2001: A Space Odyssey -- Is the Fourth Time the Charm?

2001: A Space Odyssey has been widely renowned as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Despite rocky reviews upon its first release, it managed to carve itself a place in history, gaining credibility as time rolled on. 2001's unique look at what the future may behold (the film was made in 1968, mind you) has surprised audiences to this day because of its accuracy. Nearly every technological impossibility in the film has become not just a possibility, but a probability in our near future. With the help of author Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick set out to make "the first good science fiction film", because he believed everything to that point was garbage. I haven't seen many science fiction films from before 1968 so I cannot comment on his statement, but when I first saw 2001 I did have something to say: "2001: A Space Odyssey was TERRIBLE". I hated this movie such an intense amount that it hurt my head to think that Stanley Kubrick made it. The film dragged along at such an indolent pace that I truly believed I had died and was now enduring what I thought was the tenth circle of Hell.

That was the first time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. A year or so later I received the Stanley Kubrick DVD set for my birthday and with it came the dreaded Hell movie. When I finished with the rest of the set I decided that maybe I should try again. After all, it did seem like the film you would need multiple viewings to appreciate. So I popped it in, got through about one hour, and that's when things went black. Before I knew it my mother was waking me up on the couch, the TV still on with the DVD menu on screen. I threw the movie back in its case and considered it a victory that I fell asleep before I had to watch the entire film. Another few months had passed and I was bored as sin. So I figured hey, I'm already as bored as I can get, the only way I could go is up. So this was 2001's chance to redeem itself for me. Once again I put the movie in, and hoped for the best. I got about as far as I did the second time, and then I got up out of my chair, walked to the DVD player, contemplated smashing it with a baseball bat, and then simply decided to take the movie out and put it away. You may be asking why I keep subjecting myself to this film and just accept the fact that I hate it. If you know me, you know that I am a huge Stanley Kubrick fan. I love basically all of his films, and I frequently express how much it annoys me that he never received an Oscar for writing, directing, or producing. However, his one Oscar win was for Best Visual Effects for, you guessed it, 2001. So basically, I wanted to love the movie that gave my favorite filmmaker his only Oscar. I loved all of his other non-winners, it only seemed right that I should love the one that did win. So that's why I watched it a fourth time.

Today, much like the day when I watched this film the third time, I was bored beyond words. But I was in a good mood, and felt like watching a movie. I went through my collection of 250+ DVD's and came across my Kubrick set and saw 2001. I thought to myself that I would give it one more shot, and just this one more. Now that I've been in this class for a bit and actually know how to identify good filmmaking, maybe the experience will be different. From the beginning, a difference was noticeable. I wasn't squirming, I wasn't fast forwarding, and I wasn't crying in agony. I didn't even notice that it took almost 26 minutes for the first word of dialogue to be spoken, and that a total of 88 minutes of the film was silence filled with classical music. After the film ended I was surprised to feel that...I liked it. I didn't love it, I didn't think it was great, and I still didn't understand most of what I just saw...but I didn't hate it anymore. The meaning behind the film, the danger of technology, actually interested me this time around possibly because I've matured. I started to think about the question, are we allowing technology to get out of hand? Can these advances backfire in our future?

When the movie first begins, we see the dawn of man, which was basically a bunch of guys in ape costumes. If you can ignore that, you see what Kubrick was really trying to show us. This was our most primitive form. This was a world filled with danger, where it was either kill or be killed. In a single frame cut, we jump from the dawn of man to a space station in outer space, showing how quickly technology can creep up on us. As the movie progresses we feel that since that time a million years ago, we have grown as a race. But in the end, main character Dave Bowman has to revert back to the kill or be killed mentality and put an end to the humanistic computer HAL. So no matter how advanced we become, our instincts will always be the same and really nothing has changed.

Still, I found parts of 2001 to be overly drawn out, especially the ending when Bowman is traveling hyperspeed through space and we see an orgy of colors parade across the screen for about 10 minutes. Not to mention the countless questions left open to interpretation by the filmmakers. This is something that could be fun for some people, but to a point it gets frustrating. Arthur C. Clarke once said (regarding his collaboration with Kubrick) "If you understand 2001 completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered". I think this is a smart way of saying "we wrote this, but we didn't think it all the way through, so we are going to have you think about it". I like to believe that rather than my favorite director is a jerk.

So after the fourth try, I finally like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe after some more viewings I'll grow to love it. But let's just go baby steps for now.


  1. I watched it late last night and was fascinated. I didn't expect to love it but I did! It creeped me out and I actually managed to pay attention to the colours when Bowman was at hyperspeed- I was in a trance (and I was surprised by it-thoughout the 'slow' scenes I began daydreaming) I was so fustrated when I couldn't understand the ending that I couldn't get to sleep! Like you I have truly become a fan of Stanley Kubrick and as my dad says, 'he was ahead of his time'. Kubrick paved the way for future sci-fi movies and that in it itself goes to show you how amazing '2001' is. Doh! I've never written such a long comment- guess the effects of '2001' haven't worn off yet...great review! Have to watch 'A Clockwork Orange'- another one of dad's favourites. Let's hope they have it a the dvd rental place. Fingers crossed! Btw, have you seen 'Eyes Wide Shut'?

  2. A Clockwork Orange is a very visceral movie and may be difficult to watch for some. Still, it is my favorite movie of all time. As far as Eyes Wide Shut, I watched about half of it and I had to turn it off. I don't think I fully got it. To this day it remains only 1 of the 2 Kubrick films I have not sat through completely. The other is Spartacus.

  3. I love the film.. but its not an entertainment movie, and is slow i admit. But that's not the point, it delivers a calm and pacience to it that we in the present age do not posess, and therefore presents an alternative perspective for the average state of the human consciousness, and the possibility that we may be a lot more neutral and transparent in character in future.

  4. I just finished 2001 the film and being an true fan of everything about the unknown I will say I hated this movie. I like how the movie makes you think. Its awesome to have an interpretation like this film of a possible way of the human history. With that said, I thought the breathing in the suits was AWFUL beyond any measure of awful. The beautiful music was annoying in the film in most parts. The 60s psychedelic colors that Bowman flies through in the monolith was hokey at best. I am a true Science fiction nerd. I am 35 and I will give this film another chance. I hope it goes better next time...


Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange