Monday, March 18, 2013

In Conversation: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Recently my wife and I had the privilege of seeing Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen in 70mm. Considering that my wife had not seen the film before, I thought it would be interesting to get her take on the whole experience. Needless to say it was a rather lively discussion on the ride home.

Courtney: You had never seen a Stanley Kubrick film before. I believe your exact response was “who is Kubrick?” So what made you want to see this particular film?

Dee: Well, it is one of those classics that everyone needs to see. I figured I might as well see it on the big screen.

Courtney: It was definitely the big! Frankly, I thought the film looked glorious in 70mm. It has been probably a good fifteen years since I last watched the film. So it felt like I was watching it again for the first time. Having said that, 2001 is not an easy film to get what were your initial reactions to the film?

Dee: You can cut out the beginning. You can cut out the end. I will just take the middle, thank you!

Courtney: What was it about the beginning and end that bothered you?

Dee: The whole scene with the apes at the beginning was unnecessary. I get that they touched the alien monolith, discovered weapons, and gained advantage in the battle, but it still seemed unnecessary. I was actually annoyed by the sequence. I was thinking “this is a classic...I got to sit through apes...this is a classic...why are there apes?” I kept waiting for there to be greater significance and the next thing you know the apes are gone from the film completely.

Courtney: If you think about it though, the dawn of man segment is crucial in regards to man’s overall evolution. The discovery of weapons not only helps in battle, but also provides them with a means to get food. Kubrick shows the apes inspecting the bones to see what other things they can do with them. It the apes’ inquisitive mind that makes Kubrick’s jump to the space segments so fitting. Plus, I did not want to warn you going in, the first twenty minute are like a test to see if you will walkout.

Dee: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Courtney: If you can get past the first twenty minutes then chances are good you can get through the rest of 2001. You may not understand it all, but at least you will get through it.

Dee: That first twenty minutes was brutal. It could have been done in ten minutes. In fact that is a fault I find with the film overall, many of the scenes were stretched out. Maybe this is a result of the fast paced movies I am used to; however, did they really need to have the ship move that slow? Did they need extend all those shots?

Courtney: I agree that certain scenes could have been cut down, but I think people have become too reliant on quick edits. If you are in space repairing something, it is going to be a slow arduous process. Speaking of slow processes, the version of the film we saw was “The Roadshow” version, the one Kubrick would have taken from city to city. It starts with the red velvet curtains closed and all you hear is the ominous score. I am sure that drove you mad...

Dee: Oh it did.

Courtney: ...but it was important because it is the first, of many, signs that the film will be an endurance test for the viewer.

Dee: I will say that the music was amazing. In terms of the way it was used, it really did tell the story. At times it was long-winded, for lack of a better word, but you really felt the momentous moments. The other thing that got me right off the bat was how loud it was.

Courtney: Especially in the scene with Dr. Heywood R. Floyd at the excavation site…the monolith lets out that screeching noise...

Dee: That was not even the loudest part!

Courtney: For me, it was the first of many wake-up calls in the film. It was as if they were saying “if you think this is loud, wait till you see what’s coming next.” The sound is also perfectly used to introduce HAL 9000. If you think about it, HAL is the perfect villain as he is eerily calm and cool. All you need to see is that red light to be freaked out. You even start to notice that where ever they go on the ship…there is that red light.

Dee: That red eye...

Courtney: There was even that scene where the yellow iris starts to fade, and it becomes a menacing blood red. That whole middle section makes the film for me.

Dee: Despite not having much dialogue throughout, I found the middle section...the meat and potatoes if you be really well done. I was really impressed by the technology in the film. For some reason it still felt very relevant for today. The whole aspect of the spaceship in general was is one of those things that you always want to see the inside of in regards to design.

Courtney: I thought the look of the space port was phenomenal.

Dee: Oh I loved it too. I even like how they incorporated the product placement like The Hilton Hotel, The Howard Johnson, IBM, etc.

Courtney: This film has influenced so many other science fiction films, yet I find no one has been able to match 2001 in terms of scope. Come to think of it, there are few science fiction films that have been successful in making the machine the villain without it being gory.

