Classic Movie Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Release Date: April 3, 1968
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kid, excited to see a science fiction classic.  I was not at all prepared to watch a slow-moving film with limited dialogue that touched upon themes of evolution and existentialism.  It left me feeling a way I couldn’t describe with words, somewhere between disturbed and confused.  Upon repeated viewings I was still confounded.

It’s been decades since the last time I watched 2001, yet it’s a movie I still think about a lot. So I was glad to revisit it as an adult with an appreciation for the the film’s cinematic innovations.  I am also in a place where I’m much more comfortable with watching something and not having to know what it “means.” The film is impressive from the very beginning with the shot of the earth from the moon, released to cinemas before astronauts got the same view for the first time on Apollo 8 later the same year. The effects used to create weightlessness are also terrific and I particularly like the scene in the airlock.

The opening segment, “The Dawn of Man,” which particularly bored me as a child went by quicker than I remembered.  It still feels like dioramas in the natural history museum have come to life, particularly since Kubrick shot it against backdrops rather than on location in Africa.  The “Star Gate” segment, however, goes on for far longer than I remembered.  Did hippies really even need to take hallucinogens before watching this?

The core of the movie is aboard the spacecraft Discovery One on a mission to Jupiter with astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood).  They grow increasingly mistrustful of the intelligent computer HAL (voiced by Douglas Rain) which leads to horror and tragedy.  The scene where Dave disconnects HAL’s circuits leading to HAL’s “death” is one of the most heartbreaking in film history even though it’s for a murderous computer.

In summation, 2001 is still a slow and “boring” film, but in a good way.  It’s predictions of the future seem way off since humans have not left low-earth orbit since 1972.  On the other hand, the corporate branding we see on everything seems spot on even if Pan-Am, Bell Telephone, and Howard Johnson’s restaurants didn’t make it to 2001.  The movie is stunning visually, and it will make you think about important topics even if you can never figure out the right answers.  This is definitely a movie I’d like to see on a big screen when I get the opportunity.

Rating: *****


5 thoughts on “Classic Movie Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

  1. I remember seeing it on our tv at home. We had just moved to a new house. As a 10 year-old I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on but I know I was disturbed by it, especially at the end. Truly astounding this movie came out before the actual lunar landing. The special effects and pacing of it were well-executed especially the tension with the killer robot. It singing Daisy in slo-mo was a masterful touch. I know you probably already know this but H.A.L. is one letter each off from I.B.M. Kubrick is one of the great directors of all time. Based on a story by Arthur C. Clarke, one of the greatest sci-fi writers of the time (and maybe of all time.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know until now that Kubrick and Clarke wrote the book and the script simultaneously, going back and forth making changes. I read the book many years ago and it actually explains a lot of the things the movie makes mysterious, which is the opposite of typical relationship between books and movies. I also watched the sequel, 2010, when it first came out which has some satisfying answers but also loses something without the mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, thanks for the tidbits, Liam. Didn’t realize that about the book/script collaboration, or that it had a sequel although I think I saw it (Jody Foster in it?) but didn’t realize it was a sequel.


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