2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

There is very little I can say about 2001: A Space Odyssey that hasn't already been said. Discussed and analyzed to death, Stanley Kubrick's science fiction masterpiece is one of the most influential films ever made, and with good reason.

From it's first frame, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a breathtaking, mesmerizing experience. It is sensory overload in the best way possible, a sight of sounds, colour, music, and images that never cease to amaze or astound. It is simultaneously awe inspiring and terrifying, hopeful and regretful, disturbing and wonderful. It is essential cinema.

From the dawn of man, there were the monoliths - mysterious black objects that have influenced mankind's decisions. After one is found, a crew of astronauts on the ship Discovery One is tasked with heading to Jupiter along with the computer HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain), a mission that soon goes wrong due to human error.

Less of a film and more a series of stimulating ideas and scenes, 2001's deliberately slow pace allows for an atmosphere unlike any other. The lack of sound in the space scenes. The haunting music of the monoliths. The triumphant nature of the moon landing. All of these are representative of the feeling of space travel - no other film has quite portrayed the feeling of exploration like this one, and no film may ever.

Layered thick in assumed narrative incoherence and acidic, trip worthy imagery, Kubrick's focus on visual storytelling and silence makes it a surprisingly easy watch all things considered - it's a simple story once thought about, one about human evolution and the dangers, and possible transcendence, of that very existence. It ponders large questions and yet it earns it every single one of them.

The film is visually stunning. One of the best looking films ever made, it's nearly unthinkable that this was made 50 years ago - the visuals here remain as groundbreaking and revolutionary as they were back then, and on the biggest screen possible they are magnificent. Kubrick's trademark coldness is also present throughout, and it continues to work wonders, especially here, as it's banality makes the robotic nature of the performances seem almost unhuman compared to the unequally inhuman HAL 9000.

Keir Dullea, in his most famous role, is magnificent, working wonders here as Kubrick's dialogue, in arguably one of his best scripts, in it's simplistic complexity, is mundane and difficult to sound natural, and yet Dullea does it so easily. The rest of cast is limited, with Kubrick resorting to images and visuals rather then people to tell his story. Douglas Rain is the standout, however, as the voice of HAL, a terrifying, yet pitiful creation that is both the result of humanities' hubris but also it's greatest triumph.

Using solely classical music in it's limited score, the sounds of space have never sounded grander. From the sweeping sounds of Richard Strauss in the intro, to the haunting strings of Gyorgy Ligeti, to the moon landing waltz of Johann Strauss II, it fits the film like a glove - taking it away would remove the majesty, the wonder, the sheer scope of the epic on display.

One of the greatest science fiction films ever made, 2001: A Space Odyssey requires no introduction. It's a sweeping epic - one of pure beauty and majesty that is only compounded the human questions and ideas posed at it's core. A true masterpiece, and required viewing by everyone. Classic, splendid, harrowing, inspiring, and stunning - it's everything.

I give 2001: A Space Odyssey 5 stars out of 5.

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