There’s no doubt about it, Stanley Kubrick was one of the world’s greatest directors. His films are often complex and always brilliant. Being a perfectionist, Kubrick took the time to get every single aspect of his movies right, regardless of how long it took, and that hard work and dedication paid off, giving us films like The Shining (1980), Spartacus (1960) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). 2001: A Space Odyssey is cited by many to be one of his best works, carrying with it all the best of Kubrick’s trademarks.
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 to Jupiter in order to locate the source of a mysterious signal.
2001: A Space Odyssey is both brilliant and boring. A great deal of time is dedicated to watching characters doing pretty boring space stuff with immense and impressive classical music playing over it. I think you could probably take a good 45 minutes out of this film and not lose anything story wise, in fact it would help properly define the plot. The plot, however, is not the focus of the film, Kubrick and writer Arthur C Clarke were aiming to convey serious ideas about the nature of humanity, our position in the universe and the immensity/eeriness of space and the boring elements of the plot help this. I think Kubrick is showing us so much mundane space stuff because that is what space travel has become for these characters. While the soundtrack conveys the awe of what we’re seeing and our reactions to seeing it, for these characters, it’s not a big deal. It’s very much like our reactions to travelling by plane, we don’t pay much attention to just how awesome it is, but someone from 1800 would be utterly blown away by it.
Unless that person was Andrew Jackson, he’d challenge the plane to a duel….And win…
As I said before, the real point to 2001: A Space Odyssey is to show humanity as an intelligent and creative animal but also to show us as tiny and insignificant beings in the grand scheme of things. This is something the film does impressively well. Another one of the film’s themes is evolution, both in terms of mankind and technological advancement. The scene towards the beginning of the film where one ape beats another to death with a bone introduces the theme of technology in the wrong hands, a theme followed up with HAL-9000. These complex themes are conveyed really well and are arguably the film’s main aim, regardless of story which comes second to these ideas.
There are, however, two other parts of the film which are done really well. The music and the visual effects. Both of these elements are flawless. The music is used exactly how music in a film should be used; to establish a tone. The music varies from beautiful and graceful to eerie and disturbing, very similar to ways in which the universe can be viewed, as a terrifying empty void which exposes mankind as the insignificant blot we are or as a infinite expanse of awe and opportunity. The visuals are also very impressive, especially the admittedly freaky 30 minutes at the end and the shots of the spaceships, and some of these transition shots are outstanding.
While I really like the majority of what 2001: A Space Odyssey does, I can certainly see why some people dislike it. While it does have a point, the film is very slow and often boring, as well as being very complicated in parts. It’s not the sort of film you decide to watch on a slow afternoon, the themes are too big for that and the majority of the film is slow. I think most people need to be in the right mindset for it. I can also understand that some people might find the films focus on ideas rather than story slightly difficult but personally, I don’t mind films that subvert cinematic norms, in fact I like it.
Admittedly not for everyone but if you can sit through it then 2001:A Space Odyssey is a very interesting film with strong, well-done themes, perfect music and perfect visuals. I definitely recommend it