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I'll be blunt: there's absolutely no good reason for the younger generation to watch this film.
It's one thing for a movie to not have a plot, it's quite another for a movie to literally fail to engage its audience on any emotional level. Comparing it to a better arthouse movie, for example, Mamoru Oshii's "Angel's Egg", one can feel the differences. Angel's Egg has a girl trying to protect an egg from danger and survive in a desolate, possibly hostile world. We can empathize with that. A lot of scenes that are "dead air" from the narrative standpoint make good use of our empathy and don't feel as pointless as they otherwise would.
Kubrick doesn't provide anything similar. Aside from HAL, the characters are dull with characterization being practically non-existent. Leave your empathy at the door, it's not welcome here. For the contemporary viewer, the movie lacks the most important thing: the reason to give a shit.
Keep in mind, though, that it wasn't always like this. Remember that this movie was made in 1968 and suddenly its status will make a lot more sense. All the "pointless" scenes of what Confused Matthew describes as "crap floating in space" were not pointless back in the day. Space was cool. Space was important. And, most importantly, space was big. Really BIG. The huge amount of time spent on space scenes really hammers this point in, stretching time to make space feel as big as it is. The futuristic aspects of the story and tone also allow the movie to be confusing and self-indulgent without it feeling like a cheat - the movie ITSELF felt like an artifact from THE GODDAMN FUTURE.
To achieve this, Kubrick needed stunning, impeccable cinematography along with some epic music to set the mood. Utilizing his immense filmmaking talent and a host of classic musicians, this is just what he has done. However, one kind of expects good cinematography from Kubrick and discussions about it are aplenty, so I see no reason to repeat them.
As for the thematic material, it was good, but overshadowed by later works. If you want to see something thematically relevant and spectacularly prophetic in many ways, while still staying true to the "artsy" kind of science fiction, there's at least one excellent option - Serial Experiments Lain. Watch that instead.
The film isn't meant to be emotional, but rather, logical. This is loaded with symbolism and awe, in order to make you think about the journey it's taking you on, to think about the questions it's raising without ever answering them for you. You think it fails emotionally, but the thing is, there was never meant to be an emotional pull in the first place.
His argument is that the lack of emotional pull is a failure in and of itself. Logic and emotion are two opposing poles, with one counteracting the other. Art is best when they harmonize, rather than one being absent.
...I meant to write that logic and emotion are not two opposing poles with one counteracting the other. Whoops.
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