As far as film blind spot goes, this is perhaps one of the most glaring for me given its iconic status. Well, better late than never right? Forty seven years after its release, I finally get what the fuss is about. Now, I’m not saying I *get* the movie, mind you. In fact, it’s the kind of movie that is fun to read about afterwards. According to IMDb trivia, the film apparently prompted a large number of people to walk out from its premiere, including star Rock Hudson who said “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?” Ahah, I can totally relate. Per IMDb, the film’s co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke once said, “If you understand ‘2001’ completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered.” So I guess I don’t have to feel bad that the movie left me scratching my head.
SPOILER ALERT! Just in case some of you still hasn’t seen this yet, be mindful that I’ll be talking about some major plots in this post.
I guess I’m lucky that I was able to keep spoilers at bay in regards to this movie, as I had no idea there’s actually apes involved in this movie, and the Dawn of Man sequence was almost a half an hour long! I knew that the movie would be slow and there’d be long sequences with no dialog, so I’d imagine it’d be something like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, so I was prepared for that. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching the gorgeous imagery set to sweeping classical music (more on that later) and boy, what a visual treat it was.
I have to admit that I nearly fell asleep a few times as I was already so tired when I started watching it, so I had to stop after about an hour or so, and continued the next night. I don’t usually do this but I figured the film deserved to be seen with fresh eyes.
When the film’s over, my first reaction was ‘well I could see why this film was so beloved even four decades later.’ It’s not the most emotionally-gratifying film as I there’s really no character development, but visually speaking, the film truly set the bar for sci-fi and no wonder it’s been an inspiration for so many filmmakers since. Even other iconic sci-fi works like Blade Runner, Star Wars, Star Trek, all the way to recent ones like Interstellar have been inspired by Kubrick’s magnum opus. I mean, the ‘Star Gate’ sequence alone is so similar to the wormhole scenes in Interstellar. I read afterwards that that extended sequence of that funkadelic sequence was popular among young adults who love watching ’em when they’re high. Ahah, I bet that’s still true today.
There’s something so timeless about the production design, especially the HAL 9000 computer with its omnipresent red eye. Kubrick and Clarke made the right decision making it so simple, instead of going with a mobile robot they initially set out to do. I think it’d have looked more dated than the simple but ominous red eye. Despite its simplicity, it manages to be quite terrifying at times, especially during the time when Dave (Keir Dullea) was trying to get back into the main ship. The film isn’t an *acting* film per se, as the actors aren’t exactly given much to do, but I think Dullea did a good job nonetheless, and the scene of him trying to dismantle HAL is quite memorable. It’s a pretty suspenseful scene and Dullea conveyed the dread and terror very well.
It’s a testament that creating a certain atmosphere is crucial to depict genuine suspense and there’s certainly a horror-like vibe during the entire scene. I literally gasped when the LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL lights came on… then followed by LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED in the scene where HAL systematically killed the rest of the ship’s crew in hibernation. It’s just one of the many minimalistic scenes that made such a huge impact in the film.
The cryptic nature of the film, with its various metaphors and allegories, certainly sparked all kinds of theories. My hubby and I watched a two-part Youtube videos on the meaning of the monolith, which argues that the monolith is basically “…an advanced television teaching machine.” It’s quite a fascinating argument and I’m sure there are others, but I really don’t want to go into that rabbit hole.
I have to mention the music here, which is crucial given there’s such few dialog in the film. I’ve heard that opening theme Thus Spoke Zarathustra soooo many times, as it’s so overused in popular culture that it’s become a cliché. But hearing it in the context of the opening sequence made me appreciate just how iconic it is. Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube (composed in mid 1800s) is also one of my favorite classical piece, which somehow fits the tone and feel of this film it’s as if it was made especially for this project.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, I’m glad I finally saw this film. I didn’t fall in love with the film, I think it falls under the category of ‘films I appreciate but doesn’t quite love.’ I was bowled over by what Kubrick achieved in 1968 – he is a true visual artist with an exquisite eye for details. Nearly every frame is like a work of art and it still looks modern even by today’s standards. Yet it’s not an emotionally-engaging film, which to be fair is probably not what Kubrick intended it to be anyway, so it’s not something I’m eager to watch again. That said, I still give it a high rating because I do think it deserves its classic status and it’s a film that every film fan should see. It took me a while to get here, but I’m glad I finally did!
The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.
Check out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films
What are your thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey?
48 thoughts on “April 2015 Blind Spot – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)”
Loved reading your review. I have a very mixed history with this film. At first I felt it was highly overrated, much like the career of its director. Not too long ago I went and revisited it mainly because of its beloved an iconic status. My reaction was much more positive.
