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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)



Reviews and Comments

It is not possible to overestimate the sheer number of unwavering, loyal followers that idolize the definitive science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. These are largely science fiction junkies most of whom would not hesitate to decapitate me for awarding it anything less than five stars, as I have done. My attitude is, let's get a grip on reality and look at it objectively.

Here is my take on the pros and cons of 2001, pros first: (1) the Dave/HAL scenes are classic, effective drama at its best, (2) the high level of accuracy shown with regard to science is almost unheard of in the movies, (3) the classical score is one of the most effective, entrancing uses of classical music in any film, and (4) it had knock-out special effects for the time.

Now, on the con side: (1) the special effects are not only tame by today's standards but annoying, (2) the Jupiter-approach scene is a bore, (3) in spots, it is horribly dated, killing any suspension of disbelief that this could happen in the year 2001, and, most importantly, (4) the last third is completely, utterly incomprehensible. I don't care how observant you are, how skilled you are at picking up on symbolism and hidden meaning, or if you've grown up on Federico Fellini films and understand them thoroughly after a single viewing -- it is impossible to decipher the meaning of the last third of 2001 without consulting Arthur C. Clarke's novel. To my mind, storytelling as abysmally rotten as that would normally knock three or four stars from the rating. In this case, I generously gave 2001 a high rating because of the aforementioned pros (all of which are very strong pros), the (then) originality of the material, and because this isn't the type of film where its plot is as important as its ideas -- kind of like a Stephen Sondheim musical.

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