Strauss kicks in (Also Sprach Zarathrusta the piece we all associate with Space Odyssey), and there is an eclipse; our first image. By this point you are thinking on with the science fiction. But Kubrick doesnt let you get away that easy. The first real step in earning your 2001 wings is The Dawn of Man. Its not a 30-second montage of apes and lemurs; no its more like 20 minutes of apes cavorting around, snorting, growling, yelling, beating, and of course discovering. By this point you know you are paying a price, but you keep watching.
The apes are a bit difficult to stomach, but the space part will be exciting, right? Its like Star Trek right? Sorry admiral. Even though we fast forward from the grunting dawn of man to a more modern environment filled with spacecraft and moon colonies, there is still a lot of space. There are a lot of pauses between lines. There are a lot of shots of space and things moving slowly within space. Like I said there is just a lot of space. In the whole movie there is probably less than 40 minutes of pure dialogue. None of the dialogue is clever. None of the characters have distinguishable personalities. The computer, HAL, even with a monotone voice probably has as much personality as any of the human actors in the film.
Then you get to the conflict. Finally there is some action. A villain is established (its been more than an hour) and the good guys work to defeat the villain/computer. That wraps the movie in two hours; but there is more. For twenty minutes you will be somewhere between bored and confused. Maybe captivated for a few moments, but not enough to excuse what you saw for the previous two hours of pain and agony. There will be colors, and sounds, and some trippy landscapes. The last thing you will say is A Friggin Baby?
So as I stated above, the first time you watch this, your reaction will probably be close to my first reaction: What a waste of time!?! For some of you this is where it ends.
For the rest of you, the best has yet to come.
You will know this is not the end of the ride for you if you cant get the film out of your head for the next hour maybe the rest of the day. You wont be obsessed with any one thing in particular, you will just be pondering such things as What was with that space journey?, What was with those black monoliths?, What was HALs plan all along?, What was with the apes?, and of course What did the baby mean at the end?
Then you will move into the actively seeking out more information phase. What does everyone else thing of this movie?, you ask. Naturally a buddy or two will have been preaching the magic of Space Odyssey and Kubrick. Now you have finally listened, and he gets to talk. He will have some answers, or at least guide you towards theories. Beyond him, you will find tomes upon tomes written about the meaning of 2001 on the Internet. Pages upon pages of web sites and newsgroups are devoted to Kubricks handful of films and 2001 is probably the most talked about. Most of the theories revolve around the black monoliths being a key to evolution of the mind and spirit. HAL was Kubricks warning to the world over letting artificially intelligent computers have too much control over human lives.
But dont let that be your final answer.
Taking your newfound knowledge to the test you finally decide to watch the movie again. The 2nd and 3rd times around, you will find a greater appreciation for it. You will understand that it took a particular vision from a particularly gifted man to make a movie so bold. Kubrick had to know that it wouldnt appeal to everyone right away. Its deliberately paced, its confusing, and it offers more questions than answers by the end of the film. Even the answers it appears to give are not clear. This lack of clarity is, what they call, box-office-poison. Not something the general public will lightly swallow. 2001 is a special movie that is powerful enough to create its own mystique. Viewers of 2001 are allowed to theorize, and interpret freely. They are allowed to take these theories as deep or shallow as they please. Since there are no clear answers, there are no boundaries for thought.
If you have made it this far, congratulations. There are other routes to take in enjoying 2001. One of my personal favorites comes in synching up Pink Floyds Echoes (See their album entitled Meddle) to the final sequence. Hit play when the screen reads Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite and enjoy the journey. But the rest of this is just additional fluff.
In the end, because it is more than just a movie, it a film to be studied, analyzed, appreciated, and talked about, 2001 can be no less than a perfect 10. By not creating a simple movie, Kubrick has created something greater. If you have the time and the discipline, and you consider yourself a movie buff at any level, I highly suggest you give 2001 the ole college try. Finish it, think about it, then try again some other time. Its well worth the investment.
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2001: A Space Odyssey
IMDB Link: 2001: A Space Odyssey
DVD Relase Date: 1998-08-25
DVD Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
DVD Extras: Interview with Arthur C. Clarke
DVD Producer: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=jackasscritic-20&path=tg/detail/-/B00005ASUM/qid=1110
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