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Film Review: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

I finally re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) last night for the first time in 45 years.

It was too long and lofty for me as an 10 year old back in the early 1970s to actually understand it–and I almost felt that way again this time around again.
But with the modern technology of FF and REW i was able to really see it in full detail and each scene several times over.

The entire film is actually 5 movies rolled in one. And only the middle section had any real drama to speak of.
It took Kubrick a full hour to finally introduce Dave and HAL, our protagonist and nemesis, respectively.
And their story-line only lasted 50 minutes. I really wished it was longer here.
The film is too long in 2 of the 5 sections: Parts 2 and 4.

Here are the 5 sections:

1) Prologue: Prehistoric man’s encounter with a strange, inert obelisk. Rectangular, slender, tall, ebony and shiny. While inanimate, it exudes an aura that fascinates the cave men. They see value in it. Is it Beauty? Power? Safety? What do those concepts even mean to a cave man? One thing’s for certain: Early man’s curiosity is awakened and this prompts the innovation of his first crude tool.

2) PanAm TV Commercial: Dr. Haywood’s trip to the moon is a visual masterpiece, albeit lengthy. It seems more about bragging rights for conceptual designs of future space travel than a movie sequence. Very little drama to speak of. Uneventful and existential. But in the end we arrive at the reappearance of the obelisk.

3) Dave and Frank travel to Jupiter. HAL9000 goes haywire.Bad things happen. Lots of tension and excellent storytelling.

4) Dave’s voyage unexpectedly jettisons past Jupiter to the far reaches of the universe. Very psychedelic and trippy. Way too lengthy.

5) Epilogue: Dave’s arrival at the end of his trip. The end of life (his life?) yet also a (or “the”) beginning. Did he discover life’s meaning?
This is the most fascinating sequence. I’ve had it memorized for over 40 years and seeing it again gave me the old familiar chills.

Kubrick had an agenda to demonstrate what our future would look like on an existential level…so he was stingy with compelling, forward-moving plot points. But it was realism, if only hypothetical. And it made its point loud and clear. It still does. You can count me as one person who is thankful to not be a space traveller because it looks DAMNED boring!

The accuracy in predicting how space travel and technology would look was uncanny. Including the introduction of iPad-like tablets, almost mimicking to their current size in 2018.

-Nick P