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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.
2001 is in many respects, such as music, direction, and effects, a great film, but it ultimately fails as an adaptation of the book and has some major faults. Many fans state that the more confusing portions of the film can be explained by reading the book, but that's exactly the problem: the film should be able to stand up on its own without people needing to read the book. If you need to do research just to understand what's happening, the film has failed. It can still be good, but not as an effective adaptation, and there are two other major problems which diminished the film for me.
The characters are incredibly dull. The only two crew we see in action are as interesting as manilla folders, and HAL, the most memorable character, really has little effect on the plot, as I'll discuss in a moment. Do you remember the name of the guy HAL killed? How about Dave's last name? Would you even remember his name was Dave if HAL hadn't said it? They hardly say or do anything of consequence and have so little personality I can't really be interested in their fate.
Another major problem is the lack of information. We're told so little about what the mission is, both the stated one and the real one disclosed to David offscreen after he shuts down HAL, or what went wrong with HAL in the first place. We have so little information that there are no known consequences of the character's actions, because we have no way of knowing how what happens differs from the alternative. Case in point, the entire conflict with HAL could have been omitted. We don't know what that recording with the real mission instructed him to do. David still reaches the monolith without the other crewmen or HAL, without any trouble, and we don't know what they would have done, so they may as well have never been there. One of the most memorable parts of the film is completely redundant and has no impact on the larger story of reaching the monolith.
Overall, it's still deserving of status as a sci-fi classic, but mainly due to a combination of style over substance and a still memorable story from Clarke.
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.
Everyone knows that 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. However, I don't think people are able to articulate why, me included. The plot is not particularly complex. The characters, with the obvious exception of the HAL 9000 supercomputer, aren't anything to write home about. The film is glacially paced, with some scenes serving no purpose but to waste time; the board meeting establishes nothing new and gives barely any characterization to the people present. Yes, the special effects are amazing, but as any science fiction purist can tell you, "special effects can't make a film". Apparently, the long scene of a ship docking into a space station with no importance beyond eye-candy doesn't count.
Yet despite these flaws, when 2001 works, it works. I believe the incredible special effects immerse the viewer; there is no tongue-in-cheek feeling of fakeness in 2001, and it all feels very real. The pacing, when it is not just showing off special effects, can allow for some of the most tense atmospheric buildup in movie history; the scene where the men approach the Monolith on the Moon is more terrifying than any horror movie I've watched. It is no wonder, then, that the chapter on the Jupiter expedition ship is the most famous out of all the movie's sections. It has the incredible special effects, the atmospheric buildup, and the setup of the previous scenes, yet it adds one key element: An interesting character.
HAL is brilliant. It's very hard to describe why it works so well; maybe it's the machine's unrelenting pride, a flaw that we all can sometimes face. Maybe it's the character's desperation as we see this all-powerful supercomputer reduced to pleading for its life. Maybe it's the way that HAL is so blunt and methodical, killing the hibernating explorers with the ease of swatting a gnat.
That is why I love the film. For all its flaws, the creators had a vision, and they were going to make it happen. And when this film does reach its vision, up until the unfortunately obtuse final chapter, it works perfectly.
"Yeah. I'd like to hear it Hal. Sing it for me."
OK. Flameproof pants on.
I don't like this movie. One bit. Well ok, I like it two bits. But here is my problem. This film is the genesis of the genre of films I hate the most, and the fact that it does so via being arty rather than explody is no defence. This is the dawn of the special effects drenched plot-less epic. A huge amount of this film is made up of protracted special effects scenes, 3 minutes watching that space ship, 4 minutes watching that other space ship, 2 minutes watching landscape images, a further minutes watching monkeys. The characters are as shallow as a pancake and the plot is as substantial as damp tissue paper. And people even use these facts as praise for the film. Nevertheless there are two things I love, and one of them could even be used to build a film.
The first was the use of the bone at the end of the prehistory chapter. It is a metaphor for human development that really works. In my opinion, because it is the only one where the intention is clear or even decipherable, it is the only metaphor that works in this film.
The second is Hal. I freaking love Hal. If first, he has a character. Every human in this film has at most a single note character. But Hal, Hal asks some really interesting questions about humanity. Hal, despite the fact that we all seem to remember him as just a monotone voice and infer from that an emotionless character, displays a range of emotions quite likely caused by him being too good a computer. If the film had been about the crew locked in with Hal as Hal's nascent personhood caused him to become scared, confused and angry, probably with the addition of other characters who would be able to examine Hal in more detail, this would be my kind of film. Tense and interesting while still allowing the exploration of a genuine theme, if this film is meant to lead up to the question "What is out place in the world?" why not ask it via the emergence of another sentient life by our hands? You could even compare their dilemma at Hals actions with God's/The Universe's at our if you wanted.
I did not enjoy this film save for one character and one piece of imagery, however I would advise people to watch it if they are interested. While I don't think it makes sense, indeed that was the part of the aim apparently, it is notable and plenty of people seem to enjoy it. If only I did
2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the iconic Science Fiction films of the 20th century, and one of the most painstaking in terms of its attention to detail and verisimilitude, soundly averting Space Does Not Work That Way. It's also one of the classic Sufficiently Advanced Aliens stories, featuring all the tropes that audiences have come to expect — Precursors intervening in human evolution, mysterious alien artifacts, Alien Abductions — but in a way that was new and revolutionary for the time. Moreover, it has perhaps the most well-known example of AI Is A Crapshoot ever committed to film in the murderous rampage of the HAL 9000 computer.
The trouble is that all of this comes at the expense of watchability, especially if you are the kind of viewer with little patience for extremely long establishing scenes, a dramatic lack of exposition to explain the odder plot elements, and an ending that's a complete and utter Mind Screw for anyone who does not read the novel (and in some cases even then). On the other hand, it can be a lot of fun to explain to your friends how Hollywood Science has made Reality Is Unrealistic into such an art form with science fiction movies that someone watching 2001 for the first time in this day and age might actually be startled and even disappointed by, for example, the lack of sound in space. You'll also enjoy the touches of Zeerust, such as the Pan Am space shuttles, Bell space telephones, and the Hilarious In Hindsight political state of the world.
However, your greatest challenge will be simply to understand the plot.
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