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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I well remember my reaction upon watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, many years ago.  The star-child appeared, and the end credits rolled, and I turned to my brother and started laughing.  “What the heck was THAT???”  I had no idea what to make of any of the ponderous weirdness that I had just seen, and I wondered what exactly I had missed.

But even during that first viewing it was clear that there was something special about 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it’s a film that stayed with me.  I found myself driven to revisit the film (several times, in fact, over the years), and to read the novel by Arthur C. Clarke (which, interestingly, was written concurrently with the production of the film).  I can think of few other films about which my opinion has so dramatically changed based on subsequent viewings.  Each time I watched 2001 I found myself enjoying it more and more.  As I peeled back the layers of the onion of the film, to use a familiar but handy analogy, what was once perplexing obtained profound meaning.

It is a challenge to provide a summary of 2001.  If you’ve seen the film, no summary is necessary, and if you haven’t, I’d hate to spoil anything.  I can tell you that the film is divided into several distinct sections.  The movie opens in primordial times (“the dawn of man”) and then jumps forward to the year 2001, when a strange object is discovered on the surface of the moon.  That discovery leads (for reasons I’ll not detail here) to an expedition towards Jupiter.  The experimental space-ship Discovery is crewed by Frank Poole and Dave Bowman, and the computer HAL 9000.  Things go awry.  The final segment of the film is the most perplexing, and the reason for the film’s tag-line “the ultimate trip.”

Right from its opening scenes, it is clear that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science-fiction film unlike most other science-fiction films.  This is a cerebral undertaking, one that is concerned with posing some BIG QUESTIONS for the audience.  The film spans the entire history of human-kind — that should give you a good idea of Mr. Kubrick & Mr. Clarke’s ambitions!!

In terms of “plot,” there’s not too much that actually happens in 2001.  This, I think (along with the ending, which we’ll get to in a few moments) is one of the chief reasons that this film might not work for many casual viewers.  To say that the movie is leasurely paced would be an enormous understatement.  Events unfold very slowly, and the movie is filled with stately, long shots in which … [continued]