Like you, I’ve grown to really appreciate what this film does and what it shooting for. That being said, I don’t think I would rate it as you and definitely not as much as the majority of moviegoers who see it as one of the greatest films of all time. But I definitely have a level of respect for it now that I didn’t after earlier viewings. Probably 4 stars for me.
Fabulous blind spot review, Ruth!
Hi Keith! I totally get your reaction about this film. As I mentioned, I still give it a high rating because visually speaking, as well as the impact/influence of this film to this day is astounding. I wasn’t in love w/ it, but I still think the film is iconic. I tend to be more generous for these Blindspot films 🙂
Wow, can’t believe you’ve only just seen 2001 for the first time, but as you say – better late than never! I’ve loved this film for more years than I care to remember and repeat viewings and as you say reading about it adds to the discovery (the novel adds quite a bit in that respect).
I’ve found over the years that the 2001 ‘experience’ is enriched by repeat viewings because a lot of the ideas are left to the imagination and personal discovery.
Great piece, thoroughly enjoyed it!
Hello Chris! Yeah I find it hard to believe myself that I just got around to seeing it. Not sure why since I like sci-fi. Well, I don’t know when I’ll see this again, it’s really quite a long movie w/ not much happening, I’d rather discover another classic I haven’t seen yet. But it’s good that I finally saw it!
Might have to give this one a re-watch as it bored me quite a bit, but I was a lot younger. Maybe it might click better now…
The film is very s-lo-w so yeah I get why you’re bored by it. Thankfully the visuals is quite striking.
Great you finally got to see this, and glad you appreciated the imagery set to sweeping classical music. I agree it’s timeless. For me, no sci-fi film has been able to top Kubrick’s 2001. Blade Runner, Alien and Star Wars come close though.
I think because I enjoy classical music, I enjoyed the quiet musical segments here. It certainly has that timeless quality about it, I mean if it still look amazing now, imagine 40 years ago! I think Blade Runner is more emotionally-engaging though, and also Star Wars, as there’s actually a love story in them.
I was late seeing this one, too. But I took think it genius.
I agree it isn’t emotionally engaging, and also that that really doesn’t matter. This is intellectual filmmaking at it’s best!
Hi Josh, when did you finally see this one? Yeah the visuals is amazing and how it still remain timeless somehow. I think the filmmaker didn’t intend it to be an emotional film, so in that regard I couldn’t really knock points off of it.
I saw it for Cara’s (Silver Screen Serenade) blogathon – New Year’s Resolutions – must have been in January 2014. One of just three films I’ve given an A+, I think. In my opinion, it is perfect.
And yeah. I think Kubrick’s intent was very clearly philosophical and intellectual, not emotional or relational. The characters aren’t the thing here, really (though Hal still manages to captivate). Like I said, I think he accomplished everything he aimed to do here.
Great that you caught up to this Kubrick classic and shared some wonderful thoughts regarding the film, Ruth. It remains quite something, even a handful of decades later. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but it is unique. BTW, in my youth I went to see this a number of times when this was in initially release, with friends who partook (ahem) “substances” during the screening. So, I can personally assure you what you wrote did actually occur during that startling, spectacular SFX stretch near the end. Well done, my friend. 🙂
Hi Michael! It’s a classic all right, it’s amazing how basically every film set in space since 2001 is influenced by this film. I didn’t mention Gravity but even that was inspired by this one.
Ahah, thanks for confirming about that substance-induced viewings, I bet the SFX looked even more spectacular when you’re high 😉
I’m pretty much with you 100% here. I really admire and respect this film, and by all accounts it’s a very good/great film, but it doesn’t reach the heart of me at all. It’s merely a technical wonder with some really sharp ideas splintered in, but it doesn’t stir anything in me and so it winds up being a film I can admire but never love.
Hi Drew! I think with some of the classics that I’m catching up on, I find myself appreciating them more than actually loving them. There are exceptions of course, as I do love All About Eve, An Affair to Remember, which I wouldn’t mind seeing again. I think more emotionally-engaging films are what would stick with me more.
Great write up Ruth!! Glad you enhoyed it!!! It certainly is a visual treat, I like to refer to it as a cosmic ballet, the perfect relationship between film and music.
And I agree again about HAL. Is is terrifying at times!! And creepy!!
“Stop Dave. Stop. Please stop Dave.” **shudders ahhhh I love it!
“Let me sing you a song. Daaaaisy, Daaaaisy…..” – now THAT scene is probably the most tripped out of all.
And you are indeed correct – this film is an acid-tripper’s dream film ;P
Hey hey Jordan! Well it took me two days to get through it as I mentioned I nearly fell asleep the first time around. But I’m glad I continued w/ fresh eyes the next day. As you said, it’s a ‘ perfect relationship between film and music’ and they certainly chose the right pieces that fit the tone of the film.
