Nowadays, when one thinks of the movie genre of science fiction, he or she thinks of cliché aliens or monsters from space trying to destroy mankind, while courageous humans battle for their lives in nearly constant action. This type of science fiction has become all too common and predictable recently. In order to experience a true science fiction film, one must venture all the way back to 1968, when Stanley Kubrick, director of many classics including A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket, released arguably his greatest work 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ranked in the top ten movies of all time by “Sight and Sound Magazine” as well as being voted the #1 greatest movie of all time by “Moving Arts Film Journal,” 2001: A Space Odyssey is a legendary film. It was the first of its kind - truly unique in regards to its futurism, plotline, and special effects. The motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey is a true work of art, clearly intended for intellectuals rather than the less educated masses of today’s society. An intellectual would be able to appreciate the artistic elements of this movie much better than the average human, who generally is unable to see past the guns, explosions, and gore, which are ever present in today’s science fiction films.
Arguably the most prominent of the artistic elements in 2001: A Space Odyssey are the uses of music and the sound effects. Although it may have been decently well known before 1968, Johann Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” rose to epic status after this movie was released. Whenever a significant part in the movie is presented, the climax of the waltz sounds with sharp, high pitched notes that grab the viewer’s attention, followed by pounding timpani to instill an emotion of fear. The other use of music, or lack thereof, is meant to give the impression of being in outer space, where sound cannot travel. This absence of background music also allows for more attention to be diverted to the visual experience. One of the only sound effects in the entire movie is the sound of the astronauts breathing. It not only reinforces the space element of being able to hear nothing, but also makes the viewer uncomfortable to a degree, which is exactly how Stanley Kubrick intends for the viewer to feel – uncomfortable and skeptical about the ultra-advanced technology that is featured in the film.
If the sound effects and use of music do not impact the viewer, other subtle psychological elements will impact him or her undoubtedly. Every scene in the movie is extraordinarily futuristic, whether it is the advanced human colony on the moon, the esoteric space station structures in which many of the astronauts live, or the transportation between these two places in small, white space pods; however, very few, if any, of these futuristic elements are ever explained in the movie. The psychological factor in this lack of explanation is a stimulation of the imagination, which greatly helps to make the deficiency of human dialog more tolerable. Moreover, the sentient super-computer HAL9000, which is the “central nervous system” of a large space station in the film, has a soothing, easy voice, like that of a psychiatrist. Even when HAL9000 has deemed the humans a threat to the success of the mission they are on, and attempts to kill them all, its voice is still calming and consoling. Lastly, and most subtly, are the high pitched frequencies that play in certain parts of the movie. As certain emotions of the viewer should change, the frequencies change. As a result, the viewer’s subconscious may start associating certain frequencies with certain emotions. Although these are only three psychological factors of 2001: A Space Odyssey, they alone are nearly enough to control the viewer’s feelings and thoughts entirely.
Despite the artistic and psychological elements being so significant, the shortcomings of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey are enough to effectively repel the uneducated masses. The movie is quite slow; in fact, the little action in the movie most likely would not even qualify for action by today’s standards. The first 20 minutes are nothing but monkeys acting ridiculous. Moreover, there is little human dialog throughout the entire movie. Lastly, the movie airs for around 141 minutes, while the premiere cut aired for around 160 minutes. Just like a piece of interpretive art, this movie would seem uninteresting and pointless to the average man.
2001: A Space Odyssey was one of the greatest movies of all time, with a plot so original that similar plots involving sentient computers have surfaced in recent movies such as I, Robot and Eagle Eye. In addition to the plot, Stanley Kubrick, director of the movie, is arguably one of the greatest directors of all times, with five of his films being nominated for multiple academy awards each. However, only an intellectual would be able to recognize the true superiority of this movie; well over two hours of minimal action and little dialog is undeniably far more than Joe Shmoe can handle, let alone appreciate. As Mark Twain famously said, “My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.” If Twain’s simple books are water, then Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is wine.