Strange Cinema: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on 366weirdmovies.com‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.

(Author’s note: It’s been about two years since this review series has been updated and I am SO SORRY. Life kind of got in the way, but I am still determined to watch all these weird movies for you and relay my experiences. FOR CINEMA!)


 

2001-a-space-odyssey-movie-poster2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

What’s it about?
Scientists discover a black monolith buried beneath the lunar surface, a team is sent to Jupiter with a self-aware supercomputer, and a lone astronaut stumbles through space and time in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece.

Is it any good?
I have quite the critical dilemma with this film. If I say 2001 is an intelligent sci-fi juggernaut that must be studied for years to come, I’m just some hipster-y film geek injecting too much meaning into an abstractly good film. If I say 2001 is an overrated mess of existentialist bullshit with some pretty cool cinematography, I’m just some hipster-y film geek trying to be too cool to like a critically-acclaimed film.

So I suppose I’ll just stand in the middle with this one.

Before you burn me at the stake for even suggesting that 2001 is anything close to a bad film, hear me out. I’m not saying this is completely overrated–it’s just a bit too full of itself. It’s so full of itself that the dialogue got cut in half so it could be more abstract.

Okay, okay. Back off with the tomatoes. 2001 definitely has its shining moments. HAL 9000 is one of the most convincing villains in any film and he’s just a computer. The camerawork (like every Kubrick production) is incredible. The whole film is just so aesthetically pleasing (minus that vortex scene that just made me sick).

But 2001 tries to tackle subject matter that is just too huge for the screen. This is a film that takes on existentialism, human evolution, AND scientifically accurate space travel. Okay, so it nailed the space travel part. But evolution? The meaning of life? Come on. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Space Odyssey series of books (and you skipped the lackluster sequel, 2010), then you’re probably not even sure what the black monolith in the film is even supposed to be. I was so confused by it (and literally everything else in this film) that I decided to look it up, and it turns out that the black monolith that keeps appearing is a machine built by an unknown extraterrestrial species. It’s supposed to encourage mankind to progress with technological development, suggesting that human evolution is actually triggered by an outside force. Whether that force is meant to be aliens or God is up to the audience.

Now, that sounds like 2001 really hit the mark on evolution and existentialism, right? Well, I’m not too sure. The pieces are there, but they’re delivered in such an abstract way that the train of thought gets lost in the special effects. But you could argue that ideas of this magnitude have to be abstract since there’s not a lot of concrete reasoning to hold on to. You could also argue that this film wasn’t meant to be “dumbed down” for the average audience. Those are honestly fair oppositions.

So is 2001 an important sci-fi film? Absolutely. Are the special effects groundbreaking? For sure. Is it the smartest movie ever made? I wouldn’t quite say that. It’s definitely a conversation-starter at your next existentialist tea party, but I’d skip it for family movie night.

Grade: B- (for incredible visuals with a bloated sense of intellectualism)
Weirdness Score: 9/10 (or, weird enough to make 
Star Trek seem plausible)

[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]

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