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New for 2013: An In-Depth Analysis of Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the clarke-was-involved-kubrick-was-committed dept.

Movies 164

An anonymous reader writes "Long time /. member maynard has written one of the most obsessively detailed and extensive analyses of Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey seen in some time. At more than 22,000 words, it contains still images, film clips, musical score selections and copious references, including by Piers Bizony, author of Filming the Future, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud, and film theorists like Bazin, Kracauer and Zizek. It's already gained some notoriety, having been retweeted by Nicholas Jackson, former editor of the Atlantic Monthly and Slate. Anyone who loves the film or SF in general should find this an amazing read!" I don't know whether it can topple my all-time favorite analysis of 2001, Leonard F. Wheat's Kubrick's 2001: A Triple Allegory .

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164 comments

TL;DR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399235)

See subject.

Re:TL;DR (5, Insightful)

TCM (130219) | about 9 months ago | (#44399625)

TL;DR, the gang sign of illiterate idiots.

Re: TL;DR (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400075)

Humorless condescension, the gang sign of the mouth-breathing basement dweller.

Re: TL;DR (1)

TCM (130219) | about 9 months ago | (#44401299)

So you're an illiterate idiot or why the need to speak up?

Re: TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401529)

Not the same AC,

But you sound just like the Simpson's comic book guy: a lot of condescension and absolutely no sense of how ridiculous their petty remarks make them look.

You may feel better about yourself for insulting and denigrating others, but you are no better than the people you're trying to deride.

Probably the best thing you could do is grow up.

Re: TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401555)

Yes, this guy has it.
TCM you come off like the world's biggest prick.

Arthur C Clarke's novel isn't as long (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399245)

as this analysis.

Remember the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen picks an argument with a man showing off his knowledge of Marshall McLuhan?

'medium is the..." (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#44400345)

ah, Marshall McLuhan...confusing the hell out of undergrads studying Comm Theory with one quotation...

I'm going to have to check out Annie Hall now.

FYI, McLuhan's quotation, "The medium is the message" is a tautology. It's like saying on the topic of candy, "The shape is the taste"

skittles and M&M's have the same shape, but very different tastes...what I mean is, McLuhan's quotation is only erudite if you take a ridiculously reductive understanding of communication theory...

My response to McLuhan when I used to teach Comm Theory: "The message is the message, the 'medium' is the channel by which the message is transmitted"

I used it to introduce the Shannon-Weaver Model [wikipedia.org].

The value of McLuhan's quotation is this: it introduces us to a deeper, more complex understanding of Communications analysis...it isn't valuable in and of itself, but it teases us with notions best explained by others.

Re:'medium is the..." (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 9 months ago | (#44400583)

I'm sorry but I have to agree with Confused Matthew [confusedmatthew.com] that 2001 sucks balls. You look at Kubrick's entire body of work there is ONE that stands out like a sore thumb as being completely unlike the rest, like the old Sesame Street "one of these things is not like the others" and that is 2001.

With all his other works you had story, characters, plot, or sure it may be a dark or twisted story but its there, if you cut out all the "crap floating in space to music" where there is NOTHING happening but a ship going from one place to another place with little to no dialog? You'd lose a good 70%+ of the movie. I truly believe he became so enamored of the effects, which to be fair had NEVER been attempted anywhere close to that level of realism before, that he simply put everything else on the backburner and never came back to it. And the man was never a good writer to begin with, watch the afterword at the bottom of the link I posted for a piece of an interview with Steven Spielberg after Kubrick's death, where he can list point after point in favor of Kubrick as a director but when it comes to his writing his details on his praise all end and he comes up with an excuse instead.

So I'm sorry Kubrickians but there is a REASON why nobody else has made a film in the vein of 2001, because anybody else would have been called to the carpet for making a movie with no plot, narrative, story, frankly if it wasn't for the (sadly too damned short) parts with HAL there really wouldn't be any real characters at all, just bland empty vessels. It reminds me of how nobody but Terrence Malick can make a Terrence Malick movie because only Terrence Malick gets a free pass from the critics to be as pretentious as he possibly can without getting called to the carpet.

Just look at the opening of Matthew's 2010 review [confusedmatthew.com] where he simply reads POSITIVE reviews of 2001 and shows how they are almost word for word identical to NEGATIVE reviews of other movies, Kubrick was one of the handful of artists that were/are "critic proof" but with 2001 you have something a little dark and ugly because many of those critics use it like the emperor's clothes, such as what Terry Gilliam [blip.tv] does here, basically making it sound like those that don't love and watch 2001 from end to end (honestly I haven't met anybody who doesn't fast forward through the draggiest parts to get to HAL) are basically rabble who just "don't get it".

