Adam Schoales’s review:
The term "masterpiece" is thrown around a lot in cinema, and there are very few films that I've seen that I feel truly deserve the title. That said, if you were to Google "cinematic masterpiece" the one director I would imagine you'd see keep popping up is Stanley Kubrick.
I have a very strange relationship with Kubrick films. I do think they're all masterpieces, but for the most part intolerably dull, confusing, and a little bit pretentious. I don't watch them to be entertained, but rather as an education in filmmaking, because to try and find entertainment value in Kubrick's works is not unlike expecting explosions and car chases in the works of DaVinci. The one exception to this rule being "Dr. Strangelove..." which I think is not only highly underrated, and one of the funniest films I've ever seen, but also one of the most beautiful.
But I digress. I knew getting into "2001..." that it was going to be a long one, and for this very reason I had resisted watching it for several years until I could see it in a movie theatre so as not to get distracted. In the end I'm very glad I did.
It's important to note, that this is not your average film. Narrative isn't as key to this piece as are the visuals, which are absolutely stunning. I'd be lying if I said I completely understood what was going on for most of the film, or that I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I wasn't. And I did have to go home and read the Wikipedia aritcle about what exactly was going on. But for once, I actually didn't mind all that much.
The visuals are stunning. Beautiful. Arresting. Especially in a theatre. And it's a good thing too because the film is light on everything else; plot, dialogue, action... Yet there is something incredibly arresting about the film. Despite the fact that there's something like 80 minutes of dialogue, and the first and last 20 minutes contain no dialogue whatsoever the film manages to hold you (for the most part).
That said, I don't disagree with the early reviews of the film. It is plodding. It is incredibly slow. And not very much really happens. Were one to boil down the film to actual moments of story it would probably have a runtime of just over an hour. And let's face it, if anyone other than Kubrick had made this film critics, audiences, and just about everyone else would berate the film for it's incredibly over-wrought, long, seemingly unnecessary space sequences. "Okay, we get it, you can make it look like space, moving on please". But it wasn't. It was made by Kubrick, and the truth is had anyone else made the film those incredibly long space sequences wouldn't be so beautiful.
In the end it's a film that takes its time. But thanks to its incredibly arresting visuals you don't really mind all that much. And I want to be clear, they really are arresting. Even nearly 45 years later they still look as magnificent as they did the year the film came out. The final 30 minutes especially, are truly magical (though personally I much prefer it with Pink Floyd's "Echoes" as the score, but that's just me...) and continue to inspire filmmakers today ("Tree of Life" anyone?).
In the end four things are clear to me:
One: I'm very glad I saw this in a theatre.
Two: I'm never going to piss of my computer.
Three: I haven't got the faintest idea what the hell the film is really about.
And Four: I don't really care. It's far too beautiful to mind.