‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

[SPOILER WARNING: I’m going to be blunt. I’m pretty much going to explain what happens throughout the entire movie bit by bit, so if you haven’t seen this film and are worried about spoilers on movies that are more than 40 years old, then look away]

 Being an impressionable youth, I was introduced to the world of “2001: A Space Odyssey” as an example of good filmmaking. The problem was one, I was in school, so already I was upset at having been forced to watch a movie. Two, I was too young to understand the movie…..if it could be understood at all. I remember distinctively that the movie was boring, weird, made no sense, and didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Looking over to RottenTomatoes, you will see that it has passed the 95% stage. So before I review this, I want to make sure that you understand where I am coming from with good ratings for older films.

 Okay, back in the day, people really didn’t have anything to compare these movies to. The older films didn’t have the same benefits as we do now. So back then, I can understand, and actually agree with saying this could be the best movie…..then. There should, however, be a statute of limitations in regards to ratings towards movies. Sometimes they maintain their level of entertainment and professionalism, while at other times, they turn out looking like your neighbor Jim’s home video he shot when he was bored last Thanksgiving. Basically what I am saying is this…if this film came out today rather than so many years ago, how would it measure up?

SECTION 1: The Dawn of Man

Alright, out somewhere in Africa, a bunch of ape’s are met with an alien…thing (monolith). This alien thing is a black block that seemingly does nothing more than make the apes go insane. What follows is an ape hitting a bunch of bones, synchronized to some truly epic music. It has something to do with the ape’s learning how to use a weapon and begin their evolutionary step towards control and assertiveness, but it just looks like apes going crazy to me. On to the next section.

SECTION 2: TMA-1

Fast-forward in time to outer-space, where a space plane transports its passengers to a nearby space station. On the space station, Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) makes a video phone call to his daughter. After which, he is met with a few colleagues who ask him about an epidemic, and if it has broken out on the Clavius. Dr. Floyd then told them he was not at liberty to discuss the situation. The epidemic, in reality was a cover story to hide the fact that he was investigating an artifact that was buried 4 million years ago, the artifact in question was yet another monolith, which begins to initiate a sound from within.

SECTION 3: Jupiter Mission

18 months later, we skip over to what I remember most out of the movie, the story which I call the David and HAL story. This is where the spinning ship is found, where David is found exercising in, and surprisingly to me, it isn’t until the movie is almost half over. That’s not how I remember it. Anyways, David, HAL, and the rest of the crew are on a spaceship heading towards Jupiter. While the mission does revolve somewhat around the monolith, and the never-ending quest to find out the truth behind it, this section of the film focused more on the quick decline of HAL’s obedience.

SECTION 4: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite

You wanna get high with me, man? Obviously, that is the only thing that will go through your head if this is your first time watching the film. View an endless arrangement of a vibrant sea of colors as David escapes the ship he was on in Section 3, and proceeds to go hyper speed through space and time, getting older, and getting younger when going through the different loopholes. When David finally finds the monolith, it transforms him into a giant floating baby in space, looking down at earth. END MOVIE

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Overall, the movie maintained its level of strangeness that I remembered, but one thing has changed. It does make sense, you just really have to pay attention. It’s easy enough to tell you the whole thing is based around the monolith, but in some sections, it is harder to catch than others. You see, when watching, you get the overall feeling that each section seems to be a random story all on its own. In a way it is, but they are all connected by the overall monolith story arc. You have to listen closely with the Dave/HAL story to catch them mentioning the monolith, but it is there. It’s the underlining reason why they are going to Jupiter in the first place. So with something tying each story together, it got a whole lot more interesting.

 Visually, you can tell when they use technical effects. Clearly, the apes in the beginning of the film are humans in costume, much like those in “Planet of the Apes”. When in space, the things that float are clearly hung up by string. Yes, at the same time, it is pretty clear that at its time, this was at the top of the charts for beautiful films without a shadow of a doubt, but remember my earlier question, can people who have never seen it enjoy it the same? Probably not. Most won’t be able to appreciate the artistry of the film’s concept. I do, but at the same time, that isn’t part of my routine. My routine is unique by reviewing any movie as it would be seen for the first time today. Some older movies can actually do an impeccable job being equally entertaining, I’ve seen it. “2001: A Space Odyssey”, however, could have benefitted greatly from futuristic technology.  I will say, however, that anyone watching it will enjoy the music.

