2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Yes, I know I epic failed at fitting in seven Kubrick films into one month. In fact….I only fit in two. I guess along with classes ending and summer beginning, I decided to pretty much drop all responsibilities, but no more! 2001: A Space Odyssey was probably the one film I was most looking forward to on my list. It’s definitely a film that any sci-fi lover, or movie lover at all, should see in their lifetime and after viewing it, it’s obvious why. The thing is seriously a work of art. Kubrick made us something, that even with very little use of dialogue, is an incredible masterpiece that shows off innovations in the film making world that remain impressive today.

The story is cut into four parts, beginning with “The Dawn of Man” in which we observe a group of early man-apes in the desert. We follow them until they discover the monolith, which is some sort of alien creation. We then observe one ape discover the use of a bone as a weapon. The story then jumps forward millions of years and we are now following Dr. Heywood R. Floyd who is traveling to the moon. There has been a discovery there of the same monolith buried under the moon’s surface as the one discovered by the apes millions of years before. This leads us to the third segment, “Jupiter Mission” in which the crew of the Discovery, including its computer HAL, are on a quest related finding the meaning of the monolith.

It’s always after seeing a film such as this that I am reminded of what film truly is…an art form. It’s not always meant to be a cheap thrill that keeps you entertained for two hours but without anything of substance afterwards. Art is totally subject to the artist and up to interpretation from the viewer. It can mean many things and is not meant to be pin pointed to just one single view of it. Kubrick made it clear that 2001 was meant to be up for discussion among viewers and that it’s purpose was to make you actually think. 

Kubrick’s purpose is blatant as everything seems to move extremely slow and with next to no dialogue (88 minutes of silence to be exact, with only classical music or breathing to accompany it). Some would argue that the slow pace of the movie is painful as we the audience are used to fast sequences that get to the point in other movies. The slow pace makes us not just appreciate, but sets a certain tone for the movie, that without, would not be the same. Kubrick clearly just wants you to sit back, relax, and watch…without any distractions.

I would have loved to see this in the cinema when it came out. It’s clearly meant to be seen in a dark room, with a big screen, and no distractions. It’s meant to be an experience, not just a movie that you pop in on a whim to have as background noise as you do something else. While I was watching this movie I got the feeling this was a film you needed to be in the right mind set in to appreciate for sure.

The special effects used alone make the film stand out. As I was watching, I could not believe that this was over 40 years ago. It is obviously a film that was way ahead of it’s time and could actually have you believe it was made just a few years ago. From the breathtaking sets, to the anti-gravity situations, and of course the crazy trippy sequence at the end of the film, I can only imagine the awe this movie caused among viewers when it first came out. My favorite parts were probably the scenes in which Kubrick took advantage of the beauty of defying gravity. The scene in which we watch a pen steadily floating around in mid air,  to the scene on the Discovery spaceship where we watch astronaut Dave Bowman jogging around the spacecraft in what seems like a loop on a roller coaster, Kubrick makes the absence of gravity beautiful in theses scenes.

It’s easy to see why this is considered one of Kubrick’s greatest films, let alone one of the greatest films of all time. Kubrick wanted to create something that had never been seen before, and he certainly did. This is not just a science fiction movie that questions the existence of an extraterrestrial life form, but a movie that makes us question humanity itself. It’s not just meant to make you question one thing, but everything. The ending, though at first took me by surprise and without any idea of the context that it was supposed to be understood in, now comes across as brilliant to me. Kubrick didn’t want one sole context, he wanted you to ask questions and have different understandings of it then others and that just goes to show that he was not just a filmmaker, but an artist as well.

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