Yeah, that dialog between HAL and Dave is quite suspenseful, I REALLY had no idea what HAL would do at that point, would he blow up the ship or something?
Trippy is the perfect way to describe the viewing experience 😛
I’m so glad that it didn’t dissapoint because of hype surrounding it. It really is the best example I can think of blending music with cinema, the way those ships float around to the music, its like ballet. This will always be my favourite movie 😀
How creepy is that dialogue near the end! Daisy…. Daaaaisy…. great stuff! What did you think of the ending? I’ve heard soooo many different theories, what did you think?
As for tripping, one of the few times I have had acid, actually the very first time I did, I watched this film. Boy was that a wicked way to kick off a trip!! Now the movie has this vacuum effect on me, it draws me in immediately.
What I love to is how you can hear him breathing in a lot of scenes. I also love the use of silence – its not normal silence, its the silence of space. This really is like a vacuum for me, I could write for hours about it!!
I’ll end this essay now haha. So glad you enjoyed it Ruth :):)
Ah, glad you finally saw this one. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my all-time favorite movies for many reasons. Then again, Kubrick in general is just one of my favorite directors (I finally saw Killer’s Kiss earlier today, in fact). The scientific realism in this one is amazing, and it set the bar on so many levels. It’s funny that you should point out how Interstellar drew a lot from the Star Gate sequence, because I actually did a whole essay back in November (right after seeing Interstellar, funnily enough) about how many modern science fiction films have borrowed from that sequence (http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/11/the-insightful-fifth-dimension.html). Contact is another good example of a science fiction film that did something similar at the end, only with it being a woman who goes through for once.
Hello John! I’ve actually only seen 2 Kubrick films, Dr Strangelove and now this one. I don’t really know much about his work, so I guess I don’t have any expectation other than some of the things I’ve read about the film itself. Yeah, I immediately think of Interstellar when I saw that Star Gate sequence (I guess the opposite of others who’ve seen this film first years before, that they’d think of 2001 when they saw Interstellar). Oh yeah, Contact is another good one and nice to see a female protagonist for a change.
To me, sci-fi can be categorized into two different spectrums. Before-2001 and after-2001. Back then, sci-fi was seen as kitsch and as a genre that wasn’t taken seriously. After 2001, everything changed as it is a monumental film that I could still watch whenever it’s one which is one of the reasons why Kubrick’s films have endured for so long. They get better with every re-watch no matter how complicated they are.
That’s interesting, I never realized that but I see what you mean now that I’ve seen the film. Kubrick really sets the bar on sci-fi filmmaking, I mean we still see his influence to this day!
Good to hear you enjoyed it Ruth, I’m always hesitant to recommend this film to people because mostly it’s the usual sci-fi action and general audiences tends to lose focus so easily these days and I know many of them will hate this film. I first saw it in high school and I didn’t care for it. Years later after college, I watched it again on DVD (it’s one of the first few films released on that format) and I fell in love with it then. Maybe because I was older and kind of understood what Kubrick was trying to do. And I don’t believe anyone who said they “got” this film. It’s one of those films that’s up to you what’s it really about. Of course the visual part is top notch and still looks amazing by today’s visual effect standards. I’ve played that Bluray disc many times, I wish they’d re-release the film on IMAX, it would be awesome to see it on a real big screen like it’s been to be seen.
Oops! Meant to say: it’s NOT the usual sci-fi action….
Hi Ted! Oh I’d still recommend this for fans of sci-fi genre, because it’s visually-striking and thought-provoking, even if it’s not emotionally distant. I think most sci-fi films are deliberately done to make us ponder about it, and it’s certainly the case here. I’m sure this would look fantastic on IMAX though I’m afraid I’d be lulled to sleep by the music 🙂
I recommended the film to some of my so-called film fanatic friends and they thought I was crazy for loving the film, I don’t think none of them ever finish watching it. It’s not a film that general audiences will enjoy, just like most of Kubrick films.
I was hoping they’d re-release on a 70mm screen for its 40th anniversary a few years back but it never happened.
Great job, Ruth! It’s wonderful on so many levels (as you mentioned) but it does have a standoffish, cold element about it that could dissuade younger eyes from appreciating it. This was one, when I was much older, that I could fully see and understand what was going on and loved it.
Standoffish is a good word to describe it, though the expression on Dave’s face as he tried to rescue his friend is quite moving I suppose. I guess it’s good that I see this late in my life so I appreciate it more than if I had seen it years ago.
Nice review Ruth. This film gets better each time I see it, but I agree there is an emotional disconnect, despite some of the beautiful, haunting sequences. Still, I consider it one of the finest films ever made; it’s just not something I watch a lot.
