Tuesday, June 09, 2009

2001: A Space Wankfest

Another in the series of movies I apparently "HAVE to see", which, on reflection, I could have lived without.

Here's pretty much a faithful run-down of how it went:

(Jeremy, voice-over guying): After all the space-type music, and the cover for this DVD, you might be expecting a space-ship. And what do you get? Guys in Ape-Suits!

Me: Monkeys?

J: It's the Dawn of Man

Me (Seventeen minutes of monkeys later): It's seventeen minutes of monkeys.

J: It'll all make sense later

Me: You mean there's a point to the monkeys?

J: To the Monolith.

Me: That couldn't possibly have been condensed from seventeen minutes of monkeys? And why, after the monkeys start bashing them with bones and eating them, do the Taipirs still hang around the monkeys?

J: They're stupid?

Me: You are.

(One hour and forty minutes in, the scenes with HAL)

Me: So what happens with the Doctor who made that call to his daughter?

J: Nothing.

Me: Nothing?

J: Yeah.

Me: Then what the hell was that all about? Why did they try and make us care about the character and then ditch him?

J: He was in that part of the movie

Me: Did someone lose the keys to the editing suite?

(Two hours and oh-my-God make it stop minutes in, the psychedelic light show):

Me: I get it. Colours.

J: He's going through a gateway.

Me: I get that, but how many times have we seen that same shot of his eye?

J: How freaked out would you be if you go through all that and you end up in a hotel room?

Me: I'd be pretty relieved.

J: And now they're fucking with his head

Me: What the hell is going on now?

J: He's ascending.

Me: He's a fetus.

J: It's called a Star Child.

Me: There is absolutely no way you could possibly know what's going on in this part of the movie without either someone telling you or reading the book. That's incredibly wanky.

And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with this part of the movie. The part with HAL and Dave disconnecting him (An excellent metaphor for a lobotomy) I liked. The parts that could have - and should have - been chopped to the minimum required to tell the story? Not so much. I understand that a lot of this technology would have been new at the time, so the tendency to play with it would have been high, but that doesn't make a five minute psychedelic light show meaningful. And I do like a film that makes you think. But a film where the ending doesn't make sense unless you either make something up or read the book that - co-incidentally - the film-makers wrote? That gives me the screaming shits.

When I compare this movie with Dr. Strangelove - also a Kubrick film - there's no question which movie I prefer. Dr. Strangelove every time. And that isn't just because of Peter Sellers. It's because Dr. Strangelove made you think about the futility of nuclear armament. And gave you an insight into the attitudes of the time the film was made.

2001 merely made me think that Kubrick was one of those film-makers who feels he has possession over his scenes, and refuses to let them go - even if that's to the detriment of the entire project.

And that's sad, because the what for me was a film that had merit in parts - the HAL parts - lost much of that to an impenetrable story line that went nowhere.

Three and a half stars for the Hal portion of the move. Minus five for all others.


Jeremy said...

Come on, that stuff with the Pan Am space concorde spinning around to The Blue Danube was pretty cool. And a whole year before man landed on the moon.

Kubrick was just trying to have the film be as mysterious and ambiguous as the subject matter. Although I do agree it could have done with fewer monkeys and a few minutes less colour swapping over landscapes at the end.

Jayne said...

Nope, sorry you had to be a stoned-out teen to fully get that movie.
Or so I'm told....

davefromalbury said...

I'm torn between wanting to castigate you and agreeing.

It is a classic piece of sci-fi and deserves the reverence it's usually treated with, but, yeah, monkeys....

Have you watched Close encounters of the third kind? That's a great sci-fi

Keri said...

Jeremy, just like every other bit of the movie, it dragged on for far too long. Kubrick ruined a perfectly good movie by trying to be too arty.

Jayne - I thought about it from that perspective, and it still would have pissed me off.

Dave - come on, you have to admit, parts of it were so wanky it hurt. And no, haven't seen that one. I'll add it to the list.