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Face-Off: 2001: A Space Odyssey vs. Interstellar

09.22.2015by: Brian Bitner
Ridley Scott's THE MARTIAN hits theaters next weekend (check out our review from TIFF here), adding to the slew of gorgeous looking outer space movies we've been treated to over the past few years. Space is beautiful, terrifying, minimalist, quiet, exciting, and mysterious, so it's no wonder so many films look to explore man's relationship with the unknown. Certainly one of the most influential and celebrated such films is Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Both beautiful and bizarre, few films making the journey beyond our atmosphere without taking a page or two out of its book. In particular, Christopher Nolan's INTERSTELLAR seemed in many ways to be a direct descendant of 2001, so this week we're seeing how the 1968 classic holds up against 2014's multi-dimensional epic.
CAST
MISSION
Mysterious monoliths are appearing on the surface of the Earth and its moon. A team of scientists head to Jupiter in the hopes of finding its source. Also, all of human evolution happens.
The Earth is dying. A blight threatens the future of mankind, leading NASA to recruit former astronaut Cooper and a small crew to investigate a wormhole leading to a distant galaxy.
QUOTES
"Eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried forty feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter the four million-year-old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery."

"I've got a bad feeling about him."

Dave: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
Dave: Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Dave: Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult.
Dave: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!
HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

"I feel much better now. I really do."

"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm afraid."
"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt."

"Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here."

"This world's a treasure, Don; but it's been telling us to leave for a while now."

"Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."

"You know, one of those 'useless' machines they used to make was called an MRI, and if we had any of those left the doctors would have been able to find the cyst in my wife's brain, before she died instead of after, and then she would've been the one sitting here, listening to this instead of me, which would've been a good thing because she was always the... calmer one."

"After you kids came along, your mom, she said something to me I never quite understood. She said, 'Now, we're just here to be memories for our kids.' I think now I understand what she meant. Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future."

"Today's my birthday. And it's a special one, because you told me... you once told me that by the time you came back we might be the same age. And today I'm the same age you were when you left. So it'd be a real good time for you to come back."

"We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we've barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us."
SNARKY A.I.
The real star of 2001, the HAL-9000 is one of the most memorable and terrifying examples of artificial intelligence gone wrong. A computer rebelling against humans is always unsettling, but one losing its mind in the process is downright creepy.
TARS and CASE are two of the heroes of NASA's mission and boast very human personalities. While their physicality is fascinating and impressive, the matter-of-factness of their human-like demeanor keeps them from being anywhere close to as notable as HAL.
FINALE
Just a big pile of WTF. One of the most befuddling and talked-about finales to date, 2001 takes human evolution to the next level. Dave defeats HAL, reaches his destination, enters into some sort of alien experimentation facility, grows old, says hi to a monolith, and, obviously, turns into a floating space baby. Whatever your interpretation, there's no question Kubrick and Clarke went balls to the wall with this one.
INTERSTELLAR begins with both a gripping emotional story and some intriguing ideas regarding the fate of our planet. Unfortunately, the plot is whittled down by the end and becomes a bit too Hollywood. Coop was the ghost all along (we guessed that two hours ago), love is the 5th dimension or whatever, and Coop (somehow) makes it back just in time to see his dying daughter. None of it is bad, mind you, it's just a touch too saccharine for a film of this scope and ambition.
DIRECTING
Okay, the big thing we need to address here is how infuriatingly long and slow 2001 is. It's just too much. That said, Kubrick is Kubrick, and the fact that every few minutes we're treated to another beautiful shot or chilling and unique moment goes a long way to make up for this.
Without a doubt, Christopher Nolan is one of the most impressive technical directors working today. From a story perspective, though, his eyes seem to be getting a bit big for his stomach, with movies like THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and INTERSTELLAR sacrificing simplicity or clarity for spectacle and convoluted storylines.
LEGACY
2001 is one of the most referenced and imitated films of all time. Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra will never be heard the same way again, and good luck being named Dave without hearing, "I'm sorry, Dave," at least once in a while.
While it certainly has its audience and has received plenty of high praise, INTERSTELLAR already seems to be fading into the background. Some have dismissed it as overrated, while others didn't see it in the first place. Maybe it's due to the rash of outer space movies lately (and it's far too early to tell), but this film doesn't seem to have been a game changer.
ACCOLADES
IMDB: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Audience Score: 89%)
Metacritic: 86 (User Score: 7.8)
IMDB: 8.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (Audience Score: 85%)
Metacritic: 74 (User Score: 8.4)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is a challenging, unique mindf*ck of a movie with imagery and dialogue still referenced in film to this day. INTERSTELLAR is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive films in recent memory, and some of the early dramatic moments make 2001 look like puppet theater. Ultimately, though, too many of INTERSTELLAR's plot points and moments feel borrowed from 2001, SUNSHINE, ELYSIUM, and other heavyweights of the genre. For a film involving multi-dimensional travel, gravitational communication, waves larger than mountains, and robots that turn into rolling asterisks, we shouldn't be left with the feeling of, "I've seen this before." All of that said, Christopher Nolan is, of course, an excellent filmmaker, so it takes a legend like Stanley Kubrick just to call it a fair fight.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at brianbitner@joblo.com.

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