This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Hallie 💃’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
2001: A Space Odyssey
This was not a movie, this was an experience.
It was the single worst experience of my life.
This review will have three parts: Initial physical and emotional reactions to the film, in the build-up to it, during it, during the intermission, and afterwards; analysis of the film itself and what I personally think of it as a product; and finally a revisitation of my physical and emotional reactions and analysis of the film, after having watched extensive explanation videos and reviews.
I have a fascination with directors and wanting to watch all of their filmography. I myself want to be a film writer and director so I like to see as many directors as possible to get inspiration for my own ideas and build up an idea of what cinema can be. Stanley Kubrick is known to be one of the greatest directors of all time and I have never seen any of his films or even know anything about any of them. So, when I saw that the 50th Anniversary cinema showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey was playing near me, I thought to take up the once in a lifetime opportunity to see what the world believes to be one of the greatest films of all time on the big screen. I grabbed my friend, planned the day, and had been excited for it.
I read a few reviews out of curiosity to try and understand what makes this film so great, and I discovered that the general consensus is that it is either the greatest movie ever made, or the most boring insufferable piece of garbage you will ever see in your life. This made me skeptical while walking into the cinema and sitting down, not sure which side the coin will land on.
And then I was shown. As Kubrick presents me with 5 minutes of a black screen with scary loud music, at which point one woman from the room left to see if the projector was working properly, and then as she was out the lights dimmed and the actual movie finally began (a decision I am not sure was Kubrick's or the cinema's itself) and then she sat down to witness 15 minutes of monkeys doing fuck all and then one of them beating the living shit out of another one with a bone. I started to realise early on what I was getting myself into, and the entire first half of the film I spent in pain, disappointed that I knew that I would not enjoy this film as much as the rest of the world seems to.
It was then by the good grace of God that I was granted with an intermission. A beautiful short period of time to turn to my friend and see if he felt the same way.
Yep. Fuck indeed.
"What have we gotten ourselves into?"
It was at this point that we both realised that we were full of regret and fury, and we started to devise a plan: whether we should bail now while at the intermission, or grit our teeth and bear it all the way through. Then the lights dimmed, and we were trapped. We couldn't leave now. We had to see it through.
During the second half was when I was really struggling to keep going on. I was thinking to myself "Please just let it end. Let me leave. Please God!". I felt trapped, winded, and incredibly uncomfortable.
The final act then went on for eternity, constantly making me feel as though the movie would end but it never would.
And then it did. We saw the big ol’ baby opposite the Earth, the screen went black, and the lights came up. And I was free.
"I feel like all of the blood has been pumped out of my body" were my first words. I felt pain, fury, confused, regretful, drained, and just generally dead. It was not at all a pleasant experience, it was one of the worst of my life.
It's a unique feeling I have to give it that. Being absolutely dumbfounded and awestruck by a film, while equally feeling like you've been hanged for 3 hours.
I hate Stanley Kubrick.
The long shots of nothingness were immensely aggravating and I hated every second of them and wanted them all to end immediately. Some were good and fitting (such as the guy in the yellow suit flying through space in silence, and the entire scene of disconnecting HAL 9000) but others were painfully unnecessary and terrible.
The acting was so bland and wooden and not a single character felt real or believable.
The cinematography was good, sometimes it was great, but every good shot in shown in the trailer and the rest of the film is just fine.
The score. The. Fucking. Score. It caused me so much pain and suffering and I hated it, but I equally fully understood it and it must have given me those feelings for a reason. I was in agony. But it was powerful, and I will fucking give it that.
The long drug trip and ending in general: FUCK OFF. Just fuck right off Kubrick. I don't give a fuck if this has a deep meaning or whatever. It was obnoxious, painful, and went on forever. The whole time throughout this "scene" I had my hand firmly clasped over my mouth because I just wanted to fucking scream.
Finally, the visual and set design. It was fucking gorgeous. Especially for its time in 1968, before we had even landed on the moon, I fully understand that this was a revolutionary piece of art that will never be forgotten for being far too ahead of its time. I'm here, 50 years later, and I still can't comprehend any of this shit that I just witnessed.
Modern pop culture has also ruined a lot of this film for me. The theme song has been in everything and so many specific scenes have been referenced in Futurama and other shows and movies that I'm just so overexposed to them and they don't impact me as much as they would if I went into this film 50 years ago.
It is incredibly impressive, but it felt massively pretentious of Stanley Kubrick, and having not seen any of his other films and just having my friend's word that "This is nothing like The Shining or A Clockwork Orange" then I don't know what to expect from his other films. This felt like an awful director's cut of a movie that should've been 2 hours shorter. I'm sorry, but it just didn't work at all for me.
12 hours after finishing the initial viewing last night and several explanation and review videos later, I have a far greater respect for this film and what it represents. The messages on evolution and how tools will one day overtake human evolution is actually looking to be quite well predicted by Kubrick unless we can stop that now. And the unbearable last 20 minutes has so much deeper meaning to it that I just cannot ignore despite how horrid the experience was. Knowing that the psychedelic light show represented the human mind evolving and knowledge growing or what not makes it far better, and all of the imagery throughout the film (such as tools taking human form, which is something I did notice upon viewing, and how the heavy breathing scene symbolised how humans are "fish out of water" in space) all means so much more now.
So, now I understand the film better, and I understand Kubrick's reasons for making it and what impact it has had on the world and will have in years to come... but what is my final verdict of the film?
I do not think this is a "bad" movie by any means at all, however I would say that is was my least favourite viewing experience of any film, and these feelings were most likely deliberate by Kubrick. I hate this film, and I would never watch it again in the foreseeable future. Maybe in another 50 years at the 100th Anniversary showing when we can have the film implanted into our head and shutdown our body for 150 minutes in order to experience it in an even greater way. But for now, no chance.
I love everything that this film means and represents, but I hated actually having to watch it.
And here we are, at the bottom of this incredibly long review, where I must now try to figure out how to rate this "movie" on a scale of anything. If I would rate it then it would either be a ½ star or 5 stars, I don't see any chance of there being an inbetween. A 2½ star rating seems like I don't appreciate it or don't get it.
But I can't give it 5 stars, because that's just not how I feel. I understand the film, but I cannot compare this to my favourite films of all time. If I would explain my rating system like some people do on this platform, then a ½ star would be described as "Absolute pain and suffering", and that is exactly what this film was for me.
Sorry to disappoint, but this is a ½ star out of 5 for me.