I’ve often enjoyed 2001 as spectacle and as entertaining drama. The ideas behind it, however, are a little shaky. The need to explain the evolution of intelligent life as coming from some extraterrestrial god-like force is neither fish nor fowl, so to speak — neither good science nor compelling metaphysics. But this was one of the films that will forever be linked to “ideas in cinema,” and as such its best ideas are purely visual, as some have mentioned, like the tossed-up bone turning into a space station, or the shot of the lost astronaut tumbling horrifyingly through outer space, as well as the trippy last ten minutes so.
I first saw 2001 when I was 22 (in 2005) in an intro to film class and I was absolutely mesmerized by it. Couldn’t take my eyes off it. The only moment where the length of the film began to drag a bit was toward the end of the stargate sequence, but that feeling didn’t last long.
I’m not sure age has that much to do with it. As I said, I was a young guy seeing it long after it’s release and I loved it. The same went for half of my class. In fact, the reactions were fairly evenly split and pretty much polar opposites. Students either loved it or hated it. To be fair, many of the naysayers weren’t exactly budding cinephiles. Lots of kids take film courses as easy electives, many of whom aren’t exactly prone to like any Kubrick, let alone something as challenging as 2001.
I saw 2001 before I was ten, and it’s been one of my favorite movies ever since. Don’t really know what to tell anyone else though.
Spend a little time just watching 2001 for the extraordinary details, like the seven mini-inserts during the scene where the Moon lander descends below the Moon’s surface, or pay close attention to the believable gestures and postures of the ape-actors early Man scenes, or the beauty of the Discovery as it majestically glides through space as it should according to the laws of physics (no Star Wars banking and rocket engines burning non-stop), or the wonderful music, whether the Blue Danube, Thus Spake Zarathustra, or Ligeti during the Stargate sequence, which always seem to me to be perfectly balanced. You can ignore the lack of story since you’ve got past that on your first viewing. For a better understanding of the storyline you really ought to read the Arthur C. Clarke novel that came out at the same time. 2001 is so much more than plot, and consider that what you’re watching is 40 years old. Imagine in 1969 watching some 1929 Garbo silent or a Marx Brothers film…I think 2001 holds up remarkably well when you think of it this way.
Well said, Prudence.
Uh oh, did Fredo say a bad word?
Just the title of this thread, the question that it poses…perturbs me.
It should. It’s freaking ludicrous.
I first experienced 2001 at its premiere in Los Angeles when I was in the US Navy. You have to see 2001 on the big screen! Awesome! The small screen does not do it justice. Not only visually, but in sound. The opening of that black screen with that eclectic music (in those days we would have called it psychedelic) and then the first measure of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”….. The best opening sound/music for a film, EVER! I was and still am, disappointed the film was not re-released to more theaters, and for longer running times, for the big screen (70mm) in “2001”. To quote Roger Ebert – “"It disturbs me that 2001 is not getting a proper national release," Ebert said. “For a while, Warners was even wondering whether to re-release it at all.”” Then, twice again in New York after my discharge from the Navy. There were lines of people around the block of the theatre for months and months.
Having seen three previous Kubrick films before 2001, Paths of Glory, Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, I knew I would be in for a treat. His films (notice I avoid the word “movies”) are unique among the great film directors and producers. Each is individual in its own right. He never followed a general “theme” or “format”. Well, that’s not entirely true. If one has seen all, if not most of his films, you will pick up on the Kubrick “theme”. The weakness (sometimes the strength), cruelty, frailty and foolishness of mankind. This may be true for a majority of films, but Kubrick had a unique view of his own.
Much has been written, by hundreds if not thousands, by critics and fans of 2001 as to the “meaning” of the film. I have often heard, “I didn’t get it” or “What was that all about?”. At the Pantages Theater premiere in LA the actor Rock Hudson was seen walking out early in the film muttering to himself and others, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”. Some witnesses claim it was the “F” word, not “hell”.
What does 2001 “mean”? First of all, it “means” different things to different viewers. One does not “see” 2001. One has to open one’s mind and experience the journey. Then come to your own conclusions. This is what Kubrick wanted. He had his own interpretation of the film, but would not reveal or share it with others. He wanted you, the viewer, to come to your interpretation of the journey. The average “movie” goer feels that everything they see on the screen has to be explained to them. Arthur C. Clarke wrote a companion novel to the film so people would, “understand the film”. One book critic – “The novel is much more detailed and intimate, and definitely easier to comprehend.” I’m not sure if Kubrick liked that idea or not. I have never read it, nor will I ever.
As for myself, I have my own interpretation. But I will not share. It’s mine and mine alone. It even changed after viewing the film again. But, a hint. Keyword, “re-birth”.
