The phrase “aged poorly” can mean two things with respect to a film. Either its content or ideas aren’t commonly held beliefs anymore, or the movie is just difficult for modern audiences to enjoy because the media we consume has changed since it came out. This does not necessarily mean the film is bad, it just means it’s meant for a different audience. Chick flicks, to illustrate, are targeted more towards women than men, and westerns are targeted more towards baby boomers than Generation Z.
One such film is not only regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, but is also a part of our school’s half-time show this year. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
2001 was made in 1968, just a year before the US landed on the moon. It’s a film that surrounds the space race and the sense of wonder that came from it. It features a lot of futuristic technology, some of which became a real like I-pads and A.I. Even the character Hal 9000 has commonly been used an example of the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.
While in these respects the film has aged amazingly, it hasn’t aged well is in its length. It is a two-hour-and-forty-four minute film, and only forty percent of it has dialogue. The other sixty percent is made up of long sequences with classical music playing over it as well as trippy visuals that capture the existential horror side of space. When it first came out, critics panned it for this very reason, but over time it became a cult classic as more cinephiles regarded it as a masterpiece. It went on to inspire a generation of filmmakers and was referenced in other movies and TV shows such as the Simpsons, Southpark, Wall E, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It even served as direct inspiration for David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity.”
Though the cultural legacy of 2001 persists to this day, the general movie-going audience has become much less willing to sit through ten minute sequences of a ship floating in space. It’s been fifty-one years since the film came out, and in that time what audiences want to see has changed. In the sixties, people wanted the wild west and musicals, but in the seventies and eighties, modern blockbusters like Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future took center stage. Then in 2008, the debut of Iron Man introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that would dominate the silver screen for the next decade. Not to mention, the internet has also dramatically changed how we consume and create content.
This is not to say that 2001 is bad, or that modern audiences are bad, I’m simply pointing out the obvious: culture and entertainment changes over time as consumers change over time. Because of this reality, older films often struggle. Whether you like it or not, it’s just the reality of the world we live in. It’s why an English teacher shouldn’t get mad at a student for saying that they don’t like Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote for people in the 1500s, not for people in 2019.
2001: a Space Odyssey is one of my personal favorite films, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it. Any piece of art can be enjoyed by people born years after its conception. Someone who enjoys a Marvel movie over a Kubrick movie isn’t better or worse than someone who enjoys a Kubrick movie over a Marvel movie. What someone likes is what someone likes. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, there’s no shame in it.