NJBerry’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie is...very controversial; and I am sure this review will be too. I have to be honest here: I went in with incredibly low expectations, I have heard a vast array of opinions from many people. Now this movie is in no way perfect but it definitely exceeded my expectations.
First of all, I want to start with my overall points on the film. When watching, this felt like a moving piece of art. It is incredibly well made, it is beautiful to look at and just a very well crafted movie. However, that doesn’t mean I like it. As I said, it felt more like a moving picture than a form of entertainment that most know as film. Because of this, it was very different to your stereotypical movie and so it didn’t please me in the same ways as normal ones do. Anyhow, I will now break down each aspect of the film as best as I can.
So first we have the acting. Well I’m going to be honest when I say: plain. It...well it definitely isn’t Marlon Brando calibre. It really was just simple, however I actually didn’t really mind that too much. A type of movie such as this doesn’t really need much acting quality due to the audience’s attention being solely on the plot and the visual effects within the film. If an actor attempts to fully express themselves in a movie such as this, they tend to over-act (however there are some exceptions such as Interstellar)and the overall tone created becomes awkward and doesn’t match with the aesthetics of a space movie. So overall the acting was very forgettable and basic yet I didn’t mind that too much.
Next we have the absolutely astonishing visual effects. Now I know they are practically incomparable to something more modern such as Gravity or Interstellar but I was still blown away. For a movie in 1968, the effects would still be as impressive for even today. I really felt the atmospherics designated for space, which is what I am sure is what Kubrick wanted. I can’t really say more than that to be honest.
Now we have the subject of the writing. I don’t really think this is too good. For one, I felt that the plot only started to come through when we got to around 1.5 hours into the movie. And that essentially leaves only 1 hour left for it to completely unravel; it’s not terrible it just wasted 90 minutes of my life and they had so much more opportunity to add something in. Nonetheless, I am pretty satisfied with what we got after that. I also felt that the first 20 minutes of the movie “the dawn of man” sequence was a little unnecessary and only used to accentuate how long this monolith has been around for. Personally, I would have preferred for the opening sequence to be something surrounding the actual space genre otherwise the audience will become confused and makes the movie difficult to comprehend a proper setting, moreover adding to the very late timing plot introduction. So in conclusion, the first 20 minutes of the movie were ill-placed, the first 90 minutes were kinda boring and a little unnecessary, but after that it cleared up and improved dramatically. To be frank, I would actually add maybe half a star if the entire movie was just about Hal-9000 and the Jupiter mission.
Okay so here we have the overall integral structure of the film. So I must say, it does need a little bit of work. For incredibly slow-paced movies such as this, most audiences - including me - would possibly begin to get bored of the repetitiveness and it would result in the overall movie becoming more difficult to focus on; however there are always those who enjoy this sort of structure within a film. Now I am no director or anything but I do have a few ideas on how to resolve this - and I must say it mainly consists of cutting down the length of a few shots. So to start off, I would just get rid of both black screens in the start and middle. The first one was a very...unusual way to begin a movie but I did quite like the title sequence that followed. The second one was almost as if it were there to split up the acts - a toilet break if you were at the theatre. Next is the “Dawn of Man” sequence. This lasted way too long in my opinion. I liked the idea of showing how long the monolith has been around for and the first signs of development and evolution among the apes. However they could have done this in much less time; it looked like it was there to show how nothing happened before humans came along! So you would know how I feel about the 90 minute prologue, and to counter this, I would split up this sequence and place them in little 5-10 minutes scenes between points within the actual plot. This establishes two different stories which may begin to confuse the audience but is finally resolved when the two stories finally link towards the end. Now I would also attempt to vary the pacing of the film in a few climatic scenes, to add to the dramatic tone and break up the structure of the movie. These scenes include fixing the satellite dish, killing Poole and disconnecting the HAL-9000. Finally I would just cut down the last major shot of walking through the bedroom. Ok I’m sure you are glad we have finished that huge paragraph and I apologise for hitting you with a feedback section but these are just my opinions.
In contrast, I would like to mention another pretty awesome component of the film: the score. Is it just me that hears a classical piece, and thinks to myself that it was made just to be included in a space movie? Well either way, I am pretty sure this movie had all of them. The opening title sequence had an astonishing score which perfectly complimented the ominous tone of the film. Others include the Blue Danube Waltz, used when Dr Floyd was being transported to the moon. Space movies have by far the best potential for a score and this one has done it better than most.
Here comes the rather controversial section where I come to discuss the plot. Actually when it truly began to unravel, I was quite satisfied. I enjoyed the increasing tension between humans and AI and their different perspectives of the mission at hand. However the completely useless first 90 minutes that was only there to partially hint at the mission? Nah I didn’t enjoy that as much. Furthermore I found the whole aspect of the monolith relatively unexplained which works both with and against the film. It’s good for he added suspense and mystery of what it is but I felt a little more information could be hinted throughout to just to maintain a somewhat constant plot. In conclusion the plot has both positive and negative aspects which constantly take over one another throughout the movie.
Characterisation always comes a vital part in a film. For the audience, it distinguishes the who the protagonists and antagonists are, and most importantly: it make the characters more relatable for the audience so they can discover who they like the most. Personally, I enjoyed the HAL-9000 the most because it had very diverse and contrasting views. It has the radical ideas and the relatability of a human, yet the discipline and intelligence of a robot. However I felt the protagonist Bowman was very difficult to relate to due to lack of emotion in his performance.
Overall, I have very contrasting opinions on this movie, it is very very good, but gets dragged down by a few aspects. Because of this I have given it a solid 6/10. But I am very keen to watch it again. If you have made it up to here, well done, I know it was quite a review. But as always, thank you for reading and I shall see you for another review.