I won’t go on and on, although I could. Last thought. The one thing that almost all agree. 2001 significantly raised the benchmark in film special effects. From then on, the viewing public were not going to go for a flying saucer hung from a fishing pole on monofilament line any more. Thank you Stanley. For that and for the experience of one of your masterpieces, “2001: A Space Odyssey”
I believe, personally, that aspects of the film are dated ( the Bell Telephone company no longer exists)_ but the theme of the film will remain undiminished with time. Let us also remember that 2001: A Space Odyssey is an imagined future one propelled by an undeterred space program in the sixties. The idea in the film being, that if we had not halted the space program we would be significantly more advanced. Again let us remember that the previous statement is a theory not a factual representation of possible events.
There isn’t one truly great science-fiction film that can be said to be “outdated” – just as, by extension, there is no truly great film that can be said to be “outdated.” While film as a physical artifact on celluloid has a shelf-life (very short, if neglected), film as one of the fine arts damned well doesn’t.
Yes, I find the Cold War crap in 2001 kind of funny, with Leonard Rossiter playing the jumpy, somewhat disgusting Andrei Smyslov—but my feeling on that isn’t a basis to declare the whole movie an antique. If you’re looking at the film as a commodity, something clunky and less exciting and slightly embarassing, like an old videogame console or cellphone, then I can understand your being non-plussed…
BLADE RUNNER’s got 10 years from this past November to see synthetic humans invented before it’s own speculative cred is also shot. Granted, the themes will remain pertinent. And it will still rule in 2019.
“Question: I’m I the only one who feels that there is no love in this movie?”
what, no love in a Kubrick film? What a revelation….
2001 is like crack to me. I could watch it over and over again and never tire of it. Is it outdated? Absolutely not. Is it innovative and artistic? Damn right.
As you can tell, I love 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was not a little director, hobbled by the need to explain to the audience what is happening through narrative and dialogue. He was a great director, one who understood that film is a medium for images and sound. Kubrick is one of the greatest directors who have ever lived, and in my opinion, 2001 is his finest work; maybe the finest by anybody.
It is not like other films. It is not like other science fiction films. The moments of dramatic tension between protagonists (Moonwatcher, Bowman) and antagonists (the opposing australopiths, HAL) are brief and not the core of the work. The spare dialogue conveys much less of the narrative than the images do, and the narrative itself is astounding; it spans the entire history of modern man.
2001: A Space Odyssey works on every level. Visual, auditory, narrative, philosophical. Its themes of man’s evolution, man’s relationship to his creator, and man’s relationship to his creations are as thought-provoking now as they were when the film was made. How is the film informed by Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch, and incidentally, is this related to the choice of Also Sprach Zarathustra for the soundtrack? Can a machine ever truly attain consciousness, or can it only be programmed to emulate it? What does it truly mean to be human? Can there be tools without weapons?
Likewise, the visual effects remain impressive, especially when you appreciate the work that was done to achieve them. There was no CGI in 01968. I still wonder how some of the effects were done; the people walking around upside down in the windows, for example.
I don’t even think Kubrick’s vision of the future is dated. The future may not have come exactly as he saw it, but Kubrick at least presents a plausible alternative future. And in some ways, the future did come as Kubrick saw it. Those monitors aren’t CRTs. I’ve placed video calls myself. A deleted scene has Floyd shopping online. Kubrick’s depiction of the surface of the Moon is dead on. Ebert even claims that astronauts coming back from space said that it was like 2001, though I don’t know whether that’s true.
2001 is a feast for the eyes, the ears, the intellect, and the imagination. Watch it again when you can devote your undivided attention to it. If there are no characters on-screen, don’t sit there waiting for something to happen; just appreciate the beauty of what you are looking at. You are capable of figuring out the plot, such as there is, of this film without anyone telling you what it is.
With the exception of the engaging HAL sequence and the film’s technical and cinematographic skill, I think the film an unimaginative mess. Kubrick absolves himself of any need to directly engage with the viewer (as in not by means of careless allusions to fifth-rate philosophical ideas), which results in very little artistry in the vein of auditory-visual stimulation. So much of this film’s shot stasis and half-baked ideology can only be defended by a naive wonderment totally unconcerned with aesthetic merit. A Clockwork Orange is so much better than this.
^ For most of the film’s running time they’re in outer space, alone with a computer, and Kubrick conveys that feeling very well.
One word: nope
I think more people should see it.
“^ For most of the film’s running time they’re in outer space, alone with a computer, and Kubrick conveys that feeling very well.”
Which may not make an interesting movie. Replicating superficial aspects of a perspective or experience doesn’t suffice to create an interesting, or moving, or entertaining, or thought-provoking, or evocative artifact, which is what a film should be. Not just some thing to point to and exclaim “how accurate!”
Charles deGaulle, is that you?
back by popular demand . . .
First Taxi Driver and now 2001. Looks like someone’s trying to yank our chain. (which it turns out is really easy to do.)
This movie needed more milk.
I don’t know about the milk angle, but I think it was a shame that Kubrick didn’t do more with the floating pen…
I’d say the key details were delved into.
This thread can only be attributable to human error.
2001 and boring are two words that should never be paired up together.
This movie needed more chest-bursters.