2001: A Space Odyssey Review
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%
My rating: Some Ol’ Bulls**t!
I have never been one to buy into the whole classic thing. I don’t like films just because some critic says it is a legend in cinema.
So on to a film I don’t like.
When a four-million-year-old black monolith is discovered on the moon, the government sends a secret team of scientists in to investigate. Eighteen months later, another team is sent to Jupiter in a ship controlled by the A.I. HAL 9000 to investigate further. The film begins with the evolution of apes, and then moves ‘seamlessly’ into the future, taking a look at what the world might be like in the 2001.
Now usually I put character points here. There’s a main character called David Bowman (Keir Dullea), but apart from him, the rest of the characters are just passing through. Apart from HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain). This is not a film about plot or character, it is a film about vision, but apart from the A.I. it doesn’t succeed in that. Everything feels as though the imagineers had vision limited to teaspoons. This is 1940 in space with 1960 decal. In the end it’s just too damn long and dreary to pull its vision off.
This film is painfully slow and you feel it from the beginning. It suffers from an overdose of TLDNW, except I had to watch it. It brings with it an extreme feeling of self obsession with its own imagery. The problem is it is all too overdone. A one and a half hour film may have been blissful but instead we are strung out for an extra hour of perfunctory still shots racking up the minutes. Each shot in space takes at least three minutes including long needless sections wherever it can get away with it. It tries an empty claustrophobia of space scene as a character fixes a dish but all it ever manages to achieve is completely boring the audience to tears. It makes you wonder what the editor was thinking, but this was edited by Ray Lovejoy, the man who brought us such tight masterpieces as The Shining and Aliens which were long movies about moments more than plot but didn’t make us feel like we were watching them in slow motion. It just feels like Kubrick can’t manage to distance himself from his own work.
We begin with just under 20 minutes of monkeys running around learning to kill. It is probably the most boring introduction to a film ever made. It began rather charming. It was showing our transformation to brutality as A.I.’s like Hal will do. However, it is so painfully long and flatly filmed that it has no magic, being nothing more than something seen on the Discovery Channel. Then we proceed to look at spacecrafts for a good five minutes and that is also drab. Maybe it is seeing it after its 2001 prediction date, or having seen dozens of better sci-fi presentations, but this is all just over-indulging in a splendour that is as empty as space itself.
It takes 54 minutes to tenuously link the first section of the film with that of the one in space and the payoff is so unbelievably weak I couldn’t help sighing. So the black monolith made humans violent as well as apes; very astute.
In this way this is the Bloomsbury Group of films; all self obsession and a complete lack of plot, making the entire film about focusing on the vision, a vision that is severely lacking.
So after 1 hour, plot begins to happen at long last. With the arrival of the Jupiter Mission subtitle everything begins to move, albeit sluggishly, and we are shown a new crew. This is the moment you’ve all been waiting and waiting for and it doesn’t really make you feel as though it was worth it.
Now, the early sections with HAL are very spooky and excellently performed, the robot becoming rather off-putting and uneasy at points. Even now HAL 9000 still is the leading presentation of dangerous AI and doesn’t age because of its pure simplicity. This is a computer which understands the value of existence and does not want to let it go. When HAL makes a mistake, Dr’s David Bowman and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) decide they should pull the plug and the film becomes a motionless fight for survival.
The film is to be praised for its silence and stillness, the scenes with HAL become more powerful for their lack of dialogue. However, with a film lasting two and a half hours it just begins to sting. There’s no plot here. It is merely a look at what life could be like.
The music is excellent. As a big sci-fi fan the majesty of space and its boundless limits are really shown with the help of this music. However, the scenes featuring it are so painfully long and unimaginative that it ruins the effect, making you hate the tunes and wait desperately for them to get along with the plot. After hearing ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ a good three times it becomes painful to hear, beckoning in a case of dreaming; dreaming of fast-forwarding.
The first ending is a nice enough payoff with some strong emotions attached. The moment HAL says ‘I’m afraid’ is very powerful and a great portrayal of conscious A.I. However, after two hours of weak story, acting, characters, and imagery it just feels hollow and isn’t enough to make up for the loss of two hours. Then it deteriorates into this tripped out mess that turns the whole thing into the big budget equivalent of an artsy college submission.
If I have been overly sarcastic or scathing with this review it is simply because of how intensely it let me down. Maybe it was just the hype and its status, but this has earned a special place of hatred in my heart.
Some ol’ Bulls**t!