Noah Thompson’s review published on Letterboxd:
"My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it." - HAL 9000
(Seen in 70 mm at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.)
Space Baby still worked his magic.
2001 seems to be the most "movie" movie. What does that mean exactly? Well, in my own humble opinion, a film boiled down to its core is a story told through the combination of visuals and audio. It may sound like an oversimplification, but that's just about all that it is. I hold back on calling films perfect, as I believe the concept of perfection is impossible to attain. Everything and anything, no matter what it is or no matter how small the blemish, is imperfect. I'd even have to admit that this time around, the pacing of the film bothered me more than in my first viewing. Some of the sequences could've easily been chopped down to a shorter length.
Yet, as I think about it more, the reason why 2001's pacing didn't bother me as much my first time around was that I wasn't trying to pay attention to every little detail. I wasn't looking at it critically. It was a ride and I wanted to go on it. Whatever the film was selling, I was going to buy it hook, line, and sinker. Even with my issues on the film's pacing, I'd be damn confident to say that 2001: A Space Odyssey is indeed the "perfect" film.
This is a visual story, so it makes sense to linger on those visuals for as long as possible. The colors truly popped on this restoration, some of the close-ups of Dave and the gang being jaw-droppingly crisp. I loved the contrast near the end of David's bright red suit with his bright green helmet. And, of course, the journey "beyond the infinite" is mesmerizing. All of the sets have aged beautifully, a film from fifty years ago somehow looking better than ninety percent of the blockbusters in our current decade. The make-up/prosthetic work on old Dave and the monkeys haven't aged a day either. (Space Baby looks dated, but I'd attribute that to artistic liberty. I have a feeling he was never meant to look photo-realistic.)
The lighting is as beautiful as ever, vibrancy being the key word. The music, while being excruciatingly loud in the theatre (Their fault, not the film's.), is wonderful. Equal parts bombastic and whimsical. Finally, while not a plot heavy film in the slightest, I still found great investment in our characters. David's eyes are piercing and his greatness is very subtle. (Alright, I'll admit it. I think the guy's a hunk.) However, none can ever hope to steal the spotlight from HAL 9000. I will stand by the take that HAL is one of cinema's finest characters. Not just robotic characters. Characters. Period. Soothing, yet menacing. Despicable, yet endearing. In his final scene, I was equal parts sad and terrified. (A low, demonic voice singing "Daisy Bell" in surround sound is something else.)
So, I'd want to talk about one last thing. With all of the analyses and theories surrounding this thing, what do I personally think 2001: A Space Odyssey is about? I would say it is the cycle of man, or the cycle of life in general. Birth, death, rebirth. The beginning blends into the end. The end makes way for a beginning which makes way for an end which makes way for a beginning which... Human error. In an odd way, it is human to make mistakes. It is in our nature to sometimes overlook what could be the obvious. Whether that's picking a fight with someone holding a deadly weapon or not realizing the sentient A.I. can still read your lips even without hearing you.
We are violent, selfish, and stupid. Yet, we endure. Whenever and however our destruction comes, it will not be the true ending of all. Life goes on. Life finds a way. I'm glad I got to experience this wonder of art on the big screen, likely in a way not too different than those who got to see it for the first time all the way back in 1968. I thank Stanley Kubrick for what he has given to mankind. Not just 2001. But, an entire trove of true expression. Thank you, Stanley. Thank you, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Thank you, humanity. You imperfect bastards.