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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

January 24, 2011

10/10 Paranoid Androids

Pretty much the be-all end-all when it comes to sci-fi movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey is about…well, it’s about a lot of things. It’s about man’s evolution from ape-like scavenger to neanderthal hunter, it’s about man’s intergalactic search for knowledge and new life thousands of years later, it’s about the dangers of technology and how our ever-increasing reliance on it will ultimately come to bite us in the ass, and how all this stuff was more or less planned out and triggered by a greater intelligence far beyond our understanding.

Yeah, this baby’s about as epic as they come and if you’re not prepped for it beforehand, you may very well not know what in the fuck is going on. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what makes this movie so mind-blowing and captivating goes right back to how ambiguous and trippy it is, but if you want the full picture instead of glimpses at genius, do the right thing and read the book first.

Before you start rolling those eyes, please bear with me ’cause I swear this isn’t gonna be another “book vs. movie” review. This is coming from someone who goes into movies as blind as possible and has had his fair share of moviegoing experiences tarnished by reading the book beforehand, but here is the rare case where it’s almost required.

The unique thing about the novel and this script is that they were both written at the same time by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke rather than adapted after the fact. They’re both on the same page, it’s the same story being told, the only difference is that Kubrick is far more cryptic behind the camera than Clarke is behind the keyboard. This isn’t usually the way folks go through the writing process, but it works like gangbusters and I absolutely love how the book works as a companion piece to the movie, like a blueprint that only adds to the experience and doesn’t take away from either finished product. Man, read the book even if you’re not gonna see the movie, it’s amazing stuff.

But as integral as Clarke is to the script, the this baby’s all about Kubrick. For a movie made over four decades ago, the only remotely dated things I could pick up on were the interior decoration of a moon lander that could double as the Brady’s living room and the assortments of spacesuits that look about as futuristic as The Michelin Man. But everything else is flat-out stunning and has held up outrageously well over the years. The stunning color scheme, the multitude of gravity-defying sequences that I’ve stopped trying to wrap my head around because I’m surprisingly comfortable with the idea that Kubrick just went and filmed this in space, all the iconic imagery that can’t be boiled down to three little screen grabs in a movie review – it’s a jaw-dropping feast for the eyes and it’s stuff you’ll never forget because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

God, it’s just insane. I mean, how do you film, let alone create, the mysteries of the universe? Where would you even start and how would you go about conveying it to an audience? It’s mind-blowing stuff that seems as alien as that shadowless monolith and . I know it took Kubrick a long-ass time to make this, but I really have no idea how he pulled it off, I can’t believe this was made in ’68 when it could have been made in 2012, and it’s as timeless as the story it’s telling.

And what a freakin’ story it is.

Clarke and Kubrick drop a lot of knowledge here, it’s a lot to take in and process all at once, but that’s also the whole idea. Whether it be triviabots that are built for the sole purpose of winning at Jeopardy!, machines that can perform hospital surgeries instead of doctors with, or all those creepy dancing, singing, glorified blow-up dolls that the Japanese keep on making for some reason, the warning that HAL represents is becoming that much more of a reality for mankind with each new technological development that comes along and brings our creations that much closer to a level of sentiency where they would in fact fear “death”. One of the many reasons (let’s not forget that numbingly monotone voice of his) that that effing red-eyed computer is one of the all-time great movie villains. But the thing that I love most about this story is the cornerstone that despite how humanity has considered itself an advanced and dominant over the course of four million years, we’re essentially the pet project of something far beyond us and we will never be able to comprehend that. It’s terrifying, it’s astounding, and I can hardly believe a human came up with it.

For Chrissakes, the martian/higher being/lordknowswhat of the movie is a fucking monolith. A MONOLITH! You can keep your Cloverfield monsters, your Borgs and your little green men, that silent, black slab of mystery is the most original-looking alien I’ve ever seen. So simple and so brilliant.

Like anyone was thinking about that stuff back in the ’60s. Just crazy.

