I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid.
I first encountered this film in college; I figure a lot of people did the same. I haven’t seen it since college, but watching the film a second time, this time on the biggest movie screen I could find, I was struck by just how vividly I remembered the film, how exact, down to the smallest detail, a lot of my memories of the film were. I think this speaks to the enduring primal power of the film which is something very like pure cinema, the visuals working in perfect concert with the music to serve the strange, arresting story. Over the years since the film was released, the discussion of it hasn’t really flagged and it is quite a feat. It’s been fifty years since 2001 was released and over that time, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of avant-garde, bizarre, weird movies, but fifty years later, 2001 still feels deeply, unchangeably strange. To call its pacing glacial would be to impugn the speed capabilities of glaciers, but there is something primordial and natural about the way this film unfolds. It is, first and foremost, a film of transport, a hypnotic cinematic achievement. Plot difficulties are, I think, overstated as the story is really quite straightforward, a tale of extra-terrestrial interference at every evolutionary leap forward that mankind experiences. But it’s a mind-blowing experience in the way that it’s told. The musical sequences are breathtaking, especially the space station waltz sequence and the shrieking discordant choir moon sequence. The performances are good as well; it’s clear Kubrick is going for a very robotic tone and his actors nail it, but the true heart of this film is Douglas Rain’s astounding vocal performance as HAL, the troubled artificial intelligence that remains truly terrifying, that really hammers the nail in on that third section of the film. His “death” scene is truly harrowing, unfolding as it does at the same methodical pace as the rest of the film. On this second viewing, I found that the lengthy sequences didn’t bother me at all, not even the final sequence, which I have to say is still unsettling and beautiful even in this era of CGI. It’s a really beautiful film, packed with ideas, visually stunning, utterly unique. It’s a cinematic experience unlike any other and fifty years hasn’t changed that. 4 stars.
tl;dr – astounding, gorgeous, ground-breaking cinematic achievement holds up to perfection; fifty years on, it’s still arresting and mind-blowing. 4 stars.