BP’s Top 100 Challenge #3: 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
2001: A Space Odyssey is one of those classic films that I have seen so many clips from and have heard so much about through pop culture and film studies, it feels like I’ve seen it already. I am admittedly not a fan of most of Stanley Kubrick’s films and 2001: A Space Odyssey is no exception to my dislike. I struggled a lot with the languid pacing of the film.
I have to give a lot of credit to Kubrick for his attention to detail in the film. I was talking to a friend about the film and she said her high school physics class measured the space station at the start of the film and, according to her class’s findings, the space station in the film is rotating at the correct speed to mimic actual earth gravity. That is an impressive feat as is all the gravity work we see in the film. Some of it is a little hokey, like the “gravity shoes” at the beginning but it adds charm to the film rather than taking away from it.
2001: A Space Odyssey is an achievement in filmmaking from a technical standpoint. It deservedly won the visual effect Oscar in 1969 and it paved the way for future science fiction movies, and for that I am grateful. It still looks really beautiful to this day, there was always something interesting to look at on the screen. I really liked the design of the monoliths, in particular. They were creepy but also enticing. I liked that both the hominids and the astronauts’ first instinct was to touch it. That felt like such an authentically human moment, things aren’t really real until you touch them, that’s as true now as it was thousands of years ago.
The biggest challenge that I have with the film is the pacing. I found myself bored and irritated throughout the film. The long silent sequences with no dialogue were tedious and frustrating. I understand that space travel is long and isolating and things do not happen fast, but it just went on and on. I checked the time when the first line of dialogue was spoken and it was 25 minutes in. The whole sequence with the hominids at the beginning went on way to long, but I did really like the part with the monolith. I like the weird sound effect that comes with it. I just wish that sequence had moved faster.
The part of 2001: A Space Odyssey that I enjoyed the most was when HAL’s abilities came into question. It was the one part of the movie that I felt I could sink my teeth into. It was also the only part of the movie that the pacing didn’t bother me. It was interesting to see the lengths Dave and Frank had to go to in order to get away from HAL, then we see that it was a fool’s errand because HAL could read their lips.
It is hard to judge the performances because so little is asked of the actors. Keir Dullea as Dave is barely discernable from Gary Lockwood as Frank. The actors who play the hominids in the beginning do some nice physical work. The suits look pretty cheesy by today’s standards, though. And Douglas Rain voiced HAL 9000. Rain’s performance is interesting because he had to find the right balance between man and machine. Rain does find this balance. The best part of his performance is when he is being deactivated and he begins to plead for his life. HAL has the same even toned delivery, but he is trying to flatter and manipulate Dave to stay “alive”.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a tricky film to write about because I see its importance in filmmaking history—It is a beautiful film and it is a big part of the cultural zeitgeist—but I was more bored than anything watching the film and I have no interest in revisiting it. The ending was weird, but I like that you get to interpret it as you wish. This film absolutely belongs on the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list. It just wasn’t a lot of fun to watch.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
2001: A Space Odyssey ranking: Submarine
I had the same reaction the first time I saw this film (at home on my basement TV), but then a few years after that I had the chance to see it in the theater, and went because “why not.” The theater experience was muuch better, and I didn’t find the slow parts as dull because the visuals were so captivating. Now I have no interest in seeing it ever again unless it’s in the theater, because I know I’ll be bored – so that said, if you ever get the chance to see it on a gigantic screen, you should consider it! It at the very least helped me understand more of the love for it.
That’s good to know Beth. I could see it being a very different experiencing in the theater with the big screen and immersive sound. I’ll have to keep my eye open for a screening and see if I like it more then.
As far as I remember, story goes that Arthur C. Clarke was contacted to write the movie, and while he was doing it, he liked the plot idea so much that he wrote the book in parallel.
The book clears out a lot of what all of this is about, and provides some sense of purpose for the unknown, that is clearing out at least that the monoliths are means for evolution. The final sequence with Bowman traveling inside the monolith is also more detailed in terms of plot development.
Reading the book will detract from the ability to interpret the movie freely, but it is as mind bending as you could make it, I strongly recommend it.