What has not yet been said about 2001 A Space Odyssey which has been hailed as one of the best science-fiction movies ever made and rightfully so. 2001 A space odyssey was ground-breaking for its time. Some of the special effects still hold up to this day. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and my second favorite movie made by Stanley Kubrick. As mentioned in the title, this is review is filled with spoilers, so if you have not seen the movie yet than do not read this review until you see the movie.
The film is constructed into four major parts.
The first is called “Dawn of Man” and it depicts a tribe of man-apes that are striving for food in the African desert. Let me just say that the shots of the desert are incredible. They are amazingly well framed and are just beautiful to look at. You really feel like you are in that environment.
There is also no dialogue for at least the first half hour which is actually really brave on Kubrick’s part. He is a man that respects his audience and takes his time with the story. The man-apes soon encounter a monolith, which is an extra-terrestrial presence.
The man-apes start to touch the monolith one after another, and they begin to become intelligent and the leader realizes that he can use a bone as a tool and as a weapon and starts to kill his prey with it. He then throws the bone into the air, and the camera follows the bone and then the scene cuts into space, millions of years into the future.
The second part “TMA-1” follows Dr. Heywood R. Floyd to a space station that has been orbiting Earth for a layover on his trip to Clavius Base, a Lunar US. Outpost. He then has a videophone conversation with his daughter and wishes her a happy birthday (which is Kubrick’s actual daughter in real life).
He then has a conversation with his colleagues with whom he discusses that there are rumours of a mysterious epidemic at the base. Floyd refuses to talk about this further claiming that “he is not at the liberty to discuss this.”
At Clavius, Floyd heads to a meeting of base personnel, where his mission is to investigate a recently found artifact called Tycho Magentic Anomoloy one “TMA-1” which is the monolith that the apes encountered four billion years ago and which is now buried beneath the lunar surface. The researchers travel to the moon and examine the monolith, just when they hear a loud radio signal coming from the alien artifact.
The scene where the scientists find the monolith beneath the lunar system is so incredibly well done, you can really feel the music and the intensity.
The third part entitled “Jupiter Mission” takes place eighteen months later. The U.S. spacecraft journeys towards Jupiter. On board are pilot David Bowman (played incredibly well by Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (portrayed by Gary Lockwood) and three astronauts that are in deep hibernation. Most of the spacecraft’s functions are controlled by HAL 9000 which to me is one of the best villains in science-fiction history even if he is only a machine. He is menacing, intelligent, sophisticated and creepy. HAL keeps affirming that “he is incapable of error” and that he also talks about his enthusiasm for the mission and his love of working with humans.
There is soon a problem of a failure of a device that control’s the ship’s antenna and David and Poole start to become weary of HAL’s malfunction. They enter one of a EVA pod so that HAL doesn’t overhear them and express their concerns over HAL’s ability to perform correctly, and that they agree that he should be disconnected if things get out of hand, unaware that HAL is reading their lips through the glass.
Poole then attempts to replace the unit during spacewalk. His EVA pod controlled by HAL malfunctions and missing oxygen and sends Poole adrift into space. Bowman, not realizing that HAL is behind this, sets out into a pod to rescue his crew-mate. While Bowman is outside of the ship, HAL kills the three researchers that are in deep hibernation sleep. When David returns to the ship with Pool’s body, HAL refuses to let him in. Bowman has no choice but to let Pool’s body go and enters by the ship’s emergency airlock, almost killing himself in the process. Bowman then disconnects HAL, who begs David to reconsider, and keeps telling him that he is afraid, suggesting that he truly does have emotions. Bowman ignores him and terminates HAL and once the computer is finally disconnected, a pre-recorded message from Floyd plays.
In it, he reveals the existence of the four billion year old monolith on the moon, declaring “its origin and purpose still a mystery.” Floyd then adds that it has remained completely inert, except for powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter.
To me this is the most suspenseful part of the movie because there’s a lot more character build up. The scene where Bowman jogs and the camera follows him in a circle is masterful. We root for David’s character to survive and I love the HAL 9000 character which as I already mentioned is one of the most terrifying villains in science-fiction history. And I love that scene when David disconnects HAL. Such masterful filmmaking.
The fourth and final part “Jupiter and beyond the infinite” shows Bowman arriving at Jupiter and leaving Discovery One to investigate another monolith discovered in orbit around the planet. Bowman comes into contact with the alien presence and as he approaches it, the pod is suddenly pulled into a ray of collared light and a disoriented Bowman watching in fear as he sees vast colors of shapes and strange landscapes of different colors forming different patterns.
This is where the film gets really abstract and thought-provoking and for the entire rest of the running time there is no dialogue, like in the opening sequence, leaving the viewer to interpret what these images mean. To me, this is where the title “beyond the infinite” plays in, since David is in deep contact with the alien species and his aging process is about to start.
David then finds himself middle-age in still in his space-suit, inside a room. David continues to see different versions of himself, getting older and older, