Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Stanley Kubrick takes us on a journey that is both mesmerizing and confusing. But, most of all it is a journey worth taking.

Screenplay By: Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

So much has been written about this movie over the years, and upon viewing it one can understand why. Too often movies are heavy handed and want to do our thinking for us, they are in a way the complete antithesis of what the medium of film and interpretive art are supposed to be. 2001: A Space Odyssey is not a film that succumbs to the need to be heavy handed or to tell the audience what to think. That is also why 2001: A Space Odyssey is a very polarizing movie, there is no in-between, people either love it or they hate it. They either “get it” or they don’t understand it. 2001: A Space Odyssey is all about questions, it is about who we were, what we are and what we can be. It is about stagnation and it is about progress. It is about how the smallest of events can bring about just as monumental of a change as the largest of events. In short, 2001: A Space Odyssey is about whatever you want it to be about. There are very few cue moments, moments where it is made definitively clear what is going on. And even those moments hinge upon how you have interpreted the moments prior and how you will interpret the moments that are to come.

Outside of the thinking and depth brought to the movie, there is also a sparseness to it and a sense of loneliness and desperation. The strive of man to advance and progress in their quests is played out both through operatic musical cues and through the long and lazy shots of our progression. Nothing is taken for granted, every moment is worked for and every moment works because of that. The lack of dialogue is most telling, because in this day and age the average movie going audience expects to be wowed, to have the story move along at a brisk pace and to always inform them of what is going on through a character you can relate to. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly doesn’t move at a brisk pace, it doesn’t always inform us, nor does it give us a single character to relate to. The focus in 2001: A Space Odyssey is on the unknown, on questioning what you are seeing, not on the characters or their rather minor struggles in the grand scheme of things. Those musical cues I spoke of earlier are truly the backbone of the entire film. They are haunting when they need to be haunting, mundane when they must be mundane, and suspenseful throughout. In a lot of ways the music in 2001: A Space Odyssey reminded me of the music in The Proposition. Yes, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great movie by itself, but without the musical cues it contains I don’t believe in any way that it would be as profound or thought provoking as it ends up being. Change the music and you would change the mood and tone, and I can’t think of any movie besides The Proposition that wasn’t a musical and depended so much on its musical score.

Lastly there would be the camera work on display and the shot selection from Stanley Kubrick. Too often directors either go for the far too simplistic or the experimental when it isn’t really needed. Mr. Kubrick mixes both in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the result is a stunningly beautiful look. You have the most simplistic of shots, lit perfectly and full of all you need to see and then they are gone. You have experimental type shots from odd angles that allow you to take in the surroundings and truly examine them because they present an aura of oddness to you so they must be examined. It all comes together to create a beautiful looking film with fantastic visuals that grab your attention from the get-go and never lets go.

That was a lot to say something so simple, if you haven’t, watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you have, watch it again. Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Det sjunde inseglet, there is so much to chew on with each repeated viewing that you didn’t notice the first time around. Tremendous, tremendous movie, I really can’t say enough about it.



Bill Thompson

P.S.: The old wrestling fan in me came out hardcore when 2001: A Space Odyssey first started and I couldn’t get images of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair out of my head when his theme music was being played. It’s funny how for as much as I’ve forgotten about pro wrestling since I got involved with real fighting, the theme music of the one wrestler I ever truly thought was amazing stays with me. Also, did Alien take some of their score from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Because I thought I heard some similarities, but I wasn’t certain.


9 responses to “Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

  1. I must admit i find myself going “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” when i hear the music too… and its kinda fun to do 🙂


  2. This is one of those films where I wish that I had the complete surround sound system and HD TV because the score is everything. The regular TV/DVD viewing just leaves it fall flat.

  3. I reviewed this myself recently and was struck how, despite having watched it numerous times and citing it as my favorite film, I never noticed its satire. There’s something so wonderfully brilliant about defining the birth of man as when we learned to rely on inanimate objects to do our work for us, preferably in the service of killing something to feed us. From that POV, the smashcut from the bone to the space station isn’t wonderous so much as the culmination of man’s spiritual self-destruction. Hell, HAL is the most human character in the film.

  4. Great review and I too thought of Ric Flair the moment the movie began… lol

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  6. Fakeshemp – It’s always fun, trust me. 🙂

    Vandtor – I agree, I’ve never seen this film under those conditions but I’m sure it would be spectacular.

    Jake – Great points, definitely gives me something to chew on the next time I watch this.

    Studio – Another Flair fan, nice. 🙂

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