Also love the way Kubrick takes his time with the pacing. It doesn’t drag since it’s more of a meditation than a slow boil, and as a result it produces this epic, expansive mood that perfectly complements a setting that couldn’t be larger. It makes you focus on every frame he’s showing, you could pretty much photograph every shot here to frame on your wall, and then he throws in that monumental score on top of it and the whole thing becomes one breathtaking cosmic ballet. Absolutely beautiful, folks.

Although I wish I had some praise to throw to the actors because Keir Dullea’s good as our main spaceman, David Bowman, but this movie really isn’t so much about the characters as it is about everything else. Still, surprised the name ain’t ringing any bells. Figured this would be one hell of a launching pad.

Aside from it just being a cool tagline, 2001 really is “the ultimate trip”. There’s so much to think about and write about, then again, it’s one of those things you’re probably better off discussing than preaching about. You don’t have the read the book to appreciate what an effing milestone this is for the genre and for filmmaking in general, but if you don’t want to risk the chance of wondering who dropped acid in your corn flakes during the last half-hour of the movie, read up, brotha’. There’s still a handful of Kubrick movies I need to get through before I can pin where this lies respect to his life’s work, but I know a masterpiece when I see one and 2001 fits the bill from start to finish. Might even be in the Top Ten.

FUN FACT: Add one letter each of HAL’s initials and you get IBM. That’s some Skynet shit right there.

DOUBLE FUN FACT: Kubrick initially asked Pink Floyd to do the score, but Roger Waters (regrettably) declined the offer. Not that the score isn’t perfect as is, but that would have been so, so awesome.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2011 4:05 am

    I saw 2001 for the first time a few months ago and was completely blown away: I couldn’t believe how modern and non-dated it looked for a such an old movie and even though it’s really long the time just flew by. Best sci-fi I’ve ever seen with no competition!

    • January 24, 2011 12:02 pm

      Completely agree. Astounding how well this movie has held up and will continue to hold up for generations to come. What a movie.

  2. January 24, 2011 4:18 am

    I smell a fanboy!!! :-p

    Saw the movie, then read the book and still think that the film is too cryptic for it’s own good. I personally think that this was nothing more than a vehicle for Stan to showcase his talent. Technically, it’s outstanding. The SFX are possibly the best in movie history and the physics are spot on (it was pre moon landing). But, being honest, there’s not much else on offer. The majority of the runtime is just pretty pictures.

    It’s still one of the best looking and sounding Blu Rays I’ve seen, and exactly what BDs are for, but at the end of the day – the story’s pretty toss.

    • January 24, 2011 12:38 pm

      Hahaha. Wasn’t a fanboy until last week, but now I’m shameless about it.

      But you’re crazy calling this story toss, homey. Just crazy. I guess it’s more about ideas than getting from point A to point B, but these are some fucking wild ideas and that’s why it rocks. Had no idea this was pre-moon landing though, that’s just nuts.

      And I really should buy this on Blu-Ray. It looked great on Netflix Instant, but I would love to see this at its best.

      • January 25, 2011 4:38 am

        I guess my biggest let-down was that for all the applaud, praise and “Best Filme EVAR” reviews I’ve read, I wasn’t expecting an arthouse movie. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘Jupiter Mission’ section was off the hook, but 20 mins of apes shouting? Gratuitous space ballet? 5 mins of psychedelia? Starchild?!?! It should come with a few tabs of acid.

        And yea, the BD picture and sound are reference material to match Watchmen/Inglorious.

      • January 25, 2011 8:58 am

        Yeah, I won’t argue with the “arthouse” label, but I think that’s one of the many things that make it stand out. And while I dug the shouting apes, the space ballet, the psychadelia and star child especially, I also won’t argue with folks being confused as fuck by it. You gotta read that book though, homey.

        And I need to watch Watchmen again. Wasn’t crazy about it in theaters, but I’ve owned it for a while now, ’bout time I gave it a second shot. Felt like a bastardized version of the source material.

    • January 25, 2011 2:54 pm

      Wow. Sacrilege.

