2001: An Overrated Odyssey…

Monday, June 21st, 2010

This 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic is well regarded in film buff circles as one of the best of all time, perhaps wrongly so.

The film follows the story of mankind’s first trip to Jupiter and all the stuff that happens on said trip. The trip gets a bit trippy later on (see what I did there?) but it is renowned for being quite realistic about how space works. For instance, there is no sound in space, and they stick to this. They make clever use of the soundtrack to showcase the beauty and majesty of space.

However, this film is clearly not meant to be watched for entertainment’s sake, but appreciated as a film school subject. It is filled with clever directorial work and good hard science. It’s similar to Blade Runner, which is also a good film to study to learn about directorial techniques and so on.

“Anything can happen in the next half hour!” is a mantra that they probably should’ve followed while making this film, as in the first half hour, there is some music and some ape beating. That’s about it. It takes about two minutes to actually finish building the suspense and let you see an image on the screen. I thought my television was broken for a while.

There were some weird moments in the film though, as the noises in the background sound like the Witches from the Left 4 Dead series. It’s a bit illusion breaking when you expect a little chyron on the screen to read ‘HAL startled a witch!’ And that would be pretty fucking funny, come to think of it. And when the end of the film came, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I saw that there was ten minutes left and thought, “oh, okay, they’ll resolve stuff in about five minutes”. Turns out eight of those minutes were for the credits. The two minutes turned out to be some stuff about the astronaut ageing or something, I really couldn’t tell. Apparently it makes a lot more sense if you read the book as well, but this is not a lecture or a bibliography. There should be no required reading to make a good film.

For my money (and I’m so glad I didn’t pay to see it), this is one of the most boring films that I have ever seen. It is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and you can feel every second, every minute you have wasted of your life. I could feel myself ageing as I watched this movie. I found my eyes searching around, looking for anything else to do.

This film has been parodied to hell and back, with Airplane II and The Simpsons both taking shots at it (in the case of The Simpsons, two entirely different episodes). The parodies are actually better to watch and more entertaining, since you get some idea of what happens in the original (HAL goes apeshit insane; that’s not a spoiler, as the film is 42 years old) while having a running time of under two hours.

Is it possible to be entertained by this movie? The short answer is possibly. The longer answer is “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Dave.”

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