Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review/Movie Talk - 2001: A Space Odyssey

Next up is a movie that I hadn’t seen until sometime last year. I may call myself a fan of science fiction, but there are still some things I haven’t seen yet. This was one of them. 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968. It was based on a screenplay written by director, Stanley Kubrick and writer, Arthur C. Clarke. The novel by Clarke was actually written during the production of the movie, so the book is more of a novelization. That was something I didn’t know until I started researching it. I thought the movie was based on the book. The screenplay itself was based on “The Sentinel” and “Encounter in the Dawn,” two earlier stories written by Clark.

As I said before, I saw the movie last year during Thanksgiving. I had it for a while before I watched it fully. I just read the novel this month. I’ve always heard that this movie was considered to be influential in a lot of ways to different writers and directors. I heard that it’s considered to be one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. From what I’ve seen online, that’s true for the most part. I have seen detractors of the movie though. The one I remember most is Confused Matthew’s multi-part review on the movie. He didn’t like it that much. Seeing it then, I can probably see why. So, what do I think of the movie and book? Find out below.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Novel and movie written by Arthur C. Clarke

BRIEF BLURB: In the 21st century, humanity sends astronauts into deep space when they find an alien artifact that was around during the dawn of Man.

The story starts millions of years ago in Africa. Man-apes are living and trying to survive when a monolith falls to Earth. After they interact with it, it somehow makes them smarter and they start to create tools and weapons in order to survive from the many threats in the land. Millions of years pass and another monolith is found on Earth’s moon in 1999. Dr. Heywood Floyd is sent to investigate what this artifact is and what it could mean. He and others view the monolith. When sunlight hits the monolith, it causes a high-pitched radio signal to go off. It’s eventually tracked to Jupiter (or Japetus, one of Saturn’s moons, in the novel).
So much white... and I'm not talking about their race either.

18 months later, Earth sends an expedition into space toward the source of the signal. Astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole observe things while three others sleep in hibernation. HAL 9000, the ship’s A.I., maintains the whole ship. Poole and Bowman don’t know about the monolith but HAL and the hibernators do. Things star to go awry when HAL tells the two of a broken communication conduit. The problem is that the device wasn’t broken at all. This gets Bowman and Poole worried about HAL. It all goes downhill when HAL’s programming goes bad. It severs connections with Earth, ends up killing Poole during another repair, kills the three in hibernation, and almost kills Bowman. Luckily, Bowman is able to shut down HAL’s consciousness and leave its automatic functions working.

Bowman reconnects with Earth and Floyd (who I thought died for some reason) informs him about the truth in the mission. A couple of months pass and Discovery reaches its destination. Bowman finds a bigger monolith in space and uses a space pod to investigate the monolith. It ends up pulling him into it and… well, he sees a bunch of stuff. It varies between the novel and book. He ultimately ends up in a facsimile of a hotel room where he undergoes a transformation into a star-child, one who can travel through time and space. The book ends as the Star-Child returns to Earth.

Since I’m talking about both book and movie here, I’ll split up my opinion on both.

I guess the best thing I can say about the movie is that it looks beautiful. I can see why some folk throw shade on CGI these days. They rarely do it like this anymore. Everything from the landscapes to the ships looks good. Everything had a bit of a uniform feel to it. I can also see how this movie influenced modern stuff like Star Wars, Star Trek, and others. The man-apes did look a little weird but I’ll take it. You just have to laugh at that part anyway.

Another thing that I liked was the music. When it needed to sound epic and fun, it did that. When it needed to sound eerie and kinda creepy, it did that as well. The lack of music during some scenes was really effective too. I do like the story that was told. The idea of man going out into the unknown to find life is always an intriguing story. I thought the MVP this time around was HAL 9000 itself. What It ends up doing in the movie and book was nuts to me. I also thought the characters were okay as well.
Needs some Pink Floyd.

There is one con and it’s a big one to me: this thing moves at a snail’s crawl. There’s a reason Star Trek: The Motion Picture sometimes gets called “The Motionless Picture.” Guess what influenced it? I get that Kubrick wanted to show off the effects and the big landscape of everything. It just takes so long and too long in some places. The vortex scene is probably the biggest example. I also thought some of the acting felt a little off. Bowman and Poole felt a little too calm with that psychotic AI. Other than those things and a couple of other things, I do think this should be seen. It’s all an interesting experience with the visuals, the music, and the sounds coming together to make something unique.

The Novel
The novel by Clarke is also pretty good. In fact, I think I like it over the movie. It pretty much follows the same story from the screenplay but Clarke does change how some things happen. Luckily, it’s not a complete change. The “Dawn of Man” sequence plays out a little different form the movie. The destination is Japetus (one of Saturn’s moons) instead of Jupiter. That may be the only big difference from the movie. The vortex scene is a bit more descriptive than “Colors, colors, and more colors.”
Gary Mitchell's ancestor never caught a break too? Thanks, HAL!

Bowman and Poole also receive a lot a lot more detail as well. We get into their heads a little more here. We see how some of these events start to affect Bowman. He’s literally alone in space after the HAL incident. Other than some periodical messages from Earth, he’s by himself on that ship. Clarke also explains some of the unknown stuff from the movie. I think the book is needed in order to get that movie in some places.

He also explores a lot of topics in the book. Some of those topics include evolution, future technology, the existence of something greater than man, and artificial intelligence. While the movie does kind of browse some of these topics, Clarke takes his time and goes through them. In fact, he may get too descriptive at times. One negative I do have about the novel is that it can drag on with random tech jargon. It got so taxing I wanted to skip over some of it. That’s definitely one place where the book and movie meet unfortunately. Other than that and a couple of small quibbles, this was good.


In the end, 2001: A Space Odyssey is something that should be watched and read. While I do like the book and movie, I don’t know if can say they’re the best of the genre yet. I can say that the movie is a visual sight to behold, so if you’re curious on that front, check it out. I do personally prefer the book though. It just told the story better which is a given with novels. Well, I think it’s time for me to move on to another property. What it is, I don’t know. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and just turn the dang psychotic machine off immediately!

The true prequel to Planet of the Apes...

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