Subject: 2001: A Space Odyssey review (spoilers)
Posted on: 2020-10-18 22:21:34 UTC

Okay, so I wanted to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey the other night because it was a cult classic and I thought I would like it, so I rented it. And... uh...

Well, to summarize, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick that starts with a bunch of apes on the African plains that get driven off their water-hole by another clan. After hiding in a cave, they get sent the iconic black monolith that... uh... sings? And then they touch it... and that teaches them to use bones as tools? And then they drive off the other clan with their powerful bones.

Cut to 2001, where humanity has finally perfected space travel such that going to the Moon is no more of a hassle than air travel, where some business guy goes to the moon base Clavius in an extremely long-drawn-out commercial flight sequence to investigate... dun dun dun! The mysterious monolith! Which is now on the moon for some reason! And was... intentionally buried? By whom?

Now, at this point I'm liking the movie. Who are these aliens that did this? What do they want? Are they just good samaritans who wanted to teach us the Way of the Bone? Or do they have ulterior motives?

...except we never find out, because the monolith decides to just kill the business guy and everyone else who was near it at the time.

Smash cut to 18 months later, to the most interesting part of the movie, where two mission commanders, three cryosleeping scientists, and the HAL 9000 supercomputer go on a mission to Jupiter to find the other monolith, which... exists? (Also, they don't find out their true goal until later in the movie, because it's Top Secret, which is understandable.) Now, this is the most interesting part of the movie for a reason: HAL 9000, who is constantly known as a supercomputer from a series that doesn't make mistakes ever, makes a mistake. Naturally, this leads to the crew talking about unplugging him from the ship because they can't trust him to run things anymore. So, after tricking the still-alive commander into going outside the ship in a pod, out of no malice to humanity, no grand ideology about how imperfect humans are and blah blah blah, not even a "maximize X" directive gone wrong, he kills the cryosleeping scientists and one of the two commanders out of simple self-preservation. This is great, because I haven't seen anyone do this before. HAL isn't some grand villain with ideology: He's just a human trying to keep himself alive.

Now, I like this part as it is, but it still could have been a lot better. For one, it's too short in relation to the rest of the movie (which I will get to later). Two, the part where the remaining crewmate disconnects HAL's AI had about as much emotional resonance as unplugging my computer until HAL started talking about unrelated things like he was going senile, because HAL's voice cannot convey emotion and the crewmate's actor did not convey emotion.

Still, I was already too deep in to finish. And guess what happened?

No, seriously, take a few minutes to guess what happened before I tell you that your guess is as good as mine.

So, the last crewmate finds the other monolith, and then he hears the magical chanting, and then... he goes into the portal to the Digimon world? And stays there for like 50 billion years? I dunno, it seemed a lot more like just flexin' my special FX than anything actually relevant. And then he wakes up in this fancy house where he sees himself... as an older person? And then he disappears, but his older self remains to see... his even older self? And disappears, but his still older self remains to see... his yet older (and dying) self lying in bed? And then dying self is reaching out to the monolith, which wasn't there before... and now he's a giant CGI fetus in a magic energy sphere. Seriously. And now he's looking down on the Earth...

Okay, look, 2001. I know you wanted to be all profound and convey beautiful messages about humanity and stuff through an artsy way. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to state your themes outright. But there's a line between not spoonfeeding things to the reader, and being so arcane that the movie becomes unenjoyable, and 2001 definitely ends up on the wrong side of that line. I don't even know why it has 4 and a half stars on the services I checked for it. In my opinion, it deserves three for special effects. Boring plot, no information about what this monolith is or what it does or who sent it or even what's going on, just a bunch of faux-profound special-effectsy stuff with absolutely none of the "deep exploration of human nature" the movie seems to be going for. Not only that, but it's just so slow. You'd think since it's a two-and-a-halfer, it'd actually bother to develop the three plotlines it introduces, but nope, all we get is a bunch of "profound" stuff that isn't actually profound because I don't know what it's saying. It's actually an hour and a half movie at most with an extra hour of padding that adds nothing. And I thought I was bad at time management...

4/10. The special effects are really good, and the HAL stuff is interesting, but the pacing and the lack of real meaning kill it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go off and meditate for a few more years so I can comprehend how in the world this movie still has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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