In, 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick, based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name, the somewhat unconventional storyline begins with a chapter titled, “The Dawn of Man.” In this, there are a group of gorilla-like men trying to survive in an environment filled with predators. One day a black rectangular structure, found to be a monolith, appears in front of the tribe of apes, and they all go wild. Eventually, one ape learns to use a bone as a weapon, and uses the bone to feast on food and kill the leader of another tribe of apes. As the ape throws the bone up in the air in frenzy, the story makes a large jump to the future: 2001.
Introduced to a man named Dr. Heywood Floyd, an elaborate space station is shown to be a rendezvous, as Heywood is on business to travel to a part of the moon called Clavius in order speak about an epidemic cover story. There he later goes to an excavation site in Clavius, where an enormous black monolith—ancient and artificial—stands still, until the men investigate it further, and the monolith begins making an unbearable screeching noise. The monolith had apparently sent a transmission to Jupiter, and so, the expedition to Jupiter begins.
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In this mission, three scientists, including Dr. Floyd, are kept in hibernation state, while two astronauts (Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Francis Poole) overlook the trip to Jupiter. Along with these two men is an artificial intelligence supercomputer built into the ship, named HAL 9000. And so, on this long trip, the apparently perfect HAL computer makes an error about one of the parts of the ship, believing it to be failing, when it wasn’t. This worries the two astronauts, and so the two contemplate on what to do about HAL. Unknown to them, HAL reads the lips of the men, and works to prevent being disconnected, in order to finish the mission accordingly.
First and foremost, the music adds a touch of class and sets this sci-fi film apart from the rest. Once one has heard the loud bass sounds of the opening credits, to the waltz music set during long-winding montages of the satellites in space, then they become instantly recognizable as thematic music of the film. It is definitely one of the cases of the music being inseparable from the film.
The direction and cinematography is an anomaly. Stanley Kubrick has managed to avoid many shooting conventions, including rule of thirds, and quick cuts, in favor of many long, grandiose, sometimes static, sometimes tracking shots, of something happening. At the time, whatever is happening will seem strange at first, and be disinteresting over time to many. But with this slow pacing comes a great favoring of authenticity and reality, as far as space goes. Characters move slowly and carefully, in a mellow, quiet manner. Space is kept quiet, with the exception of some music cues during montages, and incredibly long shots make a majority of this film. It took me a lot of patience to sit through this film. But, that patience paid off.
Sacrificing the intent of entertainment, Kubrick went for an ambiguous story, highly interpretive, with very little dialogue. The dialogue that is in the film is not wasted, and while a lot of the film may feel silent, it adds to the atmosphere of the film. Space is not a loud party, it’s a lonely, desolate vacuum. No other film I’ve seen thus far has made me feel space as this movie has. As far as acting, all actors carry their performances as well as they can. I find no faults, and nothing particularly outstanding, except for the voice of HAL. The voice of HAL 9000 does the greatest job, making for a memorable voice for generations to come, creating an eerie, monotone, manic artificial intelligence, that you find yourself feeling sympathy for later on. I’ll say it very bluntly: for a film of the 60s, 2001 has some of the best visuals of movies I’ve seen. It stands among the best of today, and is carried on greatly through Kubrick’s direction. The most memorable of these visuals is the final “Stargate” montage, which may perhaps be the most outstanding part of the film, if not the most aesthetically pleasing.
In Roger Ebert’s review, he remarks that the genius of 2001 lies in, not how much Kubrick puts in this movie, but rather, “how little.” He says that, with the lack of a clear, coherent narrative, rather than just a simple, straightforward weekend movie, Kubrick crafted a “philosophical statement about man’s place in the universe,” like that of Nietzsche. Ebert goes on to talk about how some walked off of the movie, losing interest because of lack of understanding. In many respects, he considers 2001 to be a silent film, which I can see in some ways, although in many other ways, it transcends even the best silent films. He too, makes note of the character of HAL 9000, and even says that it is this nonhuman computer that contains the most emotion of all the characters, which I had just noticed. I agree with almost all of what Ebert says about, seeing this as the first film to use its effects to tell the story, not so much the narrative telling the story. I’d argue that while the visuals remain well by today’s standards, the movie itself doesn’t age as well, with the general goal being entertainment.
I would recommend this movie only to people desperately looking for something thought-provoking and deeply intellectual. If someone is looking for an entertaining flick, then this is definitely not the movie to go to. But, say if someone I know is tired of most of the movies coming out recently, looking for something different, then I might add this movie to their list. It is different, and it is meaningful, and most importantly, it’s a slow, but rewarding experience that should be experienced at least once by anyone ready for it.