Dee: At the same time I wish they had hashed out that middle section further and skipped that alien stuff at the end. I know the alien stuff is the whole point of the movie but, after the transmission from mission control, you could have ended it with the shot of the Dave’s pod going to Jupiter. The whole light show could have been made much shorter.

Courtney: The end sequence somewhat explains, and leaves it vague at the same time, what the monolith is. You know the whole story is about figuring out what the monolith is...even HAL 9000 seems perplexed by it early on. HAL knows it is too important to jeopardize the mission, but at the same time seems to fear that this higher entity might actually make him obsolete. The fact that he questions why particular scientists are on the ship is an indication of his uneasiness. This is why HAL goes into self-preservation mode and tries to delay the ship’s arrival.

Dee: See I get HAL’s significance in regards to the story. However, the whole journey through the wormhole to the alien purgatory just took forever.

Courtney: True, but you have to remember how much Dave ages over the course of that particular trip. He looks old and catatonic by time he reaches his destination. So imagine going through all of that only to end up in alien purgatory.

Dee: My issues with the purgatory, actually it is jail when you think about it, is that it did not need to run for as long as it does. As I mentioned before, that is my issue with a lot of scenes in this film. You could knock off a good half an hour off of this movie by trimming each scene down three or four minutes! I will say that the scenes within the manicured jail appealed to me being a big Star Trek fan. I remember several episodes that were clearly homages to this film. I really like how Kubrick shoots this sequence in the film. Especially in regards to how he moves from Dave watching himself eat…to Dave looking at the bed… to an even older Dave in bed etc. Which reminds me, to go on a different tangent for a moment, there were a lot of messed up scenes in this film.

Courtney: Such as?

Dee: The sequence through the wormhole with all the lights and the hallucinogenic colours. It was like being on a drug trip where I started to see recognizable things in the odd imagery. At one point I saw a fetus and later on I saw a beating heart.

Courtney: I actually think that it is good that you saw that, especially considering the film’s iconic ending shot. I did not catch the baby imagery at all. I was seeing weird bats and stuff. Clearly, you were more in tune with what Kubrick was probably aiming for.

Dee: The problem was it started to take me out of the movie. Especially when you started to see the landscape as Dave approaches his final destination. Overall, I will say that I enjoyed the movie, minus the first twenty minutes...

Courtney: Between the first and last twenty minutes, which of the two would you cut completely from the film?

Dee: Completely? I think I would say the stuff with the apes. I understand the point of it, but in terms of tying the whole film together, it was not necessary. They could have summarized that whole section in a few lines during the scene where the scientists are inspecting the monolith. Despite the first 20 minutes and the last act being really stretched out, I really enjoyed the film experience and the discussion it evoked.


  1. I'm hella jealous you got to see this in 70 mm. Good review. I really liked the conversation both you and Dee had about the film

    1. I highly recommend seeing it on 70 mm if you get the chance! Simply amazing! The theatre was also showing Vertigo in 70 mm as well.

  2. I saw 2001 in 70mm a few years ago and it was truly magnificent. I felt like it was the first time I'd really seen it.

    This conversation was a lot of fun to read through. 2001 is definitely a slow burn, but I've found that every time I watch it, it just gets more and more engaging and you don't feel the time at all. The ape scene specifically, I remember being so bored the first time through, but now it's one of my favorite sections.

    1. I am curious to see what my wife would think of the scenes with the apes upon second viewing. Of course the challenge will be getting her to watch the film again...that may take a few years.

  3. Anonymous8:07 am

    Read Leonard Wheat's 2000 book,Kubrick's 2001;A Triple Allegory,showing how all events and characters come from Homer's Odyssey(read by Dave in the novel)and Nietzsche's atheism in Thus Spoke Zarathustra-which also opens at dawn and ends with the hero's interrupted last supper! so HAL=the Cyclops and God,made in man's image,beyond the infinite=beyond God.TMA-1 is the Trojan horse and superstition,the survey team=3 sailors Odysseus sends ashore to the island of the lotus-eaters,they have to be carried back asleep,a really fascinating read!


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