The classic has been reviewed. There’s a spoilerish chunk in there in the “film vs. movie” rant, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you may not want to read that part. Also, shame on you! Go rent or buy it right now!

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman

Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000

Gary Lockwood as Dr. Frank Poole

William Sylvester as Dr. Haywood R. Floyd

Written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

This DVD release includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, at the least, I assume. My DVD release has different cover art, and is listed as being out of stock. (It was in the original 7 DVD Stanley Kubrick set, before Eyes Wide Shut was available.) The edition I’ve linked to here is more recent, so I assume they haven’t removed any features, although they may have added some.

Premise

An alien race with sufficiently advanced technology takes an active role in the development in mankind.

High Point

“I realize I’ve made some poor decisions recently.”

Low Point

The musical sequences. Frankly, they’re just long.

Some Words About Films And Movies

I’m one of those people who believes there is a distinction between a film and a movie. Movies are the products designed to tell a story for pure entertainment. These are the products that our rating scheme works well for. Films are different. James Cameron makes good movies, but he makes lousy films. Films are the products that are driven by an artistic desire more than a monetary desire. They strive to force mankind to look upon itself, and evaluate itself. They use heavy symbolism, visual metaphor, and thematic elements. Entertainment is often a secondary goal in the creation of art. (Some films, particularly those by Bunuel, actually try to eliminate all entertainment value from cinema, and turn it into a purely artistic medium. I’ve seen Bunuel’s Week End; it’s still more entertaining than Excess Baggage was.) Films do not fit our rating scheme very well, partly because they often worry about the Production category to the exclusion of all else. They tend to deliberately break the complete cause and effect relationships that we see in movies, which hurts them in the story category. The acting is often drab, as the sets and dialogue are far more important to the filmmakers. Some films, such as Requiem For A Dream, still manage to be great movies, but others do not.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a film, not a movie. The pacing is slow, making it feel remarkably boring to people who are used to finding most of a product’s meaning at the surface. If you’re used to seeking out imagery and thematic meaning, you’ll find it packed with things to think about and churn over, making the slower pace quite comfortable, as it allows you to process what you’re seeing as you go along on a few different levels. (The musical pieces are still too long, though.) The life cycles of individuals and species are represented here, right down to the symbolic rebirth in the unusually long airlock. The set pieces are drab and dry, as is the idle bantering conversation people have with each other over drinks. The development of mankind has moved from the community structure of primitive man to cold, isolationist relationships in the future, involving very little physical contact between individuals. The scores this film is about to receive reflect its value as a movie, because that’s what the ratings were built around. With the exceptions of the production and overall categories, these results will be significantly less than its value as a film. Try to keep this in mind as you read on.

The Scores

The originality of the film is strong. I can’t think of any film older than this one that uses a narrative structure that delays introduction of the main characters for half the film. As lengthy as the musical interludes are, they are unique. I give it 5 out of 6, dampened only by being an adapted work (inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel.”)

The effects are excellent for the time. Even today, a full 36 years later, the only bits that aren’t convincing are some of the weightless scenes, and we’re still having trouble with those today. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story itself seems incomplete. I know this was deliberate, though. The ending, like much of Kubrick’s work, was left open to interpretation. The musical interludes are more disruptive than beneficial. The structure is interesting, as are the pieces we do see, but big chunks of the narrative are missing. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting is pretty bland, but that’s the way the characters are meant to be. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is poor from a purely entertainment perspective. I love thinking about the bits that Kubrick intentionally left out, and how they fit with the pieces and images that he so carefully put in here, but a person who reacts only to what is on the screen without further contemplation will likely be bored and confused. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production is excellent. Every set, costume, lighting position, cut, camera angle, and sound element was carefully crafted by Kubrick into a very particular result. If it weren’t for the musical interludes, this would have a perfect score in this category. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is one film that belongs in every serious collection. There’s so much here for a person to delve into that repeated viewings are always offering up something new. This is the holistic category, so I can just go with my gut and ignore the movie-bias of the rating system to give this film what it deserves. This is a 6 out of 6.

In total, 2001: A Space Odyssey receives 33 out of 42 when reviewed as a movie. It would probably score much closer to 40 if our scheme was built for films.