Why 2001: A Space Odyssey isn't a classic

"2001: A Space Odyssey" sucks.

It's rare that I don't enjoy old science fiction. As a fan of the original "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" TV series, I have a high tolerance for poor special effects, implausible plots, and farfetched science.

In terms of individual film elements, "2001" has some of the best special effects of its time, a well-recognized soundtrack, and possibly the creepiest villain of all time in HAL 9000. Many consider it to be a classic of science fiction.

But I don't.

A "classic" movie is a film considered a standard for the industry. These movies stand the test of time and are well-respected in the decades following their release (films such as "Gone With the Wind," "Casablanca," and "Citizen Kane" come to mind).

If there is ever a science fiction movie considered to be a "classic," it's "Space Odyssey." The 141-minute Stanley Kubrick picture is most well-known for three sequences: the space dock scene, the conflict with HAL 9000, and the Star Gate.

I read Arthur C. Clark's book adaptation of his screenplay, and the movie makes a great companion to the book, which I enjoyed. But I don't consider the film as a whole classic, primarily for these three reasons:

  1. Lack of memorable characters. HAL is the only character people typically remember from the movie, and it's a computer. The main protagonist of the film doesn't make his first appearance until halfway through the movie, and we don't learn that much about him.

  2. Agonizingly slow story. The first part of the film features a group of human ancestors running around naked in the wilderness for half an hour. They are eventually mesmerized by alien monolith, which teaches them how to use tools, but it take far too long for that to happen.

  3. Perhaps one of the biggest WTH endings ever. I won't ruin the ending for those who haven't watched it, but it features a baby in a bubble in space, referred to as "The Star Child." If you're into spoilers or have seen it, there is no real way to describe it.

Do a simple Google search for the top classic movies, and the lists are as ubiquitous as oxygen. But "2001" doesn't make the cut on my list because its special effects and music cannot overcome its poor story and characters. And there is nothing more essential for a classic film.