2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Review:

I can let you read this.

Quit monkeying around and watch this!
Quit monkeying around and watch this!

Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, et al.

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Runtime: 160 minutes

Plot: (Taken from IMDb) Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a momentous film, it ushered in a whole new generation of sci-fi lovers and special effects driven narratives, it is understated, whimsical and scary; it is as close to perfection as they come.

2001 is a film played in three parts, first with apes discovering the monolith and becoming more like men, second with scientists discovering the monolith on the Moon and finally an expedition on the Voyager to discover the whereabouts of some kind of signal in the depths of space.

Each section of the film plays out to its own strengths, each one with gathering dialogue and a foreboding sense of bad tidings. So let’s start with the opening of the film, the apes. We open the film on Earth, witnessing some apes discovering weapons thanks to a monolith that appears in front of them. It’s a distressing opening to a distressing film as it quickly turns violent, leading to one of all time’s most famous jump-cuts – the bone to the spaceship.

When I say quickly, I mean slowly, as that is the pace of the film. 2001 plays out in time with classical music, The Blue Danube in particular. Every piece of movement is choreographed in time with the music, and what we get is as entirely memorable as it is awe-inspiring. We are shown long drawn out sequences of spaceships turning and moving, capturing the speed of movement in space wonderfully well with special effects that were completely out of this world.

2001-space-odyssey

Indeed, the special effects in 2001 are an amazing spectacle, I do not know how they made the film, nor do I want to know; the illusion would be ruined. But let me say this, for a film made in the 1960s, 2001 looks as good as any film these days; which is thanks to the cinematographer and Kubrick.

Geoffrey Unsworth and Stanley Kubrick perfectly crafted 2001 down to its minutest of details. It astonishes me how nice and how fantastic everything looks – it really sucks you in. Perhaps it is because of the special effects and wonderful cinematography that there is a lack of dialogue within the film. More would ruin the atmosphere, and atmosphere is what 2001 is all about.

The second section of the film sees Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) on a mission to seek out a disturbance on the Moon. This middle part of the film is probably the weakest but it sets the ground well for the final act. The long, slow shots are plentiful in the second act, but it lacks the fear or distrust of the first and final acts, replacing it with more of a boring, clinical atmosphere. This is entirely intentional but I feel it goes on just a little too long.

The third and final act however is perfect. It is scary and tense, while still maintaining the quiet stillness of the rest of the film, Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) is the perfect antithesis of H.A.L. 9000 and it all comes together in a truly horrific fashion. Seriously, I cannot think of anything better than the final third of 2001, it is perfect cinema.

This is all because of H.A.L. 9000; the clinical nature of his intentions is scary and leads to one of the most classic scenes in all of filmic history, shutting him down. Never have I seen something quite so poignant from a science fiction about the escalation of technology and never has it looked or felt so convincing.

Shutting it down.
Shutting it down.

How can I talk about this film and not mention the Stargate? It’s fantastic, trippy stuff that lasts a little too long. And that sums up my only issues with 2001, it’s a bit too long and a bit too slow for its own good. I love how slow everything moves and how everything moves, but there are a few too many shots that take too long.

Summary:

2001: A Space Odyssey makes Gravity look like a joke. It’s long and it’s complicated but it is quite simply the finest piece of science fiction cinema ever made. Suspenseful, scary, wonderfully shot and expertly edited with music, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a timeless masterpiece.

The best science fiction film ever made 2001: A Space Odyssey is worth its length.

95/100

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