AFI #15: 2001 A Space Odyssey

Movie_2001- a space odyssey_77018

“Morally pretentious, intellectually obscure and inordinately long … a film out of control.” — Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger

Well, it’s never a good sign when you have to go on the Internet after watching a film to find out what the hell it was about. For the second time in my life I sat staring at the screen dumbfounded at 2001: A Space Odyssey, uncertain as to why I put myself through the entire 160 minutes of torture. I’ll admit it — I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just not smart enough or maybe I’m just not into science fiction enough. All I know is that I hated 2001: A Space Odyssey when I first saw it and I hated it again yesterday!

I really think the reason this film is rated so highly by the AFI is because the academics who vote for these polls are too embarrassed to admit they hated it too (and probably didn’t understand it either). Look, I get the basics. Mankind is some kind of alien experiment and by the time we are advanced enough to get to Jupiter our alien overlords move us toward the next phase of evolution. Great. We passed Go. Move directly to the next level. Thank you alien overlords.

But why all the weird special effects Mr. Kubrick? Why did this film feel like it was filmed in slow motion? Why did you put us through lengthy segments where nothing happened set to classical music? Why the black monolith? Why did you leave so much unexplained to the point that I had to go on Wikipedia to try to decipher the damn thing. Why? Why? Why?

Feel free to disagree my minions.

Next: Psycho

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3 thoughts on “AFI #15: 2001 A Space Odyssey

  1. 2001 is one of my all-time favorites. I saw it on a giant curved screen (the IMAX of its day) in 1968 with my dad and brother and we were blown away by the special effects that were waaaaay ahead of their time. (Remember, this movie came out a year before the first moon landing.) We spent the car ride home talking about the technology that the film predicted — Would we really ever land on the moon? Would there ever really be talking computers? Would there be a permanent orbiting Space Station? I was 9 years old and this imaginative view of the future was awesome. I didn’t need to understand anything beyond that. As my dad tucked us into bed that night, we figured out how old the three of us would be in 2001 and had a good laugh at the very thought of it. We wondered if the movie would withstand the test of time.

    The next time I saw 2001 was on January 1, 2001. I invited my dad and brother to watch it once again. The special effects still looked great to us, even in a post Star Wars era. The technology predictions didn’t seem important anymore. We now understood that the Monolith was a giant silicon microchip and that computers were becoming more human-like, etc. As an adult, the deep questions the story raises about evolution and humanity emerged as the more interesting aspect of the movie.

    I have watched 2001 a dozen times since and with every viewing my understanding evolves. Throughout the film people are oblivious and indifferent to the miracle of human life right that is right in front of them (e.g., Frank Poole birthday and babies) but they are fascinated with the prospect of alien life. HAL is IBM with each letter moved up one letter. The very first tool is a bone that man uses to kill man and the very latest tool is a computer that kills man. Anyway, 2001 is not a movie that can be fully understood or appreciated in one sitting. But most great movies aren’t.

  2. I liked the book much more than the movie. Like you, I thought it was confusing and boring. But I remember enjoying the book very much. Of course, I do love scifi.

  3. And yet, in college, I was expected by a highfalutin instructor (who not coincidentally also taught at Stanford) to think the thing was brilliant, and to discuss it eloquently and in-depth in a paper. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t get it and thought it was lame. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of science fiction, but still…

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