So I really don't get how a director becomes "critic proof" but I think that is the case with 2001, what would be considered a negative in any other film, dragging scenes, no real narrative, bland characters, scenes continuing well past any need for them to, is somehow a positive when it comes to 2001. No film before or since that I know of has been given such a huge get out of jail free card and the fact that it is so beloved to this day really baffles the hell out of me.

Re:'medium is the..." (4, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | about 9 months ago | (#44400703)

(honestly I haven't met anybody who doesn't fast forward through the draggiest parts to get to HAL)

Well, you haven't met me, but if you're talking about everything between the ape men and Discovery then those happen to be my favorite parts of the film. My absolute favorite scene, in fact, is when Heywood Floyd runs into the Russian scientists at the Pan Am lounge on the space station. And if you want to see why these scenes are absolutely essential to 2001, look no further than the film 2010, which completely fails to understand anything about the earlier movie and portrays the Heywood Floyd character -- and everybody else, for that matter -- as a bumbling incompetent who couldn't survive an airline flight to Greece, let alone an interstellar voyage.

Re:'medium is the..." (1)

ctmurray (1475885) | about 9 months ago | (#44400959)

For some reason the furniture and decor of that scene in the space station (white floor, walls and bright red '60s funky furniture) has become popular . The main building at work has been completely redone in this style. Also a new library at UNC. Really awful looking and useless.

Re:'medium is the..." (2)

earthforce_1 (454968) | about 9 months ago | (#44401879)

What always amazing me is how incredibly cool looking but uncomfortable those '60s furniture were. Bean bag chairs and cool looking seats that give you back pain after an hour or so.

Re:'medium is the..." (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#44401903)

..but it's a great piece of crap floating in space.

as a movie like that, it's great. the story didn't have a leg to stand on.
I even read the book as well, that didn't have a leg to stand on either, so it's not like I didn't "understand" the story or shit like that, there just isn't that much of a story in it beyond the alien card they played. but it was a greatly done movie about space and tech - too bad they had to play mystery aliens card for the plot.

Re:'medium is the..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402039)

...[B]ecause anybody else would have been called to the carpet for making a movie with no plot, narrative, story...[without] real characters at all, just bland empty vessels.

So, just like, say, Pacific Rim? Or maybe Avatar? Or perhaps After Earth? How about Avengers? Iron Man? Man of Steel? Or any of your so many other favorite braindead and worthless CGI orgies for retarded 14-year-old boys that have replaced real films?

Re:'medium is the..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402207)

With all his other works you had story, characters, plot, or sure it may be a dark or twisted story but its there, if you cut out all the "crap floating in space to music" where there is NOTHING happening but a ship going from one place to another place with little to no dialog? You'd lose a good 70%+ of the movie.

Someone did create a version of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 5 minutes [youtube.com] for the "tl;dw" crowd, but my personal favorite nutshell version is One: A Space Odyssey [youtube.com]

Re:'medium is the..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402281)

Must be an American thing.

In this world, there exist people that don't care for movies about Bruce Willis making quips and walking away from explosions with a "cool" look on his face. These people are called.. Not Americans! Gasp!

Re:'medium is the..." (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44401017)

ah, Marshall McLuhan...confusing the hell out of undergrads studying Comm Theory with one quotation...

I'm going to have to check out Annie Hall now.

FYI, McLuhan's quotation, "The medium is the message" is a tautology. It's like saying on the topic of candy, "The shape is the taste"

skittles and M&M's have the same shape, but very different tastes...what I mean is, McLuhan's quotation is only erudite if you take a ridiculously reductive understanding of communication theory...

My response to McLuhan when I used to teach Comm Theory: "The message is the message, the 'medium' is the channel by which the message is transmitted"

I used it to introduce the Shannon-Weaver Model [wikipedia.org].

The value of McLuhan's quotation is this: it introduces us to a deeper, more complex understanding of Communications analysis...it isn't valuable in and of itself, but it teases us with notions best explained by others.

Odd, I always took McLuhan's tautology to mean "The transmission method used shapes the meaning of the content". But it's short and memorable. This is kind of like the original 2001 novel; it's compressing a lot of potential information into something fairly short (leaving lots of space in the movie for visual art), and being dense yet vague enough for reams of analysis to be produced out of a dense but lossy source material.

I've always thought that this is how the best works are created -- spark the intellect, but leave the gaps to be filled in by the reader/viewer.

