2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

[The Village Voice, 4/11/68]

2001: A Space Odyssey is a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick’s inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view. His film is not a film at all, but merely a pretext for a pictorial spread in Life magazine. Kubrick, like [Claude] Lelouch, is an undeniably competent photographer, but photographers seldom make the best directors. 2001 has little writing or acting to speak of, and makes little sense. The first section of the film begins where Planet of the Apes left off at the “Dawn of Man.” Kubrick and science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke employ a bunch of monkey masks and monkey suits to present a very debatable theory of human evolution in terms of force and acquisitiveness. We then suddenly leap into a routine moon voyage described in great brand-name-plug detail (Bell, Pan-Am, Howard Johnson’s, Hilton) with Poverty Row players like William Sylvester and Robert Beatty. A big, black slab figures in each section of the film, but we never find out exactly what it is or what it signifies. The third section, by far the most interesting, features Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood as two automaton astronauts pitted against a computer that speaks in insidiously wheedling tones. Ironically, the computer seems to have more feelings than the humans do, a curiously pessimistic attitude toward a project of this magnitude in predicting scientific “progress.” The ending is a mishmash of psychedelic self-indulgence for the special effects people and an exercise in mystifying abstract fantasy in the open temple of High Art.