This would have been a perfect film if not for the casting of Keanu Reeves! I kept expecting him to say 'Dude!' somewhere in the movie. Something like this: 'I am on the train to Byoudepest (his pronounciation in the film, not mine), DUDE!' I really do love this version, Coppola almost got it right. I saw it in the theater when it came out and there was dead silence at the end, except for all of the sniffling and sobbing going on. I like how almost all the special effects are not CGI, but real old-fashioned camera gimmickery.
I'm curious... did you read the novel before you watched the film? I read the novel (plus the short story Sentinel which describes the purpose of the black monolith) and I had to explain the movie to everyone who hadn't read the novel.
I had read The Sentinel prior to seeing the film, but I did not read the full novel until after seeing the film.