2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Jumbled, more personal, less colorful analysis inbound because this is from my private film diary but I couldn't not post something about the current movie at #1 on My Favorite 100 list and the experience of seeing it in 70mm at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Even though I'm not quite sure I was in the *perfect* mood for a Kubrick today--oddly find him the director I most need to prepare myself for as I'd had a similar feeling while watching The Shining recently--I'm still positive I'd call 2001: A Space Odyssey the pinnacle of 20th century film art (hell, of all time for now until I watch Mulholland Dr. again) and probably my favorite movie ever.

Rewatching this always begs the problem of what new angle do I approach this from and I wish I had done some more prep for this viewing because my brain was torn between analyzing this through the usual evolution narrative or trying to find another angle. In the end I mostly focused on HAL this viewing, taking in the visual splendor of most scenes--70mm is basically blu ray quality on the biggest possible screen, a better way of viewing is unimaginable--while unfortunately letting my brain disengage a few too many times (to maddeningly think of the all-consuming catchiness of Drake's "Hotline Bling"). But back to HAL, I always had trouble fitting him into the evolution theme everyone latches onto but now it seems clear to me that it's not that the machines are more human than the humans and the humans are more robotic, it's that they're all essentially the same. I then think of HAL as lashing out for realizing the depths of "human error" because he has erred and it has essentially made him human, or at least on the same level as a human: a being capable of error. Which to me makes the case for why the evolution happens Beyond the Infinite and not for the astronauts on the moon who first touch the monolith; the aliens/monolith/what-have-you waits for the tools to reach the same capacity as the humans, allowing for a sort of equilibrium that ensures a hierarchy of power once the Starchild comes into being.

The idea of creating another conscious being is extremely powerful--it haunts all sorts of fiction, just look to Frankenstein--and I'm surprised I hadn't exactly focused on this before because it makes the killing of HAL all the stronger. Dave is forced to destroy a being that was given life by human--it's a murder, though in self-defense, and while it may not weigh on Dave too much it certainly weighs on me. It forms this arc for Dave where he must first identify the threat that is the presence of a hostile consciousness and then must destroy it in order to successfully move into the new plane of human consciousness, making the case for him needing to understand death before being reborn--an idea that is rhymed with the ending where Dave must shed his Earthly body before being reborn as the monolith reappears when he is ready to ascend. People will probably debate endlessly whether this is an optimistic ending or not but I can't help but be moved by the Starchild looking on towards Earth, wide-eyed and innocent. It's completely breathtaking, as almost every moment of this film is.

In 70mm, 2001: A Space Odyssey honestly made me tear up a bit--the ape-man smashing bones in slow-mo while "Also sprach Zarathustra" welled up would be the exact moment. I still barely comprehend how this movie was made, it's so bracingly real and crisp. The things done with the sound design--which is perfect in 70mm--have still never been matched in my mind despite how relatively few tracks there probably were; just the way they're used for such narrative purposes: they manage to completely pull the rug out from under you with complete silence or the cutting beep of a "Computer Malfunction" sign--which I now realize comes right before the "Life Functions Terminated" sign, again linking the computers (tools) to the humans. The amount of brilliance in 2001 still just boggles my mind, it uses the medium to aims that have never been matched, a jettisoning of what science fiction was ever thought of and recreation into a romantic anthem for human progress in all its brutal necessity.

Could this also possibly be the origin of the "gritty reboot/re-imagining" of campy genre/series?

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