Hi Josh! So how many times have you seen this? Though it’s beautiful, I don’t know when (if ever) that I’ll see this, given there are sooo many classics I still want to catch up on.
I’ve only seen it a few times. I’d love to see it on the big screen, though.
Your opening paragraph! I felt the same way when I watched it for the first time nearly 2 years ago; I mean I didn’t need to feel hard on myself when I didn’t understand things.
Well, the opening itself was already something I couldn’t erase from my mind anytime I remember this movie; although, the third act was something that got me nowhere until now.
Thanks to the internet for millions of explanation, but none of them really describes what I wanna hear about that.
So glad that you finally liked it! It’s a masterpiece, isn’t it?
Hi Paskalis! I’m glad the filmmakers admitted the film is basically impossible to understand, then we don’t have to feel so bad, right? 😉 There are seriously TOO MANY articles about this movie, but that’s why I said I didn’t want to get sucked down into that rabbit hole, ahah.
I think visually it is indeed a masterpiece.
Welcome to the Human Race!… You’ve seen and didn’t “get” ‘2001’. Don’t feel bad. You weren’t supposed to. With far more questions than answers. What Kubrick and company do deliver is one of most intricately researched and detailed films of the 1960s. And a fair glimpse of what technology at the turn of the 21st century would be, If President Johnson hadn’t have decided to initiate Income Redistribution to the tune of trillions with “The Great Society”.
That said. When I saw ‘2001’ as part of a junior high (middle) school field trip. I understood its beginning. Fell in love with Jerry Anderson’s (‘Super Car’, ‘Fireball Xl-5’) superb model work, flight decks, space suits and spacecraft, After that. Just sit back and let HAL and the Voyager spacecraft take over!
No two people had the same take and reaction to the film. Which is what makes it so great. And memorable!
Hello Kevin! Ahah LOVE your comment! I don’t know if the film’s intended to be *understood* really, though I had to admit I was frustrated for a bit there until I started reading a bit more about it. There are tons to appreciate in terms of visuals and like you said, the details of this film is AMAZING!! I mean the design of HAL alone is just so cool, it remains timeless and even modern to this day.
“No two people had the same take and reaction to the film” True that, and films are generally such a personal experience anyway, so you make of it what you will.
I had read the book before I saw the movie. After I got done with the movie I said to my friend, “There’s no way that someone who has not read the book will be able to understand everything that was going on.” That’s especially true for the “Star Baby” scene.
And yes, Interstellar was definitely intended to look like 2001.
Hi Chip! That’s cool that you read the book first before you saw the movie. I don’t know that if I had read it that I’d understand it fully, but it’d help a bit I’d imagine.
Loved this review. This is one of my favorite films ever. I love Kubrick’s work and this is my favorite film of his. It took me years to finally grasp the film’s premise.
Hey thanks so much for your kind words and for reblogging the post. Glad to hear you love this film, I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it!
Reblogged this on DeaconsDen and commented:
Have to share this excellent review on one of my favorite films ever!
Great review! I love the film.
Talking of music have you heard about the Pink Floyd – 2001 Sync. Details here
and someone has put it up on YouTube
Essentially – Pink Floyd’s Echos is exactly the same length as the final screen. And it fits extremely well – leading many to conclude that it must have been written for it. Take a look and enjoy. The song is worth a listen any day anyway!
Hi there, welcome to FC! Thanks for the video clip, that’s very cool! It’s a sign of a great classic when there are so many videos/tributes/articles, etc made because of it. Great stuff!
Finally glad you popped your Odyysey cherry, Ruth!! Congrats!! My wife hates the film with a passion (as does my Mother In Law, but no great loss there) but I think it stands tall as a defining entry into the fusion of sci-fi and sci-fact genre, a lot like Interstellar (as you allude to). Ahhh, just reading your thoughts on it makes me want to go rewatch it right now…..
Poped my Odyssey chery, ahah, never heard that before. I can see some people being bored by it, I think people who don’t like sci-fi won’t see what the fuss is about. But I do think the film set the bar in terms of visuals, though I prefer films with a bit more narrative substance.
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I’m glad you enjoyed…but I didn’t. This movie bores me to no end. I respect and appreciate that it is a visual masterpiece and highly influential. I just don’t have to like it.
Hi Dell! I hear ya man, I was bored by some parts of it, but I happen to love classical music so the slower moments are still enjoyable to me. But you’re absolutely right, you may appreciate something but you don’t have to like it!
Awesome that you enjoyed this, Ruth! This is quite possibly my favorite film of all time, but it’s a divisive one for sure. One of my favorite movie-going experiences was seeing 2001 in 70mm — if you ever get the chance, I cannot recommend it enough to see it on the big screen.