Sunday, October 4, 2015

2001: A Space Odyssey

The month is September. I think. Someone else thinks it's early October. It's hard to tell anymore.

This week, I will be doing something a bit different. We watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, and rather than comment on some specific part of it's physics, I will be just reviewing the movie as a whole. I will be reviewing the individual components of the movie on a 10 star rating scale, then give my overall score on an out of 100 scale.

It's hard to know exactly where to start with a movie this long, with this much of a reputation. So let's start basic: Cinematography. The various landscape shots included are beautiful, even considering most of them are of outer space. The vistas pictured during the Dawn of Man segment were just wondrous, and throughout the movie the shots were varied and plenty. Several of the scene transitions were amazing, particularly the one where the club thrown in the air (the first weapon) transitions to a nuke orbiting the earth (the ultimate weapon). The long cuts used by Kubrick did a wonderful job of establishing both the importance of the actions of the cast (credit to Tilman for pointing that out to me), as well as give a sense of vastness to the epic. The closing segments, the acid trip through the stars and the scenes in the bedroom, were both wonderful pieces for vastly different reasons. The trip through the stars was an assault on my senses, with lights passing by faster than I could process. While it was overwhelming, following a movie with little color or action, this scene really sets itself apart and shows itself as a well crafted, if overstimulating, scene. The immediately following and closing scene in the bedroom features numerous long shots, perfectly positioned to highlight exactly what Kubrick wanted you to look at. The cuts are well done, and each one leaves you slightly more in awe (and confused) as to the goings on of this room.
Even with all of these things, there are a few critiques. A few of the cuts are rough (he broke the 30 degree rule, how could he?), there are several cases of obviously reused shots, and some of the shots are just way too long. Overall though, Kubrick does a great job. 9 stars for the beautiful camera work
This isn't even close to as weird or trippy it gets.


The next thing that jumps out at me watching this movie is the sound, or in a lot of cases, lack of it. There are 24 minutes before the first spoken dialogue, and 23 minutes after the final spoken line, plus some other scenes, there are 88 minutes of dialogue free movie, in the entire 160 minute run time. In many movies, this would be a bad thing. However, Kubrick's skillful use of the absolutely beautiful orchestral score, spot on sound effects, and tension filled silence leads to several extremely haunting segments and really powerful moments, really using the lack of dialogue as an advantage. A solid 10 stars for the wonderful work.
In space, no one can hear you scream.


Oh HAL. Beautiful beautiful HAL.
Now, characterization. Aside from HAL, who I will get to in a moment, the characterization was weak in places, and incredibly over done in others. We are introduced to the doctor in the second act, and told multiple details about him that are hardly relevant in the first place. that kind of lead up is typically reserved for a character we are supposed to care about, but would struggle to without these small details. Well, this doctor doesn't have a tragic or heroic death, doesn't really do anything where caring about him more than normal would influence the audience. On the other hand, Dr. Poole is viciously murdered by a rampant AI, and the only major characterization we get of him is a short phone from his parents for his birthday. On the other hand, there is HAL. For a robot, I actually found myself growing to like him, and actually feeling a little sorry for his death, thinking he truly felt remorseful for his actions. He really was scared of death. While I want to give 10 stars just for the beautiful characterization of HAL, unfortunately the shortcomings of the others I can only give 3 stars. All of them for HAL.

One of the most tugging and memorable character deaths
I've seen. And it was an "unfeeling" AI.

Now for the physics. I hesitate to judge the physics of this movie, as they are regarded of some of the greatest space physics in movies. However, I have mostly good things to say. First off, the depiction of the "zero gravity" of space was really good, the floating pen near the beginning the 2nd act was awesome. I have to say, grip shoes were a hilarious though believable touch. Unfortunately though, I take a star off for the slow crawl around the circular hallway though. She is able to float, just pick up your legs, tuck, spin, and set your feet down on the other side. Soooo much faster. After that though, the fact that Kubrick showed a realistic usage of artificial gravity - the spinning of the ship - shows he really paid attention to detail. He has not one, but two different space craft that make use of angular acceleration to create artificial gravity. Overall I am incredibly impressed with his attention to detail. One of the only major knocks against his physics was that the people walking on the moon were able to do so normally, however that is minor as this was before the moon landings, Kubrick couldn't know for sure how people would have to walk on the moon. 7 stars after the penalty for his great attention to detail, accounting for a few slip ups.
The running scene from a fixed camera position


Overall, the movie was incredibly enjoyable, and I loved watching it. All of the elements came together really well for a great, though confusing movie. With the ending raising more questions (most of which revolving around wondering who dropped acid into my drink) than it answered (which was none), it was definitely a movie to leave you thinking. I think it aged extremely well, and I give it an 84. And then I think about HAL one more time and have to give it some grace. Final score of 87. I recommend it... if you don't have epilepsy.