More useful for art than hard communication, of course.

Oh, and as for "the shape is the taste" -- this doesn't quite fit for me. More like "the shape is the promise". You see something that shape and size, and assume that it's designed to be eaten, and is a layered candy. This of course is why you should keep medicine out of the reach of small children.

it's true... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#44401479)

Odd, I always took McLuhan's tautology to mean "The transmission method used shapes the meaning of the content"

So, *your* idea is solid...the fact that the channel by which the sender and/or receiver choose to access the information can affect how they interpret the symbols, which drives their social construction of reality...

yes!

But McLuhan wasn't saying that in his work. Have you read it? Yikes...it's dense like a philosophy text.

McLuhan was more in 'TED talk' mode, breathlessly in wonder at the potential insights gleanable from the act of analyzing human communication with the tools of the network engineer.

More like "the shape is the promise". You see something that shape and size, and assume that it's designed to be eaten, and is a layered candy. This of course is why you should keep medicine out of the reach of small children.

Again, I can agree here.

My main point is, *you* are responsible for these ideas, via expanding your mind cybernetically to factorize symbols which were previously to fuzzy to factorize accurately. That's *your* ideas...McLuhan isn't in the picture...

except that in modern American discourse, his quotation is often mentioned...the continued use of it means it has to 'mean' something...so we project *our* ideas on it...

so yeah, it is a 'good quotation' in that it can be applied many ways! to me it is bad in that if the hearer wants to know more of the idea, and investigates the origin of the quotation...well, they are usually destined for more confusion not more understanding

Re:it's true... (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44401727)

But McLuhan wasn't saying that in his work. Have you read it? Yikes...it's dense like a philosophy text.

McLuhan was more in 'TED talk' mode, breathlessly in wonder at the potential insights gleanable from the act of analyzing human communication with the tools of the network engineer.

I'd still argue that McLuhan is in the picture, but that quote is very definitely not an accurate summation of his overall message; when I studied what he was doing, that quote was presented and interpreted more as a battle cry to change the way people approached transmission vs signal -- and then he had to contort his logic to attempt to back up that battle cry in any meaningful way (partly because he was only seeing part of the picture and was trying to push a narrow agenda). I'd definitely agree about him being in 'TED talk' mode, that sums it up quite nicely :)

Add to that that some of his ideas were obviously not credible, even at the time, and you get this disconnect between people that see his one famous line and then dive into his works expecting some amazing revelation of the thought that went behind that. In reality, the more interesting work is done by others after the fact refuting his claims (and thereby also discovering the use cases for his transmission theory).

Then again, I haven't read any of his stuff in around 20 years, so I've probably introduced a lot of situational bias and coloured memory into this :)

it's still true... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#44402045)

I'd still argue that McLuhan is in the picture,

Ha!

What's funny is, by my own logic, the fact that you still make that argument makes it true, in a sense...

Because of what I said here:

That's *your* ideas...McLuhan isn't in the picture...except that in modern American discourse, his quotation is often mentioned...the continued use of it means it has to 'mean' something...so we project *our* ideas on it...

I'm giving you the credibility enough to read/think about your posts and ideas...that mental action on my part opens the door for you to take that credibility and turn the table, so to speak...

Fine! We can agree to disagree on that point ;)

Re:'medium is the..." (1)

korgitser (1809018) | about 9 months ago | (#44402077)

"The transmission method used shapes the meaning of the content"

Even more than that, the medium defines the content to the point that there is no difference between them. You can easily see it on american TV - it's a very distinct form of crap, and you can easily see that nothing but more and worse of this crap can ever be hoped to be broadcast on this american TV.

Any medium has certain kind of message(s) it is able to convey. American press on a scale is able to convey american exceptonalism, but unable to convey real critique. Taken as a sum, the message becomes unseparable from the medium - they define and create each other like space/time/matter/energy.

Re:'medium is the..." (3, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#44401353)

FYI, McLuhan's quotation, "The medium is the message" is a tautology. It's like saying on the topic of candy, "The shape is the taste"

That word doesn't mean what you appear to think it does.

I used to teach Comm Theory

I pity your students. They'd have better spent their time on feminist basket weaving or cetacean poetry.

I've started reading it, (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 9 months ago | (#44399247)

and I might actually finish. As far as OCD dissections are concerned - I salute the author.

Re:I've started reading it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399361)

In my experience, the discussions generated by deconstructions that are not intellectually genuine, or at the very least wildly inaccurate, are more entertaining.

