2001: A Reevaluation Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterpiece. But here’s the thing: masterpieces aren’t for everyone.

As the resident sci-fi nerd around here, I was asked to write something about 2001 for its 50th anniversary on April 2. At first, I had no idea what to say. I’ve always had an appreciation for the film, but I’ve never liked it. For me, it’s a painfully slow movie–all brains and no heart.

I also had trouble remembering anything but its most iconic moments; I’ve only seen it once or twice–and the last time was at least a decade ago. So here’s what I decided to do: I’d watch it again and take notes throughout. I was curious to see how my opinions changed (if at all) through the course of watching it. Were the boring parts still boring? Would I care for any of the characters this time? Would I know what the hell was going on?

This isn’t intended as an MST3K riff or anything–though you can tell where my attention started to wander. If you’re interested, there’s a time marker for my notes so you can play along at home. So without further ado, here’s my odyssey of revisiting 2001.

[0:21] Black screen and dissonant music. Stanley Kubrick knew how to put you on edge.

[1:24] Fun fact: if you start this movie with the sound off and play Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, they don’t sync up whatsoever.

[2:33] And the dawn of the fast-forward button.

[4:13] I won’t skip the apes part…I won’t skip the apes part…

[7:38] Forgot there were two tribes of apes at odds with each other.

[9:47] I could skip the apes part. No one would know. The important thing is to not leave any evidence, like putting this in a blog or something.

[12:45] Fascinated that the monolith is presented with such a sense of fear instead of wonder.

[17:16] * snaps fingers, sings * “When you’re a hominid / You’re a hominid all the way / From your first hunting and gathering / To your last dyin’ day!”

[18:30] The cut from the bone to the spaceship. Can’t help but think of MST3K now.

[20:24] Kubrick nailed the idea that there’d be screens everywhere in the future. This doesn’t look too far off from the present.

[21:35] A lot of leg room on these space flights. Probably a Star Child kicking the back of his seat, though.

[23:31] #practicaleffects4life

[26:40] This segment following Dr. Heywood Floyd is probably my favorite of the film. This future isn’t the utopia of Star Trek or the dystopia of Blade Runner. This is us still being us in the future. Although “us” here is very white and male-centric. Granted, this was made in 1968–fifty years ago. Important to note how times have changed.

[31:31] Love this scene and how it sets up the mystery. This movie comes alive for me when these people act like people and talk to each other.

[36:14] 2001: A “Maybe I Can Hold It…” Odyssey

[45:00] What a suit this Dr. Floyd guy is. There’s a cold war paranoia vibe I’m getting from him. If I remember right, he’s the main character of the sequel, 2010. Should give that movie a shot soon, too.

No idea how I’m supposed to feel about him and the subterfuge he’s orchestrating. Of course, not knowing how I should feel about any of this is the point. He’s probably right that the world isn’t ready to know all at once about the super freaky alien monolith thingies on our cosmic doorstep.

[50:00] Yeah, the mystery of the monolith on the moon is my favorite part of the movie. Right now, the movie’s moving at a slow but deliberate pace. I’m here for it.

[55:47] So whatever happened to these guys getting an earful from the monolith? Such a surprising note–again, fear not wonder–to end this part of the story. Still into the mystery of it all–more than previous viewings.

[1:04:14] The most prophetic shot the movie. Two people eating in silence, staring at their screens.

[1:16:24] Can’t overstate how amazing this must’ve looked in 1968. Holds up incredibly well. This section aboard the spaceship heading to Jupiter is still slow and deliberate, but it feels like the actual story–the mystery of the monoliths–is on hold a bit.

[1:24:21] I can’t imagine a future where we expected computers to work flawlessly. Of course, this is an era before personal computers. I’m curious how different this movie would be if Kubrick ever had to set up a wireless printer.

[1:29:26] Maybe don’t look at the camera of the super-intelligent psychotic computer when you’re talking about it, guys. That’s just good common sense.

[1:30:30] Does this movie need an intermission? Story’s dragging enough as is.

Well, time to make some coffee.

[1:34:11] Man, poor Frank… Nothing good ever happens to Gary Lockwood in sci-fi stories (see the Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is remarkably similar to this).

[1:41:33] HAL needs to learn how to take constructive criticism.

[1:51:34] Dave getting back on the ship is an example of the slowness of this movie paying off. The way Kubrick slowly builds the tension until a quick release of action is terrific.

[1:52:16] So… possible hot take here. The story of these two knuckleheads and HAL is good, but this is a different movie. A different but great movie, mind you. It’s a long detour before we get back to the monoliths. Although, I guess the idea is that the monolith is affecting HAL.

Feels like Kubrick’s stalling for time because there is no answer to the mystery that is as good as the mystery itself.

[1:54:51] The fact that Kubrick gets any sympathy out of HAL’s destruction is amazing. This scene is a classic for a reason.

[2:01:05] The movie’s really grabbed my interest in the last 10-15 minutes. That being said, not looking forward to the “Laser Floyd at the local planetarium” lightshow coming up.

[2:03:52] I’m totally nuts for the first Alien. I see now just how much 2001 influenced that movie – especially here in the slow approach to Jupiter.

[2:05:12] And here comes the lightshow…

[2:10:26] It’s trippy. I get it, Kubrick.

[2:13:19] I said, I get it, Kubrick.

[2:14:21] Now imagining what a movie theater full of blitzed out hippies must have smelled like in 1968.

[2:21:58] Well, at least the food at this cosmic hotel space prison looks good. Also, Cosmic Hotel Space Prison is my all-Rush cover band. We play Thursdays…

[2:23:47] Can only imagine Dave is trying to say, “You guys are jerks and the Wi-Fi sucks!” in this shot.

[2:25:11] Question: how big is the Star Child supposed to be in this shot? More to the point, big enough to fight Godzilla?

[2:25:57] Brief summation while the credits roll: I enjoyed 2001 more this time. This film isn’t entirely for me, and that’s on me, not the movie. Still too slow and pondering in places for my taste, but when it grabbed my attention, it really grabbed my attention.

I love the mystery. I love how empty and dangerous space feels. I love how foreboding –how alien–the film feels in places. I almost love this movie.

Maybe I’ll get there someday.

What are your thoughts on 2001? Let us know in the comments