Friday, April 16, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

That's where babies come from?

Few movies are as important to a genre of films as 2001: A Space Odyssey is to science fiction. It represents a leap forward from the movies of the 50's and 60's and the first step towards what we know as science fiction today. It is impossible to overstate the importance of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but being influential is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the film has to offer. While it moves a little too slowly at times, 2001: A Space Odyssey is an undisputed classic when it comes to science fiction because of it's daring style, obsessive attention to detail and it's unforgettable last half.

2001: A Space Odyssey is part science fiction epic, part complete history of the human race and part space thriller. The film is split into four segments and each has a distinct personality. The first is full of people in monkey suits, the second has normal suits, the third has space suits and the last has a giant space baby. The story, simply, revolves around a giant black cock from space. When modern man finds it on the moon, they send a team into space to try and solve the mystery. They also send the most often spoofed evil computer in movie history along for the ride. The last twenty minutes of the movie are just a Pink Floyd laser show. The movie is directed by the king of all things weird and awesome Stanley Kubrick and is based on several works of famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark. While the movie stars no one particularly famous, the trademarks of the director and writer are all over the movie. The film was nominated for a handful of Oscars, winning one for Best Visual Effects, and it widely considered, by critics and moviegoers, to be one of the best films ever made.

The one thing about 2001: A Space Odyssey that can't be debated is how insanely influential it was in the world of movie making. For it's own genre, the film redefines what a science fiction films should look like and it gave the world a whole new look at space. It's influence on movies as a whole is more a result of Kubrick's pacing style and attention to detail. Kubrick's films are always longer than they should be, but he somehow pulls it off. The way he shoots things is hypnotizing and even when a shot has gone on for twice as long as it should, I find myself staring intently at the screen, reveling in every moment. This style of film-making, longer than it should be with beautiful extended shots, has become extremely popular in Hollywood, directors like P.T. Anderson and Terrence Malick for example, and it seems to be gaining even more momentum. Kubrick's fingerprints are all over 2001: A Space Odyssey and it is his singular vision that makes the movie work. Without his obsessive nature, the film would falter. Instead of feeling too long, each extended sequence builds more and more suspense until Kubrick finally unleashes the last chapter of the film on the audience leaving everyone confused, breathless and scared.

While I would say that all four chapters of 2001: A Space Odyssey are good, there is one that truly stands out from the rest. The third chapter of the film, which follows the Jupiter mission astronauts and their super computer HAL, is one of the best segments ever put on film. The segment doesn't stand alone, it benefits greatly from the mystery and suspense that is built over the first chunk of the movie, but this section of the movie gives the audience most of the memorable moments in the film. In the thirty or so minutes that we spend with the astronauts and HAL, we get some of the most thought-provoking material in the entire movie. HAL turns out to be one of the best villains in movie history, his calm, calculated betrayal is utterly terrifying, and the questions that are raised about artificial intelligence are still relevant today. The first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, this was the only section of the film I actually enjoyed. On a second viewing, everything worked a lot better for me, but this thirty minutes of film is probably the single biggest reason the movie succeeds.

While 2001: A Space Odyssey is certainly a modern classic, it isn't for everyone. The pacing of the film is hard for a lot of people to handle and it's certainly not a tune-out and enjoy kind of movie. The film demands that you pay attention, and more importantly, that you think. While not everyone will enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey, it passes all the tests for a must see movie. It's highly influential, beautifully detailed and one of the defining films for an entire genre. It's a personal favorite because it passes my highest test of all which is that is solicits an emotional reaction out of me. The entire film puts me on edge and, no matter how long it is, I would enjoy every minutes of it.



This Guy Over Here said...

I think the film extends far beyond just the realm of science fiction. I mean that both in what the film itself is and the influence it had on other films. You mentioned it briefly with PTA and Malick, but I'd go as far to say that this one single film is just as responsible as all of the French New Wave at influencing the Hollywood New Wave in establishing modern cinema as we know it.

The Floating Red Couch said...

I agree with This Guy -- but with a caveat.

Since 2001: ASO, every sci-fi movie has striven to attain the perfection that it doled out as a film. Let's not forget that it was made before there was a picture of Earth from outer space.

However, there are many people alive today who say that there are 2 types of movies: those made before 2001 and those made after 2001. 2001 was probably the first film that engaged its viewers through interactive camera angles, subtle plot, and metaphorical edits -- all of which were unheard of most movies made were three walls on a set and a camera with conventional editing.

Fantastic take on the film, ever get a chance to read the book (written a little after the screenplay), it is a nice companion piece.

Yojimbo_5 said...

The book was written concurrently with the screenplay, but Kubrick kept delaying its publication, so as to not have it trump the film.

I'm always amazed when someone says "2001" "moves too slow." For me, it moves like a bat out of hell, with just enough time to pick out the details and to communicate a transition from A to B. What it refuses to do is give any narrative hand-holds, or melodrama, for an audience to latch onto. It is all about cold professionals doing their jobs and tasked with extraordinary circumstances. It may be too slow for those who see film as an exercise in editing rather than story-telling—and the advances in the capability of video editing have made it seem as if one should keep the edit-count high. But it's all in the story-telling, and the way dramatic rhythm can be used to enhance the emotional response.

What I pity are the folks who've only seen the film on video. A friend I'd convinced to see it (for once in a theater) called me later in a froth--"There are PEOPLE in those windows." Yup.

It's not about machines. It's the people in them.

CMrok93 said...

Its a film that will test your comfort zone, especially when it comes movie viewing. But, it is one of the most influential sci-fi films of all-time, and brings up great questions about a universe we may never know about. Check out my review here: Nice Review!

mark kotorman said...

this movie was borderline POINTLESS, and a complete waste of my time. I want my fucking 2 hours back with interest. I genuinly feel like a more boring human for watching this garbage. The soundtrack is BEYOND Aweful, not the classical music, the CRAP FOR NOISE they wrote for some scenes made my ears throw up and go deaf. Horribly horribly horrible waste of film. Nothing about this movie is interesting or good. that is my and 99% of people i know's opinion. This movie is NOT worshiped by this generation. you damn slow hippies who are into this stuff are going to die soon and the world will leave you behind.

Alfindeol said...

Well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. To say it's a total waste based on what you and your friends think isn't exactly a solid foundation to build your argument though. You are totally entitled to your opinion of course, I certainly have my fair share of unpopular opinions, but you should probably give some examples of what you dislike and why to back them up. If you want people to take your opinion seriously, that would be step one. Also, do a little research before you claim things about "generations". Using IMDB, which is about the only source you can use aside from independent polling, 2001 is rated as the #94 movie of all time. The best part, the demographic breakdown actually shows younger viewers enjoy the movie more than the so called "hippies". I discount the under 18 crowd, but, after them, the 29 and under generation rates the movie the next highest.

If you have a review written that explains your opinions I'd love to read it.

Anonymous said...

The movie sucks

Alfindeol said...

Go ahead and see my above comment.