2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

God, this is so much better second time round. I first watched this ages ago, long before 2001 and didn't rate it. Knowing what to expect in terms of pacing and being a more world weary movie watcher I was able to appreciate this so much more. Even though I've only seen it once before some scenes are still pretty familiar but seeing them in context was wonderful. And there's also many parts that I'd completely lost from my consciousness. So, once again experiencing the full picture was pretty enthralling. What stood out most to me was the awesome soundtrack and the psychological machinations on board the ship. The only issue is that some scenes (maybe 4 or 5) do go on too long, to the extent that it's no longer adding atmosphere or tension or anything. Having said that I thought the whole thing was going to have a pacing problem but some of the longer scenes, so long as there's music playing (and it's not just someone breathing!) really worked for me this time. There's no doubt it's a classic, and inspired generations of movies to come. 


Spoiler Notes
Not sure it's even necessary to have a spoiler section as it's so well known but why break the habit of a lifetime..

I think first time watching this I couldn't get over the ridiculous 20 mins of ape shit you have to watch before getting to the Space Odyssey! And it keeps fading to black like it's going to be over, only to keep on going. Do you not think you could summarise the evolution of mankind evolving to use tools into about a minute of footage!? But this time I just laughed at the nerve to start the film this way, and just appreciated the beautiful scenery when it was there, and loved the black monolith and the music that plays during that. I do feel the transition to space as a bone is thrown up and then we see a rotating spacecraft is a little bit clunky. Could do better. (btw is that where the phrase someone "went apeshit" comes from, the general reaction to this part of the film?).

The space station bit was very cool now. The film has always been famous for playing the Blue Danube during the docking sequence. I played Elite (well Frontier: Elite 2 actually) so I was looking forward to this first time I saw it. It's good but a touch long. Special effects are still more than acceptable. I really liked the future business logos appearing. Pan-Am is gone. There is a Bell one for the videocall system, which I couldn't make out, maybe Bell Galactic? ;-). Then it had hotel chains Hilton and Howard Johnson. Which was cool, because the look of that scene reminded me of the Barcelo Sants hotel in Barcelona, which is above the main train station. If you're ever visiting Barcelona stay there. Trust me. It's great. The whole hotel is based on 2001: A Space Odyssey! And it's a damn good hotel even without that look. I also found it amusing that there are so many IBM computers in this, considering HAL is supposedly a riff on that acronym. And there was a Whirlpool oven thingy. 

I love the bit on the moon. The epidemic cover story is a nice touch of conspiracy theorist plotting, I'd forgotten about. But the scene with the black monolith is amazing thanks again to the ethereal choral vocals. Also, watching now was very reminiscent of Arrival! Unfortunately it ended way too abruptly, but you get some pay-off later when a video message explains what happened in the intervening time. I kinda missed that 60s sounding character though, he was a bit like James Stewart and would like to have seen more of him in the film. (PS the opening triangular leaves of the docking bay here looked like inspiration for the design of Star Destroyers).

There's a scene where an air hostess delivers lunch to the pilots using the trick of turning the room along with the camera. They upped the ante as soon as they switched to the Discovery ship, with one of the crew Frank or Dave (I can't remember which) running round it. And I'm sure the inquisitive audience members are figuring out how this trick is done, so they up the ante again by having someone sitting having dinner at a table at the top of the screen on the far side to where the guy walking is, and we see him walk round and up to meet up with that guy. So, that guy must have been strapped in upside down pretending to eat his dinner :-). Very cool.

The best stuff is probably the conversations with HAL who really is too full of himself. He was commissioned in 1992. Maybe it's true, maybe we did believe computers could be infallible back then. Now, though, I think it's clear bugs are in everything. Bugs are expected. And talking about bugs, to err is human.. the humans on suspecting a fault with HAL have the opportunity to plot against him without it knowing but make the fatal mistake of turning the pod so HAL can read their lips. I mean they actually ordered HAL to turn the pod! If they hadn't done that it would have all been fine. 

I was actually surprised how quickly things escalated with HAL. The reason they suspect a fault is because he has a twin on earth which is fed the same data and came to a different conclusion about an allegedly soon-to-fail comms component. I had thought there was going to be more psychological warfare between the AI and the humans. Maybe it just seemed stretched out last time, or maybe because they've built whole movies around that since. Many movies!

We don't get to see what happens exactly but Frank is attacked by the pod HAL is controlling when he goes to replace the component. Dave then takes ages to do a rescue/body recovery, which all ends up moot as HAL won't let him back on board. The standoff was another cool scene. I actually thought what if there was no way back on board and this was a real scenario. And what if crashing the pod into the ship would destroy it and therefore HAL. Would Dave decide to do that out of spite or revenge? Or would he let HAL continue the mission, in a sort of self-sacrifice because the mission is more important than his life and his grievances. Just a thought that I had time to consider while the situation played out. Luckily HAL doesn't have quite as much control as you'd think he would. So, Dave gets back on board in a tricky airlock manoeuvre and then is able to disable HAL as HAL sings a faltering Daisy tune. And that's it. The end of HAL. I thought this film had a slow burn pacing issue, yet before we know it we're at the end sequence!

All I remembered about this was a light show and space baby. And I can't even be sure if I remember the space baby from my initial viewing or from the fact it's part of pop culture. I didn't realise how awesome the sound was at this point. It was really loud compared to rest of film and rumbling away throughout the light show. Loved it. Similar to the remastered Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I can say this sound got it into the 9 category. What I didn't remember was this weird sequence in an old white Victorian mansion setting! Where there's moments in time and he sees the future where he's ageing, before suddenly the monolith appears at the foot of his death bed and space baby shows up, with special effects that make him look like Dave, no less! 

What does it all meeeean!? I'm guessing it's a cycle of life thing. Whether it means there is an afterlife, or whether there is reincarnation, or whether this is the dawn of the third age of mankind, I dunno, but clearly we have elevated to a new level of understanding of our place in the universe. The space baby orbits earth as some booming classical music plays us out. The End. 

Now, let's hope they didn't make a sequel and ruin the moment..

(I have seen it but have no recollection of it tbh! In fact looking at my logging dates I have seen the sequel twice, once before watching this first time, and once after!)

From a technical point of view I thought the visuals could do with some remastering on this broadcast. The centre of screen occasionally looked like a tonal shift to either green or red on a number of occasions when it should be black. And there were occasional crackles in the audio during the light show scene. But other than that it was very good. (This broadcast version was 2hrs 12 mins including the short end credits).

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