Thursday, August 8, 2013

2001: A Retrospective

I recently read this post over at The Nerdist about “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  Let me start by saying that I agree with almost 100% of what is said in that article.  However, what is glossed over is the storytelling, or lack thereof.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, but I had to work to love it.  When I was a kid, and saw it for the first time, it was great visuals, but I had no idea what was going on.  Unlike most other movies where I had that problem, this one didn’t make much more sense as I got older.  In fact, until I read the book (which is brilliant, By the way) I had no idea what was going on in the “ancient earth” portion of the movie.  Much like the phrase “if you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny”, if you have to read to book to understand it, it’s not a good movie.

I recently saw a post one some social media platform that said something like, “I have never met a woman that enjoys 2001.  It’s the anti-chick flick” or some such.  Now I don’t get a lot of “chick flicks”, Bridesmaids being the one major example, but that’s not because I don’t get the plot.  The reason that a lot of women don’t like 2001, IMHO, is that they don’t get what’s going on, and I can’t fault them for that, since this film is style over substance.  Kubrick spent so much time on the look of the film, and did a superb job on all of that, that the storytelling got lost in the shuffle.  I think this did a huge disservice to Clarke’s novel and makes this less than a stellar movie. 

Having said all that, if anyone does want to watch it I would suggest two things.  First, read the book.  You will understand so much more of the movie, especially the first half and the very end.  Second, follow your 2001 experience with 2010 immediately.  While the visuals aren’t as stunning and there isn’t much by way of classical music, it is a much better movie sci-fi story.  Plus it helps explain why HAL went bonkers in the first film.  If you want to watch a really compelling, beautifully shot and really well done Kubrick film, got out a get Spartacus.


  1. You're right. I've watched the film many times but it wasn't until I read the book that I finally understand why HAL did what he did.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Tim. I don't think I've spoken to anyone who's seen the movie and "gotten it" without the book. It's really sad, since the movie is so beautiful.