2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

2001 is a film that I like to describe as a film made nearly a decade too early. It would only be 9 years until George Lucas made cinematic history with the original Star Wars film, yet every science fiction film from Star Wars to Alien to Close Encounters to Blade Runner owe a significant debt to Kubrick's original SF epic. The film puzzled critics and audiences alike, with noted critic Pauline Kael (basically the Roger Ebert before Ebert gained prominence) calling it unimaginative, a review that would enrage Kubrick. But now it is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made.

Kubrick's style can be hard to pinpoint for the unintiated, considering how often he would change his style from movie to movie, from the madcap, irreverent atmosphere of A Clockwork Orange to the lurking, creeping atmosphere of The Shining, but there are the similarities to be found if you choose to look, such as his use of long shots, classical music, and the so called 'Kubrick stare.' Kubrick's iconic status has brought him many people who've sought to recreate his style, like with Paul Thomas Anderson and his use of dark, bitterly ironic humor in his films or Refn's tendency to force us to witness the horrors and depravity of man, with no safety net to protect us from it. Yet no one has ever managed to successfully duplicate what makes Kubrick so lasting.

Kubrick is often seen as cinema's mad genius. Bearded, wild eyed, and unkempt, obsessing over the little details that no one would ever bother to consider, yet, he is completely generous with his camera, never stooping down or insulting his audience. His greatest gift to his audience is the wiggle room that he allows for his audience to breathe and to think about what they've just received, never giving them what they want yet perhaps giving them something that they never would have expected. To paraphrase Lynne Ramsay, Kubrick was an artist who showed the way that he viewed the world in a way that was so vivid, and so uncompromising and lacking in fear. He was never afraid to entertain while allowing his audience to think about what he has given them.

It is this unpredictability that keeps Kubrick fresh, and what keeps him dynamic and interesting even until today. Few artists can maintain such a level of unpredictability and continually challenging himself in ways that would never be expected and as I've mentioned before, it's what I think makes Kubrick so intriguing. He never made the same film twice, and every time he would go back to a familiar genre, he would always attempt to find a new angle to approach it.

2001 is known as one of Kubrick's colder films, yet also as one of his most enigmatic, beautiful, and occasionally terrifying films. It is Kubrick's opus about the universe, the insignificance of man, evolution, and the possibility of life outside of Earth. Many of his aforementioned trademarks come in, such as his long shots that dictates atmosphere, his use of classical music, as well as his use of the so called 'Kubrick stare' that has become known on the internet in recent years. His style, as I mentioned before, often seems to change, but there is always an observant, voyeuristic quality to his work. He also showcases his playfulness with the audience's expectations, often forcing us to confront harsher realities of our existence, but also showing us the beauty and wonder that comes from the vastness of the cosmos.

It still eludes me what makes Kubrick's work so lasting and profound, it makes me sit back and chuckle to myself. Do I even need to know?

Britton liked these reviews