 If nothing else, Stanley Kubrick was decades before his time. First of all, just the fact that he implemented the idea of video calls is nothing less than awesome. He was able to nitpick at little details of his time and predict where we were heading better than a lot of other people in his time. That is an interesting thing to note, but it really is irrelevant to what I’m trying to convey. However, new viewers should pay attention to those things, and how it is interesting that they were put in a 1968 movie.

 In the end, I still felt as though this film was all over the place. Kubrick knew what he was doing, I’m sure, but it was presented in such a way that confused the heck out of me. Maybe that was the point, maybe it wasn’t. I just like knowing for certain what I’m watching. I even understood “Inception” perfectly. The problem here was too many sections and sub-stories and failing to get to the point. I am not going to complain that they never explained the monolith because I understand that it is supposed to be confusing thing, and you aren’t supposed to understand its origins or purpose.

 I will say one final thing before ending this review. I enjoyed this a lot more than I did the last time I watched it. It might take a few viewings to truly get used to, but it is boring. My first review probably wouldn’t have even reached 20%, but as it is, I’ve looked at every possible angle, and from a modern viewer’s perspective, the highest rating I could give this was 66%

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19 thoughts on “‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

  1. I’d have to disagree with you. 2001: A Space Odyssey is, in my opinion, one of the greatest films of all time. Though it isn’t for everyone, I believe it is pure cinematic genius. Nice review.

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    1. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying, if someone watched it for the first time EVER. How would they think it is? Unfortunately, they can’t enjoy it as much because we have CGI that is so incredible you wouldn’t believe your eyes. If that’s what you’re used to, going into 2001 would make you laugh. I know because it made me laugh. Going back into it, I can appreciate where it came from, but that’s not what my review is about

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    2. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying, if someone watched it for the first time EVER. How would they think it is? Unfortunately, they can’t enjoy it as much because we have CGI that is so incredible you wouldn’t believe your eyes. If that’s what you’re used to, going into 2001 would make you laugh. I know because it made me laugh. Going back into it, I can appreciate where it came from, but that’s not what my review is about

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      1. I think the special effects still hold up very well today, even in today’s CGI world. I’ve watched it about five times and appreciate more each viewing. I’m not trying to slam your opinion, I just disagree.

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      2. I could tell when things *floating* devoid of gravity were being held up by a string. The ape’s don’t look like apes, don’t move like apes, they move like people trying to imitate apes. It’s practical effects, which is fine for its time. But it is really blatantly obvious. That being said, I still rated this a lot higher than what I would have the first time watching it, which I hated and wanted to paint the wall with my brains

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      3. I didn’t think it looked obvious at all. The zero gravity effects look great still today and I didn’t think the apes looked fake. But I respect your opinion.

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    3. I agree with Ckckred, this is perhaps one of the greatest cinema achievements in history. Not only is the cinematography stunning throughout but the visual FX are as fresh today as they were in 1968. The story is shrouded in ambiguity forcing the audience to decipher what is going on and what is ment by each scene. This leads to a much more satisfying experience for the viewer when they are forced to THINK. To often, especially in today’s Hollywood market, the audience is spoon-fed every detail or worse, force fed them, leaving nothing to work out for ourself. Because this method of lazy film-making is adopted by most directors or is encouraged by studios for mass market appeal, when a classic like 2001 is viewed for the first time and every detail is not spelled out, people tend to just give up or dismiss it, missing the point completely. 😦

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      1. Thank for the comment, but “the visual FX are as fresh today as they were in 1968.”? Have you seen any movie that has come out in the last ten years? Try Prometheus. Try Star Trek: Into Darkness…try anything. I agree with the cinematography, but the visual FX does not translate anymore. If it were released today, people would laugh at how bad it looked. You know that if it were remade, visual effects would be greatly improved, Because of that, the effects are so not fresh.

