2001: A Space Odyssey

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2001: A Space Odyssey is now widely acclaimed to be revolutionary, but the reviews upon its release were more divisive. Aside from the special effects, which were universally praised, many aspects of the film evoked wildly differing responses from critics, ranging from “extraordinary” to “immensely boring”. A common complaint was the lack of exposition, which made the film more confusing to some. To those critics, the homonymous novel by Arthur Clarke was a godsend, a treasure trove of information that the film was so reluctant to provide. Now that the critical reception of the film has stabilized, it is due time for a reevaluation of the novel. This paper examines the characteristics of each medium and analyses whether the film and novel managed…show more content…
Every film must make a tradeoff between information density and visual density. A higher information density means more narration and in-depth storytelling, but might make the film feel less immersive and intellectually unengaging. Movies with lower information densities are more abstract and artistic, with a bigger focus on the audiovisual aspects of the film. Because the footage is presented without explicit explanation, these films provide the viewers with an opportunity to think about the significance of each scene. Films with lower information densities are analogues of short stories, and those a bigger focus on exposition are comparable to novels. In that sense, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is like a short story. The distinction is more apparent when compared to a heavily narrative-driven movie like Star Wars. While Star Wars begins with a literal “wall of text”, not a single line of narration is spoken in 2001. Cryptic scenes like the "Dawn of Man" sequence and ending are presented unadulterated, leaving the audience to decrypt their meaning themselves. Each scene in 2001 is like poetry: both visually beautiful and thought-provoking, resonating with the viewer in a way that transcends language. As Kubrick (1968) himself put it: “I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the…show more content…
There is some truth in that claim, and some sections like the stargate scene could have benefited from more advanced graphical effects. However, 2001 is brilliant because it used its limits as its strengths. Instead of making a film hampered by primitive special effects, Kubrick created a film that uses that limitation as another means of creative expression, proving that less is sometimes more. It employs visuals and audio in such a meaningful way that the story does not work as well in any other format, which is a feat that few films can
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