Resolutions 2014: 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 a space odyssey

Yay for all of these fantastic guest bloggers for Resolutions 2014! After a wonderful post about WALL-E yesterday from Miss Zoë of The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger, today Mr. JJames of JJames Reviews has decided to share a film resolution of his own. I’ve spoken about JJames Reviews quite a bit on here, but if you haven’t been listening, please heed my words now: his site is great and his reviews are very insightful. Go check it out! Anyway, here’s his take on 2001: A Space Odyssey!

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Time for a confession: I have never before enjoyed a Stanley Kubrick movie, at least not in its entirety. I recognize the sheer brilliance of Full Metal Jacket (1987) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). I see the powerful symbolism and horror in The Shining (1980), and I even acknowledge the psychological resonance of Eyes Wide Shut (1999), but I do not like any of them. Nor do I see any reason to repeat the viewing experiences.

So it is I came to 2001: A Space Odyssey expecting to dislike (but still appreciate) it. Plus, I had been repeatedly warned that 2001 does not develop characters, does not tap emotion, is incredibly slow and has a confusing ending. I figured I would finish this film appreciating Kubrick’s artistic and intellectual genius, but having no desire to ever again see his outer space masterpiece.

Was my expectation fulfilled? No. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, so much so that I have already watched it twice.

Synopsis: “Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.” –


What I Liked:

  • In a word: Everything.
  • But let’s get more descriptive by starting with the visuals. This film was finished in 1968 and started at least two years before that, but the effects still work, even forty-five years later. Sure, many of them are not as realistic as what we see in modern movies (Gravity anyone?) and sure the modern world has nothing like grip shoes, but that barely matters. Kubrick and his effects gurus produce stunningly beautiful visuals that still resonate, that still strike us with their extraordinary allure.
  • Second, the sound. Stretches of this film are totally silent, including every time someone is navigating outer space. Kubrick thereby creates discomfort in his audience, the same uneasiness astronauts must feel when space walking. After all, even when we think we’re sitting in silence, we are tuning out ambient noise, which means true, absolute vacuum silence is disorienting, and Kubrick knows it so uses it.
  • Third, the classical music soundtrack. Kubrick commissioned an original score for 2001, and initially used classical music as filler during editing. Somewhere along the line, he realized how effective it is and discarded the score.
  • Which is why the soundtrack illustrates this classic’s brilliance. Every element is perfectly used to create proper mystery and intrigue.
  • Speaking of mystery: that is also awesome. The monolith connects 2001’s plot, and always keeps us interested, even when it’s off screen for long stretches.
  • The plot. It is not complex, but it is engaging.
  • The pace. 2001 is slowly paced, as I had been warned, but somehow it doesn’t feel slow. This film is long, but it is still immersive.
  • The performances. They are all note-perfect, even if none of them stand out.
  • Well. That’s not entirely true. Douglas Rain’s voice acting as HAL-9000 is the best I have ever heard in any film, be it live action or animated. If ever a voice actor deserved an Oscar, it is Rain.
  • The symbolism, philosophy and allegory. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best intellectual movie I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t bother with characters or emotion, really, but it doesn’t need to because it is so . . . confoundingly brilliant. Anyone can have theories as to what this means, but it can also mean something different to everyone.
  • The symphony. Because that’s what 2001: A Space Odyssey is . . . a visualized symphony.

2001 2

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Everyone who has ever visited my site knows I am hypercritical. Which is why I’m surprised by what I’m about to say:
  • Nothing.
  • There is nothing about this movie I dislike. Even the lack of female or minority presence is not a flaw, not here.

A Worthy Resolution? Well. Yes. 2001: A Space Odyssey is perfect. I guess that means it’s worthwhile viewing.

Final Grade: A+

Thanks, JJames, for a great and very positive review! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed this one so much. It’s funny–this was actually on my initial list, though I ended up cutting it. Clearly, I must make time for it at some point. Come back for more tomorrow! Got another excellent guest lined up for Resolutions. 🙂 Also, I am still accepting write-ups for anyone who wants to join the fun! Just send them to cs227@evansville!

30 thoughts on “Resolutions 2014: 2001: A Space Odyssey

  1. Great review JJames. I also just re-discovered this masterpiece and really enjoyed it also.

    I still think Kubrick’s best film is The Killing (1956), it’s his “take” on a heist.

    This was a superb idea Cara!!! Very glad you thought of it!

    • Haven’t seen The Killing. Honestly, I was ready to give up on Kubrick, prior to seeing this. Now I’ll give more of his work a shot, and The Killing just jumped to the top of my list.

        • Thank you!

          And a resounding no on The Shining. I appreciate it’s artistic brilliance and cannot deny it is skillfully creepy, a condition that does not decrease with additional viewings. But the scene-chewing performances, the fantasy sequences, the heavy doses of symbolism, etc, all make it something less than entertaining, in my opinion.

          I see it once every year (because my wife loves it at Halloween), but I have never particularly LIKED it.

  2. Great work! I saw this when I was a kid (I think it might be the first thing I ever watched on HBO) (when HBO FIRST came out, mind you) and I didn’t like it. But – – – I was expecting something like Star Trek or Buck Rogers. I should give it another shot now that I’m older. And classier. And bespectacled.

  3. Pingback: At The Theater: Take Two | jjames reviews

  4. Good review. This movie really is a trip. But it’s a fascinating one that I find myself making time out of my day to watch whenever I want. And I never get tired of it either. Except for maybe the whole “light show” sequence. That’s a bit dated by now.

    • That effect might be a bit dated, sure. But I think it’s still effective in the context of the film. Who can say what a transdimensional portal to what may or may not be an alien observation lab might look like?

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