Re:I've started reading it, (5, Insightful)

donaldm (919619) | about 9 months ago | (#44399571)

I read the book "2001: A Space Odyssey" which was written by Arthur C Clark a few years prior to watched the film when it came out. Personally I did like the film but If I had not read the book I would have found many parts of the film and particularly it's ending incomprehensible. To write a 22,000 work critique on the film to me is rather a waste since the best way of understanding the film is to read the book. Sill I do remember when the movie "Star Wars" (125 minutes long) came out there were many hours of TV time dedicated to how they did the special effects which to me was surprisingly entertaining.

Re:I've started reading it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400083)

ISill I do remember when the movie "Star Wars" (125 minutes long) came out there were many hours of TV time dedicated to how they did the special effects which to me was surprisingly entertaining.

Yeah, I have seen such a document too, enjoyed the program much more that the film and was thinking: what a shame they have used all those neat tricks to shot such a crappy film with poorly written script*

*Apologies to all Star Wars fans who think that the original film was great, maybe it was in comparison with se/prequels but I have no desire to watch them

Re:I've started reading it, (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about 9 months ago | (#44400341)

I know they used practical effects, and yes Star Wars was awesome for its time, but I still don't think it topped 2001, Kubrick was just way too dedicated to his visual art.

Re:I've started reading it, (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 9 months ago | (#44400937)

I read the book "2001: A Space Odyssey" which was written by Arthur C Clark a few years prior to watched the film when it came out. Personally I did like the film but If I had not read the book I would have found many parts of the film and particularly it's ending incomprehensible. To write a 22,000 work critique on the film to me is rather a waste since the best way of understanding the film is to read the book. Sill I do remember when the movie "Star Wars" (125 minutes long) came out there were many hours of TV time dedicated to how they did the special effects which to me was surprisingly entertaining.

You couldn't have. The book was written concurrently with the movie and published after the movie's release. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" was the basis for the film.

Re:I've started reading it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402223)

He said he read the book before watching the movie.
I think that is in the realms of possibility.

Re:I've started reading it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400387)

Don't know. First, the way the essay is licensed makes me wary this is an honest attempt to start a dialog about the movie. Why isn't it under the GPL?

Second, I'd be curious to know if the author has written anything on a less taxing movie we could review, just to ensure the author has the qualifications. Has the author ever said anything about, say, Tron, which like 2001 was ahead of its time in special effects, but could easily be argued to be less challenging intellectually?

Re:I've started reading it, (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 9 months ago | (#44401507)

Has the author ever said anything about, say, Tron, which like 2001 was ahead of its time in special effects, but could easily be argued to be less challenging intellectually?

That's because you don't really understand it. [Furrows borws; puts pipe in mouth]

Re:I've started reading it, (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 months ago | (#44400689)

and I might actually finish. As far as OCD dissections are concerned - I salute the author.

I first read that as "-1 salute the author".

the 'grad student read' (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#44401185)

aka 'skimming'.... [wikipedia.org]

the author of TFA definitely babbles on about imaginary correlations to other philosophical ideas...stuff that most likely wasn't on Kubrick's radar screen...but there's good stuff in there...

he draws out more commonalities between the monkey/bone, humans/nukes, hal/monolith thing and the author summarizes these notions succinctly (when he bothers to try and summarize)

ex: here he tries to further elucidate his interpretive theory by comparing to other Kubrick films...he summarizes Clockwork Orange:

[Kubrick's] stories seem to negate the myths humanity tells itself about our own nature, instead throwing cold water on our collective faces in order to reawaken us to our merciless underlying psychological forces. But unlike Freud's Civilization and its Discontents, Kubrick's narratives don't serve to act as a warning so much as simply a documentary newsreel of humanity's selfish abandon.

That's good stuff...especially viewing Kubrick's work as journalistic and attempting impartiality while depicting the ideas clashing on screen.

I wish someone had explained that to me before I saw Kubrick films...it would have spared me alot of misunderstanding and saved me time which I could have spent thinking of more productive things...like this..."Kubrick's films are awesome but they are unsettling...he shows rape and it might feel like he is somehow glorifying the act, but he's attempting to be impartial where other directors might not..."

Unless I missed something. (1, Troll)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#44399251)

"Drug trip" doesn't appear anywhere. Fail.

Re:Unless I missed something. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399635)

Apparently I forgot to add the smiley face.

Ooops almost did it again. :)

Re:Unless I missed something. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402155)

"Troll"? Apparently someone didn't actually watch the movie. The whole part at the end is Kubrick's artistic rendering of a drug trip.

