2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Stanley Kubrick's monumental science fiction cinematic achievement the first time I saw it. After constantly begging my father to rent it so we can watch it, he finally gave in, albeit very grudgingly, because he absolutely cannot stand this film. To this day, he rolls his eyes and sighs with dismay whenever I mention 2001 to him (today, he expressed quite a bit of displeasure at the mention of me traveling 45 minutes just to watch it again in 70mm). Perhaps some of his negativity rubbed off on me the first time I saw it, or perhaps it was that I was a bit too young at the time to fully comprehend the film (I believe it was a bit of both, to be honest). But the truth is that 2001 is a film that is certainly not easily digested on the first watch. It takes many viewings to fully comprehend the story, to fully inhale every set, every mind-bending special effect or visual camera trick, every simplistic yet satisfying practical effect. This is without a doubt one of the greatest monumental achievements in cinematic history that is a staple of basic cinema, and yet it is one of the most difficult to digest.

I have only seen 2001 three times so far, but each time I rewatch it I begin to understand it better and better. I believe that Interstellar, which I feel contains some of the exact same plot elements, but more simplified and verbally explained, helped me understand 2001's story much better than I had on my first watch. But the best part is that 2001 isn't necessarily about the destination, it's about the journey (or, odyssey, hence the title). Kubrick executes his masterful styles to the fullest extent, intricately weaving a multi-layered story that has been reinterpreted and deliberated time and time again ever since its release. I think I understand the plot, for the most part, now; but of course, a rewatch or three certainly wouldn't hurt.

The thing that amazes me the most about 2001 is how Kubrick managed the amazing camera tricks that show the gravity in work on the ships. People are walking around the walls onto ceilings to access different rooms, and while today it is so easy to throw aside as simple special effects programs, in the 1960's there must have been a much more practical way they achieved it. Now, I'm sure there's a perfectly simple explanation as to how Kubrick managed these shots, but that doesn't make it any less amazing to me in the first place.

Another thing I started to notice as I watched 2001 this time was how much influence Kubrick's film may have had on the original Star Wars film. To me, I saw glimpses of the Star Destroyers, and most notably the Death Star's hangar bay that lead me to believe that Lucas drew some influence on his set designs from this film. If 2001 could manage to be that monumentally influential in a short span of nine years, that certainly says something about Kubrick's immense talent that he carried with him throughout his entire career, with a nearly flawless filmography. I could be wrong about the influence, of course, but I certainly did feel that there were similarities.

This particular experience of 2001: A Space Odyssey felt extremely special to me, not only because I was granted an opportunity to see the film in a 70mm roadshow format, but also because it felt like a completely new experience for me. For the first time, almost everything in 2001 clicked together for me, and I found myself in a magnificent trance that I didn't want to get out of. The mesmerizing soundtrack compilation was the thing I love the most about 2001 the first time I watched it, and now it has only enhanced the experience to a much higher level. It is one of those rare cinematic achievements that I can instantly call one of the greatest classics. The more I watch it, the better I understand it, and the more I love it. A triumphant symphony of music, effects, and subtlety.

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