Sean Cordy’s review published on Letterboxd:
What a film! It’s been about two years since my last journey through space with Mr. Kubrick, and I’ve found out, it’s been too long. It’s not just a film or even just one of the most ambitious (if not most) film, it’s a true spectacle of life. As much as this film has influenced the world of cinema, it has influenced our lives in ways we cannot fathom.
It’s such an innovative film with a great warning to our society (even in the 60s it was prevalent) of our obsession with technology. While it’s shown that technical advances are great things in the film, and can further our search for our beginning/creator and meaning in life, it also threatens to take away all progress. As the villain, HAL-9000 is perfect, because he’s a computer. He’s a computer that never makes a mistake, and therefore creates what seems to be the greatest challenge; the challenge to beat perfect, to be more than perfect. Kubrick shows that there is something that is more perfect than perfection (yes this is possible, just as there can be greater infinities), the human will and hope. Against all odds, Dave is able to defeat a flawless creation. A creation that Dave’s species created in hopes that it would find the answers to life.
But the problem with having an inadament object discovering a humanistic problem is that it can’t contemplate as a human can. Even though HAL can calculate with utmost accuracy and immediacy and is programmed to act human, it never can take on full human emotions. While it shows signs of jealousy and anger, it never has any justification to its actions other than its his programming and duty to keep the mission afloat.
It’s not just a cautionary tale though, it’s a testament to the human spirit and the need to find a god or at least the beginning. As it starts with the creation of a species (humans) it ends that way as well. The apes start out as primitive creatures, but then the mysterious monolith appears, evolution begins. As it’s seen, the next three times it appears, another step in evolution appears. Most importantly, the ending; it’s not known if it was just a psychedelic trip for Dave or if the monolith transported him to a new time or dimension, but something happened to him. He has aged rapidly and within moments, turns into an old dying man. This is where Kubrick caps off the film. He once again warns humanity against the evils of technology. Dave is shown as just existing, just eating and breathing to simply keep his heart ticking. The monolith appears once again and he reaches out for it, and then evolution occurs again. He is no longer an old man, but an embryo born asexually. To me, Kubrick is saying that there is an almighty creator, that he can take the old and make it new. But this isn’t just recreating Dave; it is recreating humanity, giving them a second chance.
While the film may be very slow, it can’t be done in any other way. The creation of life and its evolution was lengthy process. It can’t be rushed, it must be nurtured until it can fly by itself, and Kubrick does that. He creates a strong basis for each character and gradually arcs their development. As the film progresses and technology progresses within it, the human characters seem to take on more of robotic nature, and HAL takes on the more humanistic nature. It’s as if technology has become such a factor in life for humans that it doesn’t just help our life, it runs our lives. We do not simply live to create now, we exist for the sake of it.
It’s a surreal story, with surreal visuals. Even 40 some years later, this bad boy stands up to the behemoths of VFXs today. Kubrick was a true artist. His editing and cinematography skills made the audience appreciate the film even more; most notable being the opening sequence cutting from the first tool of destruction to the satellite. The whole movie is impeccably shot and each frame contains stellar set-designs.
This may be a film that isn’t ever totally understood, but that’s the beauty of it. No one knows, it leaves room for repeated interpretations. Kubrick wanted the audience to think for themselves, unlike the characters portrayed in this masterpiece.