Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #75
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
If this blog, whether intentionally or not, exists somewhat as an unsolicited promotional tool for the IMDb, then I shouldn't feel too uncomfortable pointing out one particular feature there that has helped me countless times: the FAQs. Whenever a movie blows my mind, I run over to the FAQ section on that film's IMDb page and see what theories exist about that which confuses me. If I decide that the movie was interesting enough to watch again, I take some of these ideas in with me and make up my own mind about it. This probably sounds an awful lot like "cheating," but it soothes my brain. Besides, this blog entry would be the text equivalent of a drooling, blank expression without a little help from the FAQs.
Let's tackle the accessible parts of this movie first, since there is a decent portion of it that can be appreciated without thinking too hard. The first twenty minutes of the film, called "The Dawn of Man," start the ball rolling with some of the best scenes of the movie – and space isn't even involved. The common interpretation is that the apes discover bone tools with the influence of the first monolith to appear. (Note: I won't be tackling the concept of monoliths or what they do in this blog entry. There just isn't time, space, or brain capacity for that here.) My initial interpretation was slightly more subtle, though along the same lines. I felt that the apes weren't discovering the use of tools or weapons so much as they were discovering the concept of violence. Until the first ape murders one of his own, the hostility among the creatures is limited to verbal scuffles. They probably understood violence in some abstract way, but the existence of weapons brought it to the surface and truly gave a vicious streak to early man for the first time in prehistory. The shots in this entire sequence are a brilliant introduction to the movie that proves to only be tangentially related to the rest of it. The entire middle portion of the film depicting the power struggle between our two astronaut protagonists and their supercomputer captain HAL-9000 is also brilliantly scripted and shot, and is easily understood. Other wonderful and perfectly accessible parts of 2001 are the score, which made Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" one of the most widely recognized pieces of classical music among people who don't listen to classical music, and Kubrick's pioneering cinematography in the first feature film ever to use a front projection camera.
The less accessible parts of the movie presumably have plenty to offer as well, and I look forward to future viewings of the film. It should be noted that I had no idea what was happening for the last half hour of this movie. Our protagonist makes his way to Jupiter through the part of space that looks exactly like an acid trip, and then he turns up in a clean white apartment (commonly called a "hotel room" by reviewers, but I'll be damned if I've seen any hotel room that looked like that) with a monolith, where he ages his way to death in a matter of moments and then turns into a fetus and then the movie ends. I seriously re-watched the closing scene three times, then read about it, and am still going to need to watch the movie again to even comment on it. But hey, I love movies like that. I don't want to live in a world where great directors can't occasionally melt our brains. Stanley Kubrick is usually a fairly accessible filmmaker whose films are fantastic but raise few questions. 2001: A Space Odyssey – especially the third act – shows his other side, and I think I like it.
The Good: My favorite part of the movie was "The Dawn of Man," but I've detailed lots of great things about the movie above.
The Bad: I wonder if Kubrick could have gotten his point across with the psychedelic stuff on the way to Jupiter a bit quicker. Desaturated pictures of space are awesome for five minutes, but not ten or fifteen.
The Skinny: #75 sounds great to me.