2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Has a more prescient film been released since 2001: A Space Odyssey? It’s message about the dangers of letting technology control us is more terrifying today than it would have been in 1968. The visuals of the film are more spectacular than most seen on the big screen today, the CGI heavy Marvel films can’t compare to Douglas Trumbull’s masterful Star Gate sequence. This is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, arguably the greatest film of all time, it is a marvel and I was awed throughout as I felt unworthy of talking about the brilliance of his vision.

The movie is based upon the concept developed by Kubrick and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke of “Man’s relation to the universe” and within that concept technology, in the form of the Hal 9000, is encapsulated. We see a monolith, a tall black structure, drop from the sky and interest some seemingly primitive apes, we then cut to the year ‘2001’. Years later monoliths have been discovered all over the galaxy but a crew of astronauts, among them are Dave Bowman, Keir Dullea, and Frank Poole, Gary Lockwood, both of whom are unaware of the true goal of their mission. Only Hal and three astronauts who are in “suspended animation” know that they are meant to investigate a radio signal sent to Jupiter from the monolith. Hal begins to rebel against his programming and attempts to murder everyone on board the spacecraft including Dave leading to the famous line “I’m sorry Dave, I just can’t do that for you.”

Douglas Rain makes Hal so unbelievably creepy as his calm but sinister voice suggests that he has taken on a life of his own and intends to lash out against his human creators. When Hal is seen reading the lips of Bowman and Poole we realize that he is intellectually superior to humans and because his abilities so far surpass ours. The dread that the audience feels as Bowman realizes what he’s up against, with Hal having murdered every other astronaut on board, is real but this sort of mutiny could easily occur today as the artificial intelligence of the technology we rely upon rapidly progresses. The image of a flashing yellow light in a larger red circle is also ominous with it never being overused and feeling as though it has a personality even though it is a simple image. Hal is one of the most terrifying villains I have ever seen brought to the screen and Kubrick knows exactly how to paint him to strike fear into the hearts of viewers.

The “Star Gate” sequence is so astoundingly gorgeous and awe-inspiring that I had one of those rare moments where you can just sit back and let the film envelop you. I gave myself over to the experience completely and I was richly rewarded with some of the most stunning visuals I have ever seen. You get the sense that this is Kubrick really letting go but this over-indulgent spectacle is spectacular and leaves us even more dumbfounded and amazed as the starchild appears towards the end of the film and we understand that Bowman has achieved a higher state of being. Trumbull would go on to choreograph similarly stunning visuals for classics such as Blade Runner (1982) and The Tree of Life (2011) but never has his talent been surrounded by such a meaningful film.

Every shot has so clearly been thought about as even scenes that would have otherwise been mundane are visually stunning. The use of red and pink throughout against neutral backdrops is shocking and creates imagery that will stay in your mind forever. Consider the scenes on the spaceship towards the beginning of the film, in what could have been an otherwise mundane scene we get incredibly bright scarlet colored chairs and 60s-inspired flight attendant uniforms that are stylish instead of seeming incongruous. The whole film seemed as though it had been pored over for years, and it had, which lead to the most beautiful outcome.

This is one of the best films I have ever seen and will probably ever see. Therefore it is an immediate 5 stars and is certainly Kubrick’s best film. This is the film that serves as the sacred text for all following science-fiction films and I would argue that no film has equaled it.

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