Sunday, July 13, 2014

2001: A Space Odyssey -- Putting the Odd Back in Odyssey

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.  A few modifications were made here.

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. That’s why I’m still thinking about 2001: A Space Odyssey. I can’t quite figure it out. I mean, I was able to follow the story and everything, but it’s one of those movies that you don’t quite get on the first viewing.

It starts out simply enough. It’s the dawn of mankind. With no explanation, this big slab of something appears. The primates that will presumably evolve into modern humans discover it and are curious about it. They are just beginning to realize that not only can they manipulate the world about them, but they can use tools to aid themselves. It’s a significant point in the history of our planet.

All of a sudden, the year is 2000.  (The movie was released in 1968.)  Man is beginning to venture out into space. We have a presence on the moon and a space station between here and there. A man is on his way to the moon to check out this big, mysterious slab of something that was discovered on the moon. (It appears to be the same slab from the primate era.) Again, not much is said about it other than the fact that it had to have been placed there by some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence. Before anyone can analyze it, the sun passes over the slab there’s this strange buzzing noise

Now, it’s 18 months later and there’s a ship bound for Jupiter. There are five men and a computer. Three of the men are in stasis and will be revived once they reach Jupiter. The other two basically run the show with the help of the computer, the HAL 9000, who they simply call HAL. HAL has the programming to sound human and interact with people, but is basically a fancy computer that controls all aspects of the ship. It’s a definite recipe for disaster.

I won’t say too much beyond that mostly because I don’t fully understand the ending. I think I understand what’s going on, but it’s a very odd sequence of events. Basically, we get a spectacular light show and an odd sequence of events.

The use of color in the movie is great. I loved the backgrounds in the primate era. However, the movie isn’t much on dialogue. There are a great many sequences that are mostly silence or background noise. Those that aren’t into this kind of movie will find it boring, and the movie runs for 148 minutes. You’ll find sequences of 10 or 20 minutes with no dialogue whatsoever. However, we do get a very memorable line from this movie: “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” (If I had to compile a list of the ten best lines, that would be on it.)

There are also a lot of scenes in space that make use of artificial gravity to give us some excellent shots of people walking up walls and into oddly angled staircases. It gives the movie a chance to show off special effects, which were actually done pretty well.

As for the story, the first half is pretty good and easy to follow. The last half gets pretty confusing. There was also this intermission that could have been eliminated from the DVD release. At the very least, it could have ended with the chapter, thus making it easier to skip over. I don’t know if it was included for effect, but all I got was a few minutes of music.

The movie has a G rating due to a lack of anything really offensive and crude, but there are a few scenes of people presumably having been blown out of an airlock. Children also probably won’t understand the movie. Had I watched this when I was 10 years old, much of the movie would have been way beyond anything that I could hope to understand. I still don’t get it all.

It's hard to recommend this movie to people. I honestly can’t see recommending this movie to anyone outside of a film major.  The one thing that it has going for it is that it is a well-known movie and is going to influence cultural references.  I'm not saying that watching it would be a total loss, but I would recommend renting it before you buy it.

 2001: A Space Odyssey - Official Trailer [1968] - HD

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