Posts Tagged ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’
Many thanks to Alexander Hammond for his contribution! Click HERE to read more about the very talented and fascinating Mr. Hammond in our “People of Note” section (will open in a new window).
In 1968 I cycled eighteen miles to watch a movie. At eleven years old I was already a science fiction fanatic; indeed I’d devoured most of Arthur C Clarke’s output up to that point, but this movie was going to be something else. It was an event! Everyone was talking about it, even people who weren’t SF fans.
With popcorn and Coke in hand, sweating from the trip and pent up feverish excitement, I sat down to watch 2001 A Space Odyssey…
The lights went down and the strident sounds of Also sprach Zarathustra boomed into the theatre. I felt shivers down my spine, shivers that practically turned into sympathetic harmonics as the opening eclipse scene unfolded. I was awed.
I then spent the next interminable one hundred and forty one minutes practically sobbing with boredom.
As I write this, I can almost feel reader’s nostrils flaring in anger and see veins throbbing in their temples at this blasphemy, for blasphemy it is…
In my defence, I was eleven. I knew nothing of Kubrick’s reputation as a cinema god. I was naturally too young to fully appreciate his nuances and subtleties. How was I to know at that tender age that this was art? The man was an Auteur. There were of course reasons why certain scenes went on forever. There was obviously a point in the fact that there was no character development. And how could my naïve cerebral processes have understood that the totally incomprehensible ending was deliberate.
Angry, frustrated and confused, I cycled home, bewildered about what the fuss was all about.
Now, nudging middle age, I’ve revisited the movie on four separate occasions. I’d now call myself a serious movie buff, and certainly a significantly more educated SF fan than I was back in those halcyon days.
My opinion has not changed one bit. Beyond the stunning production design and ground breaking special effects, this movie is a lumbering, pretentious, badly structured mess.
There…I said it.
Its gushing supporters simply don’t have the courage to see that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
So, now you hate me. I’ve done the cinematic equivalent of swearing in church.
You’ll all know the history. Kubrick called Clarke and said, “Lets do a movie.” Clarke (who I think was an SF god), rummaged around and found one of his old short stories The Sentinel and felt they could expand and build on that…and dear God does it show.
The Sentinel worked as a short story and that was how it should have stayed.
So why am I sticking my neck out and risking the slings and arrows of fellow SF fans?
It’s because this movie wrongly overshadows Peter Hyams jaw droppingly good 2010. A movie written first as a proper full length novel by Clarke…and, like it’s predecessor, it shows. Proof that high concept does not negate a good storyline.
A fantastic ensemble cast, a well crafted script, outstanding effects, real and well written character development (you actually care about the people) and a story that not only arcs to perfection…but also leaves delicious unanswered questions.
Note I say ‘delicious unanswered questions’, not the WTF? you get at the end of 2001.
You still get the feeling of how far away Jupiter is, without endless numbing exterior shots, lasting minute after inexorable minute. You still get the sense of awe at the invisible majesty of the constructers of the monolith, without the interminable shots of it from every angle imaginable. And this time you get real tension and adventure…and real actors…not cardboard cut outs.
I recall the moment I first saw the crew of the Leonov making the spacewalk across to the spinning hulk of the Discovery. The panic in John Lithgo’s voice. The backdrop of Jupiter. The moment they actually touched the surface of Discovery and the accumulated dust flying off. The build up and execution of the aerobraking manoeuvre. The half glimpsed life form on Europa.
Dr Chandra’s negotiations with Hal, knowing he had to persuade him to die so that they could live. Roy Schieder telling his wife he was going on a trip that would last for years. Bowman’s cryptic assertion that ‘Something wonderful’ was going to happen.
Stress you can chew on and a plot to die for. This is ‘hard science fiction’ at its very best.
This is more than a good movie. It’s a fantastic movie. The visual effects compliment the story and don’t overshadow it. And that’s the point. 2010 had a story. 2001 didn’t.
Maybe I’ve burnt my bridges voicing my thoughts on the original. But, you know, my enthusiasm for 2010 made me take the risk. It’s a superior movie in very respect.
But of course, that’s just my opinion.
And please, don’t get me started on Star Trek – The Motion Picture.