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Monday, October 12, 2015
There are at least three weeks left to the drive-in season this year, but the grandkids needed to stay home this weekend, so we did not make it out. We will start making it back out next week as there are several movies we want to see before the season ends. But staying home this weekend gave me the chance to review a movie I have always wanted to review – 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is the kind of movie you either love or hate. At the very first screening of this film, 241 people walked out of the movie almost halfway through. As he was leaving the theater while the movie was still running, the late actor Rock Hudson was heard asking what the movie was supposed to be about. It was initially a box office failure until legions of LSD takers all over the country made it a cult film because of the “stargate” scene.

Fast forward to today where 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered one of the greatest movies of all-time and the best science fiction movie ever made. Arthur C. Clarke once said that if people walked out of the theater saying they understood the movie, then he and Stanley Kubrick didn’t make the movie right. So I guess that Rock Hudson understood the movie because he didn’t understand it? So many questions about this movie and almost no answers.

It is said that every frame of film Stanley Kubrick ever shot is a work of art worthy of hanging in any museum in the world. It took over a dozen very skilled artists a little over a year to paint the background mattes used in this film. A real aerospace company built the interior space ship set for $750,000 (a lot of money for 1968). But through it all, MGM never trusted the movie, and only Stanley Kubrick understood it. For myself, I just think it is a blast to watch.

Do I pretend to understand what is going on in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Nope. I really have very little clue what the movie is about. As near as I can tell, this black monolith keeps showing up throughout the universe and then some guy goes into a black hole and disappears. That is close as I get to making sense of this movie, but I still love to watch it.

Do you have to be chemically altered to enjoy this film? I have never been under the influence of anything while watching this movie, so I don’t know. I know I enjoyed it while stone cold sober, several times. I also know that the movie can make you feel stoned, if the screen you are watching it on is big enough. So I can kind of understand why the stoners made this movie a financial success when it was first released. I can also understand why this movie still sells pretty well on Blu-Ray and as a download.

So how does a movie I do not understand become a classic? Because I, like millions of others, keep watching this movie in the hopes that one day we will get it. This movie is a brilliantly written presentation of ideas about mankind that I know I will get some day. Also, the “stargate” scene is so many years ahead of its time that the movie is a classic based on that scene alone.

I have read thesis after thesis on the ending of the movie, and still no two people can agree on what the ending is about. Kubrick did not help the audience to understand the ending when he said that he originally wanted the black monolith to appear in the final scene. Why? He never gives an explanation, and that has only helped to expand the appeal of the film.

It is often said that 2001: A Space Odyssey is not just a good movie – it is a masterpiece. I reserve that term for very few movies and this film, for me, does not attain that kind of status. This is art, and not a masterpiece of movie storytelling. But it is also a damn good movie that if you have not seen yet, you should see the first chance you get.

Remember – the bigger the screen, the better.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

+George N Root III is a drive-in movie fanatic who tries to avoid watching movies while under the influence of anything except popcorn. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com. Follow the conversation about this movie and others at https://www.facebook.com/enpatthedrivein.



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