Is this news to some of you?

Re:Unless I missed something. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402273)

That's because 2001 was born in the '60s, which were all about, like, expanding your mind, man!

It's a (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399299)

Movie by the toad that did rapework orange which sobs over the plight of the poor rapist lad. Wait to go rape enabler!

Good luck with that (2, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about 9 months ago | (#44399365)

You have better chances finding a needle in a haystack than meaning in Space Odyssey. It's pointless to try and picture the movie for more than the pretty show it was: while it admittedly looks gorgeous even today, it didn't have much to offer beyond the special effects. Space Odyssey was the Star Wars or Avatar of the '60s, the only difference being that instead of relying on simple or shallow story and characters, it did away with those things entirely.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399419)

This is probably the most accurate description of the movie in the fewest sentences. Well put.

Re:Good luck with that (4, Informative)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 9 months ago | (#44399919)

The problem with reviewing or even understanding 2001, today, is that you are critiquing it out of time.

1st, that it was "all special effects," well, yes, but more importantly they are "accurate" special effects. Even today, 2001 portrays the PHYSICS of space travel better than any other movie ever made. It is one thing to use computers to create "action" with special effects, 2001 portrayed "space." I can't emphasize this enough. In 1969, this was simply revolutionary. Star Trek was fantasy, we had men going to the moon and trek was clearly scifi. 2001, at the time, seemed real and possible. It was science fiction in the classic sense that the science was real and the story was fiction.

It must be hard for people 40 years old and younger to imagine this period in time. About 12 years 10 years prior, the world changed with Sputnik. We were moving from weather balloons to weather satellites, science was changing everything and we were dreadfully afraid of the Russians beating us. 2001 was a view of space travel attainable from the perspective of the Apollo missions. It was astutely political. It asserted evolution. It worked in "our" albeit future, world.

Unfortunately, 2001 also suffered from concepts that are difficult to visualize. I agree with another post, it is almost impossible to understand without having read the book first.

Still one of my "Most Important Movies Ever Made"

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400259)

The flying shuttle for travelling between one point of the moon to another is totally unrealistic. It's not impossible to make such a shuttle but it's completely unoptimal: no air, no portance so it must fly like a rocket does and that would consume too much fuel.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44400391)

The Ruskys have their own moon base with radar and traffic with it's own radar. Fuck the fuel waste, they're flying in the radar shadow of the lunar mountains when traveling to/from the biggest secret in history. The fact suck a craft is ready tells you there has been a good amount of sneaking around on the moon.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401063)

A land vehicle would be sneakier and consume much less fuel.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44401557)

No doubt the equipment used to excavate the monolith were transported by land after being assembled at the moon base.

For a VIP they run the whatyamajigger and burn fuel to save time.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44401697)

The fact suck a craft is ready tells you there has been a good amount of sneaking around on the moon.

I'll have you know that sentence hurt my brain.

Even putting "such" in place of "suck" makes for little improvement.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44402219)

I'll have you know, that I'm pendant-sadist. Its not easy two write sentences that are this not elegant. Knowing it makes our brain hurt (it will have to come out) makes it all worth it.

Now go blow a goat.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44402245)

I did the math, and apparently a trip from one side of the moon to the other should take about 13 minutes, and require about 484.33MJ of energy, under the assumption of maintaining 2G of accelleration the whole time, and a total weight of 5000kg.

But that seems to only come out to 13.8L of kerosine and 35.2L of liquid oxygen, for a grand total of $25 worth of fuel per trip, so, clearly I've screwed up somewhere.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

earthforce_1 (454968) | about 9 months ago | (#44401923)

What blew me away is how real it was, (space is dead silent, the only thing astronauts hear is their own breathing) so real that that the flat screen PDAs were actually used in the Apple/Samsung case to demonstrate prior art. They also enhanced realism by using real products (GE-Whirlpool, IBM, Pan-AM) that were household names at the time.

Pick up a copy of the book and read the description of the "news pad" device they were using, keeping in mind it was written in the late 1960s. You could dial an electronic code for iany newspaper in the world, which had headlines that would update every few minutes on a tablet like device. Sound somewhat familiar? When have you ever seen a 40 year old movie nail technology that accurately? I look at a lot of old movies and find even their near future predictions quite laughable.

Another thing I find interesting and somewhat sad about the movie, (released during the heyday of Apollo) is they fully expected there to be large scale manned bases on the moon by 2001 and at least a few examples of computers exhibiting true human like artificial intelligence. Someone jumping in from that time would be very disappointed at how little we have truly progressed in these areas.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

nigelo (30096) | about 9 months ago | (#44400059)

I disagree.

