2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★

Kubrick is certainly one of those filmmakers who evokes different styles in each film. So there’s the supremely melodramatic Spartacus, the harsh war reality in Full Metal Jacket, and the black comedy in Dr. Strangelove to name a few. There isn’t necessarily a mark left by Kubrick that signifies that this is his film, which signifies him as such a virtuoso filmmaker. This space epic is probably Kubrick’s most eager film. More so an enthusiastic film that delivers on human exceptionalism while tackling threats to Homo sapiens’ intelligence.

From the early australopithecines’ discovery of using weaponry to defend their tribe and progress their species, the story jumps millions of years in time to the evolution and breakthroughs of human beings from earth to the far reaches of space. So far that machines and robots are used to assist humans in their plight. But what is the true purpose of a certain alien monolith that has appeared to the hominids in ancient times, the scientists on the moon, and a motivated astronaut later on? And is the supercomputer HAL 9000 and its supreme intelligence a true threat to that of one astronaut’s and specifically the human race itself?

There’s a certain facet that Kubrick has in this movie that is akin to Sergio Leone’s style in his spaghetti westerns. This comparison has been made before in one of my prior reviews, but there is an indulgence and a real expression for the love of making films. Every single frame of 2001 is essentially a painting. The space scenes are incredible and quite peaceful, even during the times when thrills are to be experienced. Many of the shots actually looked very familiar and as it turned out, Kubrick employed the skills of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth who later worked on Donner’s Superman.

There is a great abundance of joy and appreciation when juxtaposing those space scenes with the classical music of Strauss, Ligeti, and Khachaturian. And the editing of such is great. This idea just makes one think if regular space travel will be possible one day for us, then some of us who work in the airline industry can transfer over to work in between journeys from earth to the moon. Heck Kubrick and Clarke seemed to have foretold the use of FaceTime, Zoom, and your Amazon Echo Dot. 

Returning to the ending, there’s a beautiful message there (the way I saw it) about the support of life, the progression of human existence, and the preciousness of life itself. It’s inspirational, but the immediate sense of awe, confusion, and wonder outclasses it, and that might be just a bit of a weakness for this movie, specifically. The idea of propagating discussion at the end is interesting, and so with the different answers viewers have. But it’s not always that the lack of solidified answers at a film’s end make for something worthwhile. 2001, however, does it well.

Ultimately this entire film doesn’t seem to be something that really hits the first time. Another rewatch might be necessary. Why is that? Well, not sure. Maybe a small part of it is that it’s preferable for most movies to be seen on the big screen. 2001 is one film that very much deserves to be seen in a huge auditorium.

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