This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
A little over a year on Letterboxd and over 500 logs brings me to this. While there are plenty of classics I have yet to see(Citizen Kane, Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca), it was often suggested that I choose 2001: A Space Odyssey . Kubrick is one of my largest blindspots in film. I saw The Shining when I was very young and haven't rewatched it since, and now I've seen 2001, but that's all.
Despite my willingness to explore any genre, any style, any director. Ranging from cheesy teen dramas, 2 1/2 hour long hungarian dramas to films about the city of taipei and their sexy watermelon crisis. I tend to dislike films that take *too* much brain power. While I don't deny the importance of including deeper meanings, symbolism and messages in ones film, I personally tend to not enjoy films of that nature as much as a straightforward enjoyable drama or comedy. However, there are clear exceptions. Some films are just so breathtaking, so perfect and so incredibly captivating that you throw away your typical biases, 2001 is this film.
Simply put, this is a perfect film, and deciding where to begin reviewing it is near impossible. Although I was prepared for some killer cinematography, I was not at all prepared for the caliber of shots, the perfection of the framing, and the amazing decisions by Kubrick to focus on HAL more than the main *human* characters. The decision to not focus on human faces and in their place, focus the camera, closely, on a static machine is a bold, yet brilliant decision. The decision to focus on HAL reinforces my belief that he(HAL) is the most dynamic, developed character in the film. We barely know any details about Dave or Frank, and the other astronauts we never even encounter. However, we know quite a bit about HAL thanks to dialogue in the film. Not only does HAL show emotion, but he reacts accordingly to actions made by Dave and Frank, making him equally if not more capable of decision making than his human counterparts.
I refuse to believe that this film was made in 1968! 50 years old and still of higher quality visually than most science fiction films. The set work on the various spacecraft is meticulously detailed and has an incredible, realistic look. Not only does the interior look as if it is a space craft of today, but the exterior is equally impressive. In addition to the visuals of the set, the visually stimulating beauty that is the StarGate sequence is also one that does not disappoint
One complaint I could easily see one having about this incredible piece of art is the nature of the narrative. Starting with the dawn of man, the earliest humans and their innovations. They use reason and create tools to hunt, and perform other necessary tasks. Continuing on we go to the space station, a high tech, high quality, and highly impressive area. In these two equally interesting sections the focus is on the monolith, but it is essentially straightforward and not a task to comprehend. Then comes the most captivating bit of the film, the mission. This legendary section gives us the wonderful quotes we know and love;
"I am afraid I can't do that Dave."
"Open the pod bay doors, HAL."
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going."
The mission, being the most captivating portion of the film leaves the viewer excited for the ending, and the ending is beautiful. However, it is undeniable that this rapid tonal shift from the mission to the finale is impactful on the average viewer, and without the knowledge that the film would go that way, I can easily see why someone would be turned away.
Nevertheless, I still believe that the ending is beautiful, with the idea of renewal and the continuation of evolution.
Although I mentioned the deadpan delivery, stoic faces, and overall lack of background on any of the characters earlier, I still wish to praise the acting talent of Keir Dullea as Dr. Dave Bowman. It takes true talent to make such a robotic character so likable.
Continuing on, the emotions, and the pure terror that 2001: A Space Odyssey made me feel. I usually don't feel too much emotion when it comes to film. Not sure whether I can't get invested, or I'm just a heartless fool. But I can say with absolute certainty that behind the ending of Woman in the Dunes , the scene where vital signs flash and the flatlines begin is the second most I've ever panicked while watching a film. When a group of characters you haven't even been introduced to yet are about to die, you would never expect to be in panic mode, but I sure as hell was, and I assure you that many others agree with me. Kubrick seems to have a talent for this.
One of the greatest, most captivating tales of mystery and science fiction ever told. One of the greatest films ever made, my 1000th.
P.S. Long reviews are not my thing so I hope this doesn't seem like meaningless jibber jabber.