Spectacular. Philosophical. Astonishing. All words that should never be used to describe the classic sci-fi movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although the movie was undeniably groundbreaking and utilized some innovative technology for 1968, in this article, we examine it from the average, modern viewer’s perspective — the view of a normal movie watcher who would never appreciate pioneering special effects or incredible accuracy of space flight.
Setting the lethargic pace of the movie from the beginning, the film opens over several monkeys (slowly) fighting for dominance in a water hole. After this gruesome (but slow) scene, we pan (at a leisurely pace) to a large black rectangular box that has suddenly (but in a really slow way) appeared in the monkeys’ desert; this box is henceforth known as the monolith (don’t worry, it never really comes up again). Seemingly forgetting the monolith, the monkeys spend the next few minutes painstakingly developing the ability to use tools, only to run (more like jog) back to the monolith, ruthlessly murdering the tool-less monkeys standing around the inexplicable black box. Is this relevant to the plot? No. If you’re bored or confused, good. You’re getting the slightest taste of what watching 2001: A Space Odyssey is like.
Following the 10 minute (it feels much longer) clip of monkeys is a couple minutes of watching what looks like typical computer screen savers — the super mind-bendy ones you get when you first set up your computer. But in the movie. For an extended period of time.
After what feels like an eternity of monkeys, screensavers, and no dialogue, we (thankfully) transition into the actual movie and finally meet the plotline: there’s a manned space mission to Jupiter, aided by an artificial intelligence named HAL (he/him). The astronauts think their only objective is to reach Jupiter but, in fact, their mission is to find the now millions of years old monolith (it did come back!). As the mission continues, HAL suddenly starts causing malfunctions around the ship and, after eavesdropping on a conversation discussing deactivating him, murders every astronaut but Dave (trust us, if we’d told you his name earlier it wouldn’t change anything). The given explanation for HAL’s evilness is that his deactivation would jeopardize the mission, which totally makes sense, except that it absolutely does not. The only reason the astronauts were going to deactivate HAL in the first place was because he was destroying the ship, which also seems like it would jeopardize the mission. We digress. When Dave makes it to HAL’s control center, he begins individually switching off every control in the room, a process which takes literally five minutes (3.5% of the movie!!). As this mind-numbing death scene occurs, HAL pleads with Dave to leave him alive, saying insightful things like “look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this” (this being HAL murdering four people who were Dave’s only companions on a decades long trip into deep space). Finally, HAL sings his final words. Yes, he sings them.
But it would not be 2001: A Space Odyssey if it had a good ending that made sense to the audience. Of course, this absolute masterpiece wouldn’t end logically with HAL’s death. Instead, Dave reaches Jupiter, sees a massive monolith orbiting the planet (I guess it was kind of relevant), leaves the ship, and gets sucked into a vortex of, you guessed it, computer screensavers. So we get to joyfully watch (another) ten minutes of flashing, streaking lights, with no explanation and no context. Super exciting right?
And the movie is still not over. There’s more. Dave suddenly appears in a neoclassical bedroom and watches himself age at an incredibly fast pace before becoming a fetus in an instant (in case you were wondering, there is a monolith in the corner of the room. How did you know?). Finally, with Dave the fetus floating in a light orb above earth (obviously), the movie ends for real.
If any of this made sense to you, congrats. You’re either a great liar or a time-traveler from 1968. If it didn’t, you’re much better off and you’re just like us! We mourned the time wasted watching the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and, to be perfectly honest, we would rather do our homework than watch this disaster of a movie again.