  3. January 24, 2011 7:26 am

    haha, ‘Space Odyssey’s Story is Pretty Toss’, says Para. that guy has balls.
    its bizarre and brilliant and it has Reggie Perrin in it, what else do you need?

    • January 24, 2011 12:47 pm

      You said it, man. Blasphemy. And I have no idea who Perrin is, but I’m sure he was awesome.

  4. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    January 24, 2011 7:58 am

    nice review of one of my all time favorites. when i first saw it at a pretty early age, i thought it was boring but beautiful. watching it after i got older, i noticed the story more and found it much more interesting.

    and for some reason i’ve always liked the scene between william sylvester (as haywood floyd) and his daughter on the video phone.

    • January 24, 2011 12:48 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, I remember my dad and I watching this during a sci-fi marathon we had when I was way younger, but there’s no way I could have gotten it. Definitely got better with age. And I totally dig that scene with Sylvester and his daughter. Good stuff.

  5. Branden permalink
    January 24, 2011 10:16 am

    At first, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on with the ape sequence then I was blown by the visuals as you said in the review. It was an awesome movie.

    • January 24, 2011 12:49 pm

      Yeah, it’s a crazy place to start things off, but it totally works in the grand scheme of things. And those visuals, man. Just insane.

  6. January 24, 2011 10:43 am

    I am ashamed to say it, but I have never actually seen this. I got the Kubrick Collection box set for Christmas, too, so it’s not like I have an excuse… Your review was what I needed to read right now — I am going to watch this ASAP.

    • January 24, 2011 12:50 pm

      Do it to it, man. Read the book first if you can, but either way, it is awesome.

  7. laurenthejukebox17 permalink
    January 24, 2011 1:48 pm

    Dude, I saw this a few months ago for the first time as well and I do believe my mouth was ridiculously foaming at the mouth I was so in awe. I loooove the sound. Or the lack thereof. The real space-feel is so eery, so out of this world (pun intended). The entire final scene with Hal is so perfectly constructed… love it all.

    • January 24, 2011 2:24 pm

      Yeah, it’s definitely one of those slack-jawed cinematic experiences. Love the last scene with HAL, too, particularly the way Bowman pipes up and asks to hear HAL’s song after ignoring him the whole time. Great stuff all around, man.

  8. January 24, 2011 2:20 pm

    I need to watch this again. The first time I saw it I was deliriously sick and didn’t like it at all. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever liked a movie I’ve watched while sick (or at least one I hadn’t seen before).

    • January 24, 2011 2:21 pm

      Haha. Well I say load up on vitamin C and give this the shot it deserves.

  9. January 24, 2011 7:58 pm

    One of my favorites. Kubrick really did create a masterpiece with this, and I would have just loved to have seen this film back in theaters in 1968. That would have been one hell of a car ride home. Great review my mans!

    • January 25, 2011 8:54 am

      Thanks, man. And I’m right there with ya’, would love to even see this on a big screen today. The TV just doesn’t do it justice.

  10. January 24, 2011 11:45 pm

    Ummm, I think this might be my greatest film of all time. Haven’t watched it in quite awhile though…will have to remedy that!

    • January 25, 2011 8:55 am

      Haha. Wouldn’t argue that in the least. Always worth a refresher course.

  11. January 26, 2011 3:32 pm

    I’ve seen this film thrice now and I’m not sure how to feel about it. The theme of mankind always wanting to advance one more step and that step being potentially what kills us all was great. But I’ve always felt there should have been something…more.

    • January 27, 2011 7:53 am

      Finally, another non-believer!! Like you, I find it all a bit interesting but just pretty empty and lacking a stance (other than pro-drug use). You don’t get much more cinematic than this, but it just doesn’t feel like a film.

  12. h2omg permalink
    June 23, 2012 1:50 pm

    This movie is a crap. I can’t even imagine how it gets so many funboys.

    • June 25, 2012 9:30 am

      Haha. I suggest reading the book first. Clarifies a whole lot of things.

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