Hot Take: Ambitious, ahead of it’s time, influential, controversial, hypnotic, majestic. 2001: A Space Odyssey is all of those things. Pretentious, long winded, dreadfully slow, ambiguous. 2001: A Space Odyssey is all of those things, too.
Occasionally, there are movies that somehow get by me. At least since 2001: A Space Odyssey came out almost eight years before I was born, I have a little bit of an excuse. Fortunately, I was able to catch the movie in theaters as my first viewing as it’s always better to see a movie in theaters the first time.
While I haven’t seen all of Stanley Kubrick’s films, they have a history of delivering part of a movie I absolutely love and then there are parts I wish to never see again. Before 2001: A Space Odyssey, the best example of this was Eyes Wide Shut. For my money, the second half of Eyes Wide Shut is brilliant. However, the beginning of the film is nearly unwatchable. While 2001: A Space Odyssey is nothing close to those extremes, there was plenty I struggled with that find me arguing both the merits and the folly of this film.
What about 2001: A Space Odyssey is so great? Well, the way visuals and score are blended for one. The “Dawn of Man” opening for another. The incredible care and beautiful (and unfortunately tedious) realism put into space travel and the machines for yet another. There’s depth to the ambiguous plot. Enough depth to create discussion in film classes for years. It’s an inspirational, iconic work of art that has surely influenced filmmakers from 1968 to 2001 and beyond.
So, why am I so reluctant to declare 2001: A Space Odyssey a great film and only consider it a very good film? The acting for one. The cardboard, emotionless performances suck any real suspense out of the film. Intentional or not, it’s hard to care for characters with such inhuman qualities too deeply. The pace for another. Sure, it adds realism in the space travel scenes but it doesn’t help the viewer all that much. Then there’s the end, a cinematic philosophical mini-essay that is equal part profound, poetic and pretentious.
For me, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see, have great respect for what it attempts and how influential it was on future films and was equally intrigued and bored in viewing.
Rating: (4 / 5)