It's a film title that inspires the word classic when raised in any film debate. Yet the appeal of this film diminishes with time as its almost comatose pacing threatens to alienate it from a modern audience.
Today's viewer increasingly demands answers and action and this muddled film provides neither. Yet this is not simply the reflection of an impatient consumer but also of the three-year production hell the movie went through. There are nevertheless moments of sheer brilliance and it is undoubtedly their stark visual power that lends this piece of cinema its famous visionary qualities.
The plot is not so much of structure but rather of events or moments in time that are united by the appearance of a large black monolith. It appears before prehistoric man as he is learning to hunt and then disappears before returning once man has perfected space travel. The advancement into space is peppered with moments of humour using well-known brand-names as part of this futuristic vision including the now defunct Pan-Am. Otherwise it's an exercise in spectacle and even in today's world of CGI, it's safe to say that the effects are still very impressive.
The introduction of Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood as astronauts on a mission to Jupiter finally gives some narrative to the film. Their ship is run by a computer called Hal 9000, which develops a paranoia resulting in Dullea and Lockwood becoming increasingly furtive. This spiralling circle of deceit combined with the emptiness of space and some grand silences becomes quite terrifying. The ultimate conclusion to this is a barrage of special effects that while amazing at the time look more like a cop-out clause today, leaving the audience to decide the outcome.
Yet while reviews will try and lend answers and interpretation to "2001", it is ultimately a very personal film to many. Its triumph lies in its scope of cinematic splendour and the attempt to marry some of man's most beautiful music to the infinite mystery of space. If there's ever a re-release in a cinema near you, take advantage of the big screen to get the most out of this visual masterpiece.
Read a review of the DVD.