I'm sorry you didn't like the book, but if you did, you might see that the enjoying the film pretty much requires you to like the book.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

PCM2 (4486) | about 9 months ago | (#44400837)

I'm not sure I agree with this.

For starters, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called "The Sentinel." Clarke wrote the novel at the same time the movie was being made, and it was actually released after the movie, so it's essentially an adaptation of the film and by no means essential to appreciating or understanding the film.

What's more, Kubrick has a track record for taking the material he is bringing to the screen and adding to it or taking it in new directions not expressed in the written work -- see The Shining, for example, which diverges from Stephen King's book wildly.

Kubrick's film should be enjoyed as a film. All these comments saying you need to read the book to understand it just sound like people who couldn't understand the movie and feel guilty about it, so they went and got the book from the library. Don't feel guilty. The film is designed to be a bit inscrutable and to inspire thought and debate.

Re:Good luck with that (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400121)

Wow. Not much to offer beyond the special effects?

I first watched this in 2008 at age 29. My mind was blown by this movie. While the special effects still hold their own today, one cannot say that they "stand out" any more. Your own example "Avatar" demonstrates this.

What this movie offered for me was a fantasy where I could explore in my own mind the origin of life, of us, of what being human means. What it means to create, to learn, to destroy, and to choose. How important the concept of choice is. How vastly and incomprehensibly insignificant we are. And what's next for us? Truly?

Sure, one can think of these things without a movie, but the movie provides a context for exploration; an anchor point for threads of thought to cling to and grow. It is abstract. Aside from some specific themes related to the deceit and struggle between Dave and HAL, whatever meaning you derive comes from you. If all you got from it was a pretty show, I think you missed out.

(I haven't read the book, but I've read it solidifies some of these concepts - if you insist on having the author's meaning rather than your own.)

On the other hand, Star Wars and Avatar are very direct. The themes of good vs evil, religion, militarisation, and in Avatar's case environmentalism are rammed down your throat. There's no gray area. No exploration. No room for interpretation beyond the obvious ("'The light side / dark side is like God / Satan!" - stunning revelation.). You either buy into the narrative or you don't.

Entertaining as these movies are, they are no 2001; the comparison is absurd, really.

I may be biased though. I'm not sure what it was, but I believe I had what might be called a 'religious experience' after watching 2001 the first time. (I wasn't under the influence of anything). For the next few days or a week or so, I dunno, I was profoundly calm. I viewed everything in a very detached manner. Nothing bothered me at work. Noise, people, everything was just in the background, like all of that just wasn't very important anymore. I felt no pressure or stress. I felt very strange. I don't know how else to describe it. It was like the protagonist in Office Space. The movie really resonated with me, I guess.

Re:Good luck with that (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44400353)

Kubrick was a genius. By making the story clear as mud, he left room for argument.

'2001 a Space Odyssey' is kind of like a more coherent 'Finnegan's Wake'. You can find any meaning you want in the ending of 2001. Infinite room for disagreement. Potential for a lifetime of employment for literature professors, plus the opportunity to torture undergrads who might actually attempt to understand the thing.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400447)

Did you read the book?

Re:Good luck with that (1)

Clueless Moron (548336) | about 9 months ago | (#44401957)

If you read the book, the movie makes perfect sense.

Now, I absolutely love 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I will freely admit that its one major failing as a movie goes is that it cannot stand alone. It gives absolutely no context or explanation at all for the "beyond the infinite" section.

Kubrick must have known that, and to this day I don't know why he chose to make such a lavish film that won't make sense without the book. I suspect a big part of it is that since Bowman is entirely alone at the end, it would take either internal dialogue, narration, or some back-and-forth with his hosts, all of which would have come across as utterly goofy or corny, so he decided to go weapons-grade primadonna artsy-fartsy instead.

So you have to read a book to appreciate this movie. There are worse things in life...

interesting background (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 9 months ago | (#44399379)

According to his LinkedIn, maynard was a sysadmin in MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science, and while there, graduated from neighboring Harvard with a liberal-arts degree, presumably through nights-and-weekends courses.

Re:interesting background (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399441)

I think maynard needs a girlfriend.

Re:interesting background (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400123)

Harvard extension school is not the same as Harvard university.

Re:interesting background (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401617)

No, and he's not the same as a trust-fund hipster faggot either.

