Summer Moviethon 2016: 2001: A Space Odyssey

June 28: #16, 2001: A Space Odyssey

What the HAL happened up there?

This was my second viewing of 2001 and I enjoyed it about as much as the first time, though I wasn't particularly excited to watch a half hour of monkey business at the start and another half hour of a space-themed acid trip at the end of the film again.

Yes, I know what the monkey part is supposed to mean. Everything Stanley Kubrick does is intentional (which is usually a good thing) and you can dive waaaay into the intro and ending if you'd like. Those parts still detract from the film upon subsequent viewings and are far longer than they need to be in order to make their point. And even Kubrick's much-loved match cut from the bone to the satellite, while cool, is way too on the nose to be compelling symbolism.

If there's anything I don't love about 2001, it's just that: I feel like about half of the film is pretty much Kubrick jerking off. He finally had free reign to express himself and he decided to make a masturbatory ode to his own genius.

That's the bad stuff. However, sandwiched in between the beginning and extended ending is a truly compelling science fiction story featuring remarkable special effects that still hold up almost 50 years later. For that reason, this is a movie that must be seen.

"Why yes, I can burn off your hemorrhoids, though it's a most uncommon request."

Within the middle part of the film, the methodical pace didn't bother me. Even the black screen during the introduction is used to great effect, as the original score is used to build tension right away. Kubrick provides a ton of memorable shots in this film. The shot of doomed astronaut Frank floating away from the safety of the pod when the AI computer HAL 9000 turns on him is beautiful, for instance.

Kubrick's version of the future is purposefully sterile, from the visuals inside the ships to the PR speak being used to cover up a disaster in the first part of the story set in the future. Kubrick alternates long, static shots in space with more dynamic close-ups, while doing the same with static shots and tracking shots inside the ships themselves. Of course, Kubrick's version of the future also looks like it was co-designed by Austin Powers, but that's what happens when you try to predict what things will look like in 2001 when you're still living in the mid-1960s.

The acting is capably done, although the cast is a bit hamstrung by what surely was Kubrick's insistence on a dry, emotionless reading of the script. Still, when it comes time for Keir Dullea to duel wits with naughty computer HAL 9000 later in the film, Dullea plays his part well and mirrors our surprise when HAL famously opts not to open the bay doors for him. When HAL coldly ends the conversation, it's a wonderful “holy shit” moment.

They should have stuck with the Andre 3000 instead.

2001: A Space Odyssey is pretty much mandatory viewing. However, while it's a film that everyone should see once, it's also one that many people won't bother seeing twice. At the very least, they might skip some of the beginning and end. If you do, don't worry. I won't judge.

Grade: B+

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