Nine Weeks Of Kubrick, Week Four: Andy Burns on 2001: A Space Odyssey

I fell asleep.

What can I tell you – four weeks into Nine Weeks of Kubrick and I fell asleep during 2001: A Space Odyssey, the first film in the bunch that I’ve never seen. Here’s the thing – I blame the movie, and not because it’s boring or uninteresting – absolutely far from it. Rather, there are some amazingly hypnotic moments and sounds that lulled me into a really relaxed space. When I realized just how much I was drifting, I shut the movie off until I could watch it fully conscious. Now that you know where I was coming from, let’s get into my impression of what’s considered by many to be the greatest science-fiction film of all time.


What the film is about: In some ways, for the novice viewer like myself, it’s difficult to give a straight plot summary. But to keep it fairly simple and straightforward, this is the story of a space mission that goes terribly wrong thanks to the machinations of the Artificial Intelligence known as HAL. Oh, and there’s also a black monolith of unknown origin that shows up throughout the film, from the dawn of man to the far off future.

What I liked about the film: I seriously can’t believe this was the first time I’ve ever watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wish I could tell you I had a good reason for missing it for all these years, but the only reason that really stands out in my brain is because I was always under the impression that it was a very slow moving film. While Kubrick does take his time letting the movie unfold, that’s very different from being boring. In fact, that’s where the notion I mentioned earlier of the hypnotic nature comes into place. The use of music and sound is really brilliant – classical compositions compliment the still captivating visuals of space and spaceships, matched with the drone of machines working; even the silence is immersive. Kubrick knew there was no sound in space and didn’t ignore that fact – instead he used music and silence where necessary. It’s more proof that Kubrick was a master of creating tension.

Then there are the visuals. Keep in mind, 2001 is more than forty years old, and yet it looks absolutely stunning on Blu-Ray. The effects may be dated when compared with today’s overrun of CGI, but to me, it really looks so much more real than a lot of what is put on the screen in 2011. Oh, and I’m sure it’s already been acknowleged, but George Lucas totally stole the opening of Star Wars from various scenes in 2001. Also worth noting is the stellar performance of Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman. He’s really the only character we get to spend an extended period of time with and Dullea does a great job acting against HAL.

What I didn’t like about the film: Honestly, there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about 2001: A Space Odyssey. Watching it for the first time, I had my mind blown on multiple occasions. While other Kubrick films like The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut are personal favourites, I think that 2001 is likely Kubrick’s greatest overall achievement.

Should you watch 2001: A Space Odyssey: Goodness, yes. I hope you’re not like me and have already seen it multiple times. It truly is one of the most striking films I’ve ever watched. Whereas today’s sci-fi is all blow em up shots and frenetic editing, the visuals of 2001 are the definition of the word mesmerizing. Other than Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner, I wonder if there are any other pure science fiction films that can hold a candle to 2001. I sort of doubt it. 2001: A Space Odyssey is an amazing achievement in filmmaking. I’m glad that I finally caught up to what so many others know.

Better late then never, right? Even if I did catch a couple of zzz’s while watching.

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