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This film is a classic for a reason. Pacing is not that reason.
Yes, it has excellent worldbuilding. A very believable, almost realistic futuristic setting. Deep and philisophical themes about what it means to be human, and what our place is in the universe. It had fantastic practical effects and attention to detail that set the standard for "hard" sci-fi for decades to come.
And it takes about three times as long as necessary to do all that.
Every scene - and I mean literally every scene - I found myself going through this thought process.
1. Okay, what's this? What's happening.
2. Okay, that's cool. I see. I understand.
3. Okay, those are some neat special effects/camera tricks, especially for the era of film.
4. Yeah, I get it.
5. I said I get it already.
6. Is there anything else about this scene? Maybe? Is it lulling me into a false sense of security to surprise me with something?
7. Nope. Just more of the same.
8. Oh god when is it going to end?
9. I'm going to go make a sandwich.
10. Sandwich is done, scene is not.
Repeat this for the entire film.
Normally in a film that's nearly 2 and a half hours long, you think there's room for character development, a complex plot, twists and turns, or stuff like that. There isn't. The characters are mostly fairly bland, and maybe there's only one big reveal about HAL, but otherwise nothing really happens. The plot is equally simplistic. The amount of storytelling and worldbuilding would actually fit quite neatly into an hour-length movie, it's just that this movie strrrrreeeeeeettttttcccccchhhhheeeeesssss eeeeeeevvvvvvvvveeeeeerrrrrrrryyyyyyyytttttttthhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnngggggggggg oooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttttttttttt.
You know, I can totally respect that. My younger brother thought the same thing.
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