Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Science Fiction #1 - 2001: A Space Odessey (1968)

Oh how I hate this movie. Well, that's not true. Hate is a strong word. There are lots of parts of this movie that I do like - I'm personally a fan of HAL 9000 - but there are also lots of parts of this movie that I'm...less than fond of. I'm sure it's technically a good movie, but that does not make it anymore mind-numbingly boring or intentionally incomprehensible. You're not supposed to understand this movie. Arthur C. Clark once said that if anyone completely understood the movie, the filmmakers hadn't done their job right. Apparently, some people enjoy that sort of thing. I do not understand this. Some people will tell you that the movie really isn't that hard to understand: It's clearly about evolution and how emotionless humanity is and spiritual enlightenment, and in fact is more enjoyable because you can't fully understand it. These people are liars. I don't get this movie. To me, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of modern art. Lots of people like modern art and think it's great and progressive but I do not like modern art - I don't get it. Not all modern art, obviously, but a whole lot of it. I'm just not a fan, and to me this movie is sort the same thing.

One my main problems with this movie is the fact that it is just so slow. I'm sure that real spaceships do move slowly, but that does not mean that I want to watch it. I swear that two thirds of this movie is just slow-moving machinery. The special effects are very good, yes, but I don't want to look at them for that long of a time period. A real spaceship probably does take twenty minutes to get from one side of the moon to the other, but in this movie we have to watch all twenty minutes of that - I'm pretty sure there's some exaggeration there, but the thing is, I'm not quite sure. It might have actually been twenty minutes. Even when we're not watching slow moving machinery it's still slow - we're watching monkeys or scientists making small talk or a business meeting or sleeping astronauts. This movie is definitely very slowly paced. So very slowly.

The movie's a Stanley Kubrick movie (Who, as you may recall, I'm still not sure if I like or not), so it's very weird. A lot of the weirdness I don't mind at all - HAL and the monkeys are fine , and even the monoliths I'm really fine with, (Except for the noise that they make - It's this horrible buzzing, squeaking noise coupled with tuneless, random moaning - Here's a video link for your reference, you'll get a good sense of it if you start about two minutes in - I swear that's the the sound they play over the loudspeakers in Hell.) but I cannot tolerate the colorful Jupiter landing thing. It happens very near the end of the movie, and it really is just colorful lights coming at you, or splotches of color on black, or the ocean in different colors - very screen-saver-esque. This is already weird and not very entertaining and dated now, but to top it off, this scene goes on for, I am not kidding, eleven minutes. Eleven minutes of this:

It's like your DVD player went to sleep and you're just watching the screen saver. Why do people like this movie? I actually know though - People like this movie because of HAL. And I don't blame them - I love HAL, HAL is amazing. HAL is really one of the most terrifying villains I have ever seen in a movie (It should be noted that I don't watch a lot of horror movies.) He's unfeeling and calm and detached and creepy as all get out - His voice is Douglas Rain, who has never done anything else, but has a cool name and is just terrific as HAL. The part where HAL kills the astronaut through the pod, and the camera sudden zooms in on the eye of HAL on the pod is just terrific. I love that part - It's probably my favorite part in the movie. Even though HAL is just a light and a voice, he's still a character, and that light can really emote.

That light shouldn't be as creepy as it really is. And even though HAL is evil, he's also scared and confused (HAL is far more emotional than any of the human characters in the movie - Which is the point. I think.) You kind of feel bad for him, especially near the end. HAL is sympathetic and terrifying. Like Peter Lorre. Unfortunately, HAL is only in about an hour of the movie - the other hour and twenty minutes is filled mostly with, yes, slow-moving machinery. Shame.

Besides HAL, though, I came out of this movie with two ideas. A.) While people talk about this movie a lot - What the monoliths are, why HAL breaks down, what the lights mean - No one ever talks about how much the space pods look like koala heads.

I don't know what other people see when they look at this, but I can only see a koala. B.) Hey!

That guy has grey eyes! That's cool! I didn't even know that people could have grey eyes...You can tell how engaged I was in this movie. I know I should like this movie - Smart people like this movie, movie people like this movie. But I'm just not that into it. I just don't enjoy watching it. I do like HAL. I do like "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (That's the music - you know: da...Da...DA...DAHDAH, dumdum dumdum dumdum...), but the thing is: I don't like this movie.


  1. 2001 is a great way to get a short nap in the middle of a movie - just like golf on TV!!!

  2. Before I start making general assumptions, I think it's great that you are undertaking this voyage through cinematic history.
    That said, I feel too many people of your generation dismiss anything before CGI as archaic. Aside from the technical effects, I feel the reason people consider 2001 a classic is the fact that it doesn't give you the answers; it makes you figure them out for yourself. I saw it at a midnight showing in high school with two friends. We were not intellectuals, but we spent hours after the movie discussing "what" we thought it meant (substance-free, I might add).
    Finally, I must disagree with Mr. Murdock, though his idea of a great movie is "Silent Running" - WORST MOVIE EVER!!!