Re:interesting background (1)

korgitser (1809018) | about 9 months ago | (#44401365)

This makes sense. You need both of your brain hemispheres developed to see the forest behind the trees of 2001. Sadly the comments here indicate a strong left-brain dominance, up to the point of arrogance and dismissal towards the unfamiliar.

I still watch it (1)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#44399469)

And it still has better effects than anything made today and a great story line. (which is open to interpretation)

Re:I still watch it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401767)

At least the rocket engines in space didn't have smoke that went up.

OMFG (5, Interesting)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44399591)

Uhhh. Hi folks!

I'm in Aussieland, where everything that moves is poisonous, and it's past 11pm. If there are any questions, I'll try to answer as timely as I can. But the wifey has dibs too.

Pretty fracking cool /. and thanks timothy! And it's aright if you think there's better words out there on the film. Damn thing has embossed more ink on paper than just about any flick in existence. I just couldn't help myself 'cause I love the movie. So I wanted my say too.

Whoa.

Re:OMFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399921)

Maynard,

Are you going to do a similar writeup for Logan's Run?

- different AC

Re:OMFG (1)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44399975)

(scrunches up face in consideration)

Hadn't thought of that. Kindof a marginal adaptation of a cool book. Would love to see a remake though.

Re:OMFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44401065)

I was convinced there was a remake, but checked and found it's never quite got there. But it's surely only a matter of time.

Re:OMFG (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400277)

Thanks for all the time you put in your research, I read your analysis and enjoyed it very much.
I myself liked the imagery and the story in the movie, however, its music is honestly quite disgusting... Your analysis gave explanations to the dissonance between the visual and audio elements.

I also liked the comparison of robot depictions in different stories at the end of the analysis, it is well worth reading in itself!

Re:OMFG (2)

maynard (3337) | about 9 months ago | (#44400375)

Ligeti is pretty avant-garde stuff. He makes extensive use of polyrhythm and chromatic polyharmony. His stuff is meant to be difficult listening. Clashing sounds that evoke discomfort and disturbed emotions. I won't say that my interpretation is an 'explanation' for why Kubrick chose that kind of music for his score, but I do think it's fair to say that he chose it on purpose.

Glad you liked the read!

Not to quibble, but... (1)

amacbride (156394) | about 9 months ago | (#44399613)

...I've just started reading it, and I'm not sure how seriously I can take a piece that purports to be an in-depth commentary yet can't even spell Arthur C. ClarkE's name correctly.

Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44399759)

Any more pretentiousness and I'm gonna puke (both the movie and the analysis).

Best analysis ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400063)

Best analysis ever comes 2nd hand from a friend who saw it when it came out originally, in the theatre.

Guy turns to him and says, "what was that?".

There. Three words in the form of a question. That's all you need.

Too Stupid; Didn't Read. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | about 9 months ago | (#44400085)

What might have been insightful commentary was undermined by the sexist wisecracks under the pictures, so I stopped reading.

who cares? (0)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#44400113)

Any symbolic or allegorical content that requires decades to decode is of no interest or relevance to anyone. If that was the intent of the work, it has failed. When all is said and done, 2001 is a generally well-made (for the time) and entertaining SciFi that has some significant plot holes and problems.

Re:who cares? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 9 months ago | (#44400735)

Any symbolic or allegorical content that requires decades to decode is of no interest or relevance to anyone. If that was the intent of the work, it has failed. When all is said and done, 2001 is a generally well-made (for the time) and entertaining SciFi that has some significant plot holes and problems.

Shakespeare's definitely of no interest or relevance to anyone then. His works have been analyzed, decoded and reinterpreted for *centuries*. Like Shakespeare (or art that's more abstract), you can walk away from 2001 it with just the surface story, or you can dig deeper to find additional layers of meaning. The meaning may or may not be what the creator intended, and can be shaped by biases of the person and what period they live in, but if it makes enough people sit back and seriously think about it, it has succeeded in ways that can't be measured by box office revenue.

I'm not saying 2001 deserves of all the praise it gets, but your main premises for both the movie and this analysis ("who cares"; "no interest or relevance"; "failed") are clearly wrong.

And if it has "some" significant plot holes and problems... that's still far fewer than most major sci-fi films in the last three decades.

Re:who cares? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#44401581)

Apparently, you can't even understand a simple sentence. I didn't say that it was useless to use artistic works as the basis of further reflection or creation. I said that if an author puts content into a work that takes others decades to decode, then the author did something wrong.

Shakespeare, Clarke, and Kubrick were competent artists, and you can be sure that any meaning they intended you to find in their work, they have made pretty clear. Any meaning that takes you decades to discover is not meaning they put in, it's something you created on your own.

