2001: A Space Odyssey

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2001.jpg

The ultimate trip.

1968

Genres: Space, Drama, Arthouse

Starring:
Gary Lockwood, Keir Dullea, William Sylvester

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Summary:
Divided into three distinct sections, 2001: A Space Odyssey explores mankind's discovery and reaction to three mysterious and obviously artificial obelisks. The first section shows the first use of tools by human ancestors after one of them discovers the odd object. The second section explores the society and technology of a space-faring 21st century after one of the residents on the moon discovers another obelisk. Once discovered, a secretive mission to Jupiter is undertaken, in which an artificial intelligence names HAL 900 controls the entire ship and caters to the needs of its five crewmen. The third, and undoubtedly most bizarre, segment involves a crewman's arrival at Jupiter and discovery of an orbiting obelisk.

Response:
Despite my claim to be a big ol' sf dork, I hadn't actually seen this movie until just recently, and it was nothing like what I had expected. I had thought 2001 was a slightly artsy and pioneering space opera film. Well, it's more than slightly artsy, and sometimes it's almost a bit too pioneering.

At the extremely odd ending of the film, my first thought was that I needed to jump online to find out what the hell the film was about. But I stopped myself because I actually decided to think about symbolism, theme, metaphor and all those abstract concepts that I vaguely remember from my literature classes years ago. Anyway, after much head scratching and one-sided conversation with my monosyllabic husband, I think I figured it out: The obelisks are obviously alien, but their origin is not important. What is important is that their discovery triggers a burst of evolution in mankind fuelled by human curiosity. This sets humans on a new and unexpected course, and the outcomes are unpredictable to say the least. The extremely odd ending symbolises the continual rebirth of mankind through discovery and innnovation.

NOTE: The previous paragraph was written before I looked up the movie online. Apparently I'm wrong, and the movie is about other stuff (see www.kubrick2001.com).

Moving on...The effects are surprisingly good considering this movie is now over 40 years old. This movie actually looks better than the original Star Wars which was made 10 years later (and I'm talking about the ORIGINAL, not that remastered crap Lucas put out later). I loved the musical interludes where space stations and spaceships orbited and spun to The Blue Danube waltz... maybe it's not the most exciting space sequence, but it is beautiful cinema. The only exception to the good special effects is the trippy colour flashes in the 3rd segment which seemed catered solely for 60s shroomers and acid heads.

And finally, I would be completely remiss not to mention HAL, the intriguing computer who has become the template for sci-fi's current crop of artificial intelligences. HAL was certainly the most interesting character in 2001 and ironically, he acted the most human. I guess at the end of the day, if I had to be killed by a malevolant super computer, I'd definitely want him to speak to me in as comforting and calming tones as HAL does.

Point Blank:
It's an odd flick, but the visuals are great, and HAL steals the show.