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      2. Do remember this film was made in 1968, comparing it to a visual effects lead film from this year would be rather unfair. All I ment was, this film lead the way for all sci-fi films, it was a game changer and Im sure you will probably find it was most sci-fi directors inspiration to become film makers. The exposition of each shot, cinematography, visual experience, story and
        intelligence of this film is simply a master class in film making.

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      3. Yes. In 1968 it was revolutionary, but please try to remember that I review for a modern audience. Someone who has never seen it before and has modern expectations. I can appreciate a movie for having such an impact on a specific generation upon release, but that is of no consequence to a modern audience.

        Some movies translate amazingly well still today, but I am finding less and less that a younger crowd will really care about. The process of filmmaking is a beautiful study, but unfortunately, not everyone is going to care about that.

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  2. Re-reviews are a great idea. This review was perhaps a bit casual, though. The “Dawn of Man” sequence did not feature apes which is why they did not look like apes. The creatures were hominids — early man already split off from other primates of the age. They were starving and competing with each other for scant food resources. The monolith educated the tribe.

    If the models seemed to be suspended from above, your imagination supplied the string. They were too heavy for string and were supported from below. Hardware models are more convincing than today’s CG in most circumstances and hold up very well against the best efforts of today.

    I didn’t understand all aspects of the movie when I saw it for the first time as a child of 13 but eagerly filled in the blanks when A.C. Clarke’s book hit the shelves. To consider that this most realistic of space travel films was made before we had the first image of the whole Earth from high orbit remains impressive. Nothing since has depicted space travel as accurately.

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    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from, but not to the degree of saying accurate space travel. If we’re just talking about space travel alone, there’s been a ton of great stories that accurately display space travel like Apollo 13, Gravity, Interstellar.

      Of course these films get really fantastical as I list them off, but nothing as fantastical as 2001. Instead, what I see when I watch 2001 is really poor graphics. Yes when it came out out was the bees knees and ahead of its time. I appreciate that, but we’re in an age now that if this came out nowadays it wouldn’t have the same affect

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  3. Apollo 13, Gravity, Interstellar… none of those movies could have happened without 2001. And unlike those films, Kubrick’s masterpiece is impressive because he made it without something like 2001 to look to for guidance. Art will always trump entertainment, and 2001 is art. It may not pander to the narrow proclivities of the most media addled youth, but that’s not the purpose of art and it shouldn’t be. Foundations may not have all the glitz of metal and glass to which you’ve become accustomed and without those structures above they may appear to be nothing more than great slabs of concrete, but just try building anything impressive without one. That’s what Kubrick did with 2001. He made that film without a reference point other than Clark’s source material and he changed the way we think about movies and what we expect out of them.

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    1. You know, I both agree and disagree with you, Alton. I agree with the point that this is indeed art. It is. It’s beautiful, especially if it was in its prime. Even out of its prime, it’s something special – but aged nonetheless.

      I do disagree that Interstellar, Gravity, and Apollo 13 couldn’t have happened without this movie though. People were always going to make films about outer space…they make movies about everything and anything they can think of – it was just a matter of time before someone made movies about outer space in general. Those movies, on the other hand, make more sense and are more captivating in my most honest opinion.

      Art is great. It is, I’m a huge enthusiast when it comes to the imagination and art. I can’t explain that enough – but when it comes to film – I truly believe film needs more than just art. I believe it needs “The whole package”, which I don’t think this has.

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  4. Hi Dave. I enjoyed your review. I wanted to mention that up until 3 weeks ago, I had never seen this movie. I’m 33 years old. I saw it on Netflix, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I loved everything about it. The disorienting angles in the space stations, the dryness, the music, the message, it was all perfect. Mankind evolved and gets to advance to the next level. I also loved that there wasn’t cgi, but I think cgi ruins a lot movies. The fact that it feels so old when you watch it only adds to the overall bleak vibe. I will admit, I was also pretty stoned. But A+ movie.

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