Postmortem: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Screenshot 2015-12-14 00.01.59l admit that when I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey I thought that it was unwatchable.  And when I use the word ‘unwatchable’ I don’t mean on a technical basis–it’s a gorgeous movie with practical special effects that stand up well today–instead I mean I found it almost unwatchably boring.


Recently I gave it another chance and watched it in its entirely over two days, and have come to realize that what I originally saw as boring was Kubrick’s almost clinical approach to the material.

Today, in most science fiction when a spaceship moves through space, there’s lots of noise–which is impossible, since there’s not enough air to carry sound.
Kubrick would have none of this, and modeled the space scenes after what would actually happened when a craft moved from place to place, which essentially means, on a aural level, nothing at all.  I am unsure what’s behind the lack of visible propulsion, though you’d be surprised how quickly you notice the absence of all those sound effects.


Kubrick’s take on the material is what made it a bit of a slog originally, but if you’re able to take it in stride–and like any form of Art, it demands that you view it under its own terms–then 2001: A Space Odyssey becomes a brilliant piece of entertainment.

Stanley Kubrick is often considered a genius, and I think finally understand why.  Every frame of the movie is approached with a meticulousness, a craftsmanship that is pretty unusual.

His eye for detail is, ironically enough, the movie’s greatest strength as well as its  weakness because sometimes serendipity can result in something as sublime as it is unexpected, and there’s very little room in Kubrick’s worldview for such things.

In fact, the movie is so distant at times that it’s as if were directed by HAL, which isn’t to say that there aren’t people in the movie, though they’re around because they’re necessary to propel the narrative from point A to point B, more than anything else.  t

Which is problematic when HAL starts killing the crew.  Since we don’t know anything about them in the first place, it’s hard to care about them when they’re being killed.

Though the worse thing is that I am not sure that Kubrick does either.


• Originally written last month, this Postmortem was deleted due to a rebellious application that was clearly modeled on the Hal 9000.

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