2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Film Review

The Filmnomore Movie Blog gives the Kubrick ‘classic’ a poke and finds it seriously wanting

2001

Another day another classic as I continue with my film education.  The last Stanley Kubrick film I watched was A Clockwork Orange (1971) and while I didn’t love it I found it entertaining enough and I thought it covered some interesting themes.  I was therefore cautiously optimistic about a science fiction film that I had heard had influenced the absolutely glorious Interstellar (2014).  Normally I begin my reviews with a summary of the plot of the film … apes touch a monolith, man goes to the moon to find the same monolith, man goes to Jupiter to follow a signal, the future, the end.  In broad terms that is what happens in this movie.

I watched a Stanley Kubrick profile on YouTube which offered up an interpretation of the film and it seems as good a guess as any.  In essence man is passing a series of tests to prove itself worthy of experiencing the next stage of consciousness/development.  My view is that Kubrick wasn’t interested in telling the story, he was far more interested in pushing the boundaries in visuals.  That’s fine in a student short film but this movie rumbles for two hours fifteen minutes.  The first twenty minutes of the film is dialogue-free as we follow early descendants of man argue over a watering hole before one group touches the monolith discovers tools/weapons and wins the day.  That could have been done in ten minutes.  Towards the end there is another twenty minutes of hallucinogenic imagery and waiting in a brightly room lit waiting to die – no dialogue.  This again could have been dealt with in ten minutes.  Added to this there are long drawn out sequences of spaceships docking with other spaceships … in silence. You’re starting to get the picture?

I am aware that people criticise films for taking pauses to allow characters to explain to the audience at home exactly what is going on just in case they stepped out for popcorn.  Kubrick takes this to the opposite extreme – he just doesn’t bother.   I have read online that certain bits of the film which might explain more explanation were cut out which exacerbate the problem with the story telling.  I’m just glad I wasn’t sat there for another hour.  My comments above are my lasting impression of this film.  There is no acting to speak of, the score is minimal in the extreme and when it arrives it overpowers everything.  It was odd in that I had to turn the TV up to hear the dialogue and then turn it back down when the music kicked in.

I’m sorry die-hard Kubrick fans but this film is lousy.  I’m struggling to find anything positive to say about it.  Casual film fans should stay away, leave this film to those of us who are prepared to sit through utter garbage to find that one rare gem.  Here goes … ready … my rating … 1/5.

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