Arthur C. Clarke created another masterpiece of futuristic musings in 1968 with “2001: A Space Odyssey”. This novel was simultaneously made into a film of the same name which took viewers by storm with its amazingly realistic portrayal of space, its intriguing plot, and the stunning attention to detail of the whole film. This movie has become a classic now, even named in 2010 the “#1 greatest film ever made” by The Moving Arts Film Journal. But what makes this film so incredibly famous? And is it as enjoyable to modern viewers as it was to viewers in 1969. The answer is a yes and no.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”, according to director, producer, and co-writer Stanley Kubrick, is meant to be taken as a sort of allegory. He intentionally gave the film very little dialogue, which will become quite noticeable to a modern viewer. The first and last 20 minutes of the film are without dialogue and there are large breaks between dialogue as well. The beginning of the film, after a few long minutes of classical music played over a black screen, follows the actions of two separate species of pre-humans. One of these groups eventually discover how to use tools, giving them a distinct advantage against the others. This is an interesting side plot to the rest of the story, but the lack of dialogue may try the patience of modern movie-goers. And what, exactly, does it have to do with the rest of the film? One could speculate that it gives a view of human nature, but no specific connection is ever given. Kubrick intended this film to be artistic in nature, but even for the most artistically oriented mind, the film does suffer in some parts as a result of this.
Another key example is in the painstakingly slow space scenes. Though they may be realistic, the scenes which involve the slow movement of spacecrafts within the void of space are somewhat boring to the modern viewer. I could literally leave the room, pop myself a bag of popcorn, and then return to enjoy it without missing a bit of action. All that happens is the spacecraft, which is a beautifully rendered model, slowly moves from one side of the screen to the other while either silence of classical music plays in the background. This languid music fits perfectly with the movements of the ships, and so fits artistically, but patience wears thin after the third scene of painstakingly slow space travel. For at least seven minutes near the end of the film, a character travels through vortex of psychedelic colors reminiscent of a color changing lava lamp. Though the color effects are interesting for the first minute or so, the six subsequent minutes seem a bit much.
These problems aside, the film is, as you would expect for a classic, wildly entertaining and thought provoking. The futuristic effects like walking on walls, floating in space, and the general equipment of the future are for the most part well done. The infamous computer HAL is perfectly executed and the drama of the film is still riveting my mind as I write this. I enjoyed this film immensely, but I could have done without some of the odd problems that I’ve mentioned above. The film is two and a half hours long–if you shaved it down to one and a half hours you probably wouldn’t miss a bit of what makes this film great. I give “2001: A Space Odyssey” a 4/5 for excellent storyline muddied up with long, dialogue starved scenes of languid space travel.
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