2001: A Space Odyssey Reviews
I went into 2001: A Space Odyssey knowing that many of its detractors take issue with the pacing. So I anticipated some slow sections in the film and did my best to disregard them and simply enjoy the visual spectacle (and the score when it was there.) Despite my best efforts it's hard for me to deny that there is some bloat in this film. Things that could take moments take minutes, and many of them are not essential scenes with any plot progression. I wasn't overly annoyed by any of it. However, there were a few of these long scenes with no audio other than one monotonous sound and that almost drove me insane.
The one time I did love the story in 2001 was the part that is most widely known, talked about, and parodied. The journey to Jupiter is fascinating, and the interactions between HAL and the crew has that traditional sci-fi feel. The real problem is that this is one short act of a much longer movie. This isn't a film about a computer malfunction and how it affects the crew. In fact the stuff I like is basically a distraction or odd subplot to the main storyline. As we see in the first hour and last half hour of this film it's something much more esoteric about creation and evolution. And, I'll be honest, this is the kind of stuff I despise in film.
2001: A Space Odyssey is 100% ambiguous, makes no sense, and asks the viewer to draw their own conclusions. You could spend months reading online papers with thousands of different opinions on the "real meaning" of what happens in 2001. Which means there is no real meaning. You can't put the pieces together and come up with a logical explanation because the film flies in the face of logic. It's like walking through the abstract art section of a museum. I don't go to films for them to ask me "what do you think happened?" at least not to this extent. The problem is I can see the magic in parts of 2001, and I think if it ended more clearly I would embrace it, but sadly it ends as an inscrutable LSD-fueled fever dream and I was more annoyed than interested.
Ranging from the beginning of human intellegence, a scarily sentient space ship, right through to the complete understanding of the whole universe's endless imposibilities. This film leaves you completely confused and bewildered with how it wraps up its strange twist with the protagonist transforming into a giant embryo, only to float above the earth observing all of the insignificant humans going about their insignificant lives.
For this, Stanley Kubrick, I give you 5 stars.
The controversy comes, perhaps, in the acting. The acting is fine, but there is so little for the actors to say and do because the film is so rooted in visual storytelling. One could argue that the high point of acting in the film is Daniel Richter who plays the un-named ape man (called Moon-Watcher in the credits and novel). The other acting high point may very well be Douglas Rain who voices HAL. There is no weak acting for sure ... and Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood give great performances as astronauts keeping a cool and collected demeanor under pressure.
Kubrick famously dumped Alex North's score for the film, and replaced it with extent classical music. Clearly, this had an effect (even people who have never seen the film, know that Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is associated with this film). I think this was used for great dramatic impact. Not simply that the music was good (it was), but in using music that has its roots in a shared culture, it emphasizes the idea of mankind's past being so critical to the film, especially as the film transitions to the future.
Here was Kubrick's great conundrum: How does an artist pose great questions about humanity's past and its links to the future ... about the dualistic nature of man as creator/explorer and destroyer, about how humanity has evolved and continues to evolve, and the still unknown nature of evolution's link to technology (both as a function of evolution and a driver of it), and doing so in a visual medium? Raising such deep questions without words would be virtually impossible for many, but Kubrick is a grandmaster of the medium of film, and that is what I think he accomplished. I say "think", because the film itself is something like that monolith. One can never be sure what Kubrick's actual message was, and until his death he refused to say much other than to say that the film speaks for itself.
That might be the great beauty of this masterpiece - it is a film, like any great work of literature or art that requires a repeated viewings, and provokes and requires great thought ... not simply about what the film is saying, but how the viewer individually connects to it.
No film that I have ever seen has moved me to such contemplation as this one has.