Re:who cares? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 9 months ago | (#44401997)

Apparently, you can't even understand a simple sentence. I didn't say that it was useless to use artistic works as the basis of further reflection or creation. I said that if an author puts content into a work that takes others decades to decode, then the author did something wrong.

Ah I see. I guess I didn't decode your original sentence right away...

Re:who cares? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#44402103)

True, but decoding Shakespeare or 2001 doesn't mean that everbody decodes it quickly, it means that some people decode it quickly.

Re:who cares? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 9 months ago | (#44400851)

Any symbolic or allegorical content that requires decades to decode is of no interest or relevance to anyone.

That's it, everybody! Last one out, get the lights.

Overlooking the obvious (1)

slimdave (710334) | about 9 months ago | (#44400191)

>> In almost every way this film should have failed. But it didn't. Instead, it's considered a great masterpiece. Why?

Because people would be too embarrassed to admit that they found it slow-moving, impenetrable, and dull?

I just watch it for Leonard Rossiter -- Rigsby in space!

Re:Overlooking the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400357)

The patriarchal 1960's shine through the movie. The important daddy is giving an important speech on the importance of national security to important moon base workers. These people take themselves far too seriously. Scientists and science come through much better in Ghostbusters than 2001.

The one interesting point in the movie is HAL. At the time it was considered fantastic that a machine could possess a soul (albeit a self-important one). Since then, it has become a natural part of many movies: the Replicants, the Terminator, Bishop, Data. The humanity is now ready to grant an immortal soul to machines.

The other side of the coin is less well charted. When a process/human soul can be suspended, forked, reverted etc, what will happen to culture and ethics? The Matrix and Tron touch upon it. The topic is covered in more depth in some Ijon Tichy short stories, but the field is largely unexplored in the movies. What will happen when you can be cloned instantly and limitlessly? Will your life still be worth a cent? Will you love or hate your clones? During a fight with your SO, will she erase you and resurrect yesterday's snapshot? While you're on a vacation, could you have your clone keep company to your SO in the meantime? Would you be jealous? And: will we still need an H1B program? One man, one vote, what?

Re:Overlooking the obvious (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44400495)

As I said above; it's the 'Finnegan's Wake' of science fiction. Incoherence leaves the human brain room to find false patterns then argue about them.

Did anybody else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400293)

Read "Nicholas Jackson" as "Jack Nicholson", and get excited by the idea that he's on twitter? Imagine the stories he could tell...

archive (1)

Msdose (867833) | about 9 months ago | (#44400319)

Looking back, I would say that the DNA of our original species was archived on a moon of Jupiter or whatever. Once our species has been eugenically bred out of existence by the priests, politicians and witch doctors that plague us, the robot computers that are left can find our original genetic makeup and reconstitute our extinct species.

Milton William Cooper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400603)

I like Bill Coopers analysis of 2001 from Mystery Babylon series radio transmissions more.

A better one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400945)

What about Rob Ager's analysis? (collativelearning)

Buzzword compliant pseudo-philosophy (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 9 months ago | (#44400967)

Read through the review. Not impressed. It has the requisite references to Nietzsche and Focault found in too many pretentious philosophy papers. There's obsession over the movie's presentation of zero-g and rotating space station issues, as if those had great philosophical import. In reality, they're severely practical - 2001 was the first movie with the budget to show space realistically. (And one of the last to try.)

There's a long analysis of Hal 9000's motivations, with much emphasis on Hal's growing "self awareness". This misses one of the big points of the movie - Hal had been ordered to make the mission succeed, and that goal had a higher priority than keeping the crew alive. To academics today, that's an alien concept. It wasn't alien in the 1960s, when there were still many WWII veterans around. See "Twelve O-Clock High" for a clear expression of the "mission comes first" mentality. Or "633 Squadron", which is even clearer about the need to send men to their death just to advance the tactical position slightly. Or, if you're in a hurry, read "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" [wikipedia.org], which is a five-line poem. Those were understood concepts for those who lived and fought through the first half of the twentieth century.

The paper has yet another attempt to explain the ending. Clarke himself once did, and that's probably the only explanation worth reading. Realistically, the ending looks like a writer getting stuck. Some writers and directors have a real problem with endings. Woody Allen was famous for that. Good writers try to avoid pat endings, but alternatives may just lose the audience. That's 2001.

Anyway, that long review is much less profound than it would like to think it is.

hi (-1, Troll)

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