Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
2001: A Space Odyssey

Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

HOMER: Trusting every aspect of our lives to a giant computer was the smartest thing we ever did!
Brief Plot Synopsis: A journey of a billion miles begins with a single bone. Wait...

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 5 bush babies out of 5

Tagline: "An epic drama of adventure and exploration."

Better Tagline: "A film so ahead of its time we pretty much just gave up."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Spanning millions of years and a variety of regrettable hairstyles, 2001: A Space Odyssey traces the influence of extraterrestrial intelligence on mankind's development, from Australopithecine murder to ... computer murder, all set against humanity's quest for knowledge and a greater meaning.

"Critical" Analysis:
 It's been 50 (!) years since Stanley Kubrick's spectacularly mind-bending masterpiece hit theaters, and it's simultaneously amazing how well the film still holds up from a technical perspective and depressing to think how much progress towards his vision has stalled.

Can you imagine seeing this on the big screen in 1968, without any inkling what to expect? Maybe you knew Kubrick as the director of Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove, but neither of those would really prepare you for what was to come. Indeed, early critical reaction to 2001 was downright tepid, and it was criticized for being — among other things — "plodding" and "unimaginative." Epithets that seem frankly unbelievable now.

And had 2001 been released earlier, perhaps it wouldn't have found a foothold with the youths who eventually made it a box office success, drawn by the siren combo of psychedelics and the climactic Star Gate sequence. Any later, and you'd have the Apollo 11 mission stealing its thunder. As it is, the movie perfectly embodies the zeitgeist of the era.

It just wrapped up a limited run on IMAX, and if you didn't get the chance to catch it either there or at the recent 70mm screening ... well, that sucks. It seems fewer and fewer films released these days really deman to be experienced on the big screen, but 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly does, and "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" in IMAX is the closest this reviewer has had to a religious experience since the McRib came back.

Can you overstate the quality of the film's special effects? Or how influential it was, not just on other filmmakers, but the space program itself? How about the wisdom of Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke keeping the science within realistic limits, which works in spite of the occasional outdated/obsolete concept (Pan-Am, Bell Systems). There's not much to add to the volumes already written about what is inarguably one of the most important films of the 20th century.

Except maybe this.

Watching 2001 on the 50th anniversary of its release brings about feelings of both wonder and disappointment. Wonder for all the reasons (and more) outlined above, and disapointment for how far short we've fallen. Never minding the extraterrestrial shenanigans, Kubrick and company posited the existence of moonbases and not-infrequent shuttle travel (to a space Hilton!) would be a reality 17 years ago. Instead, we haven't been to the moon since 1972* and our nation's scientific priorities have, to put it charitably, slipped a bit.

But if making us wish for a more fantastic future is 2001's biggest flaw, we'll take it. Sorry if you missed it in theaters this time around.

* Or ever, if you listen to dipshit conspiracy theorists who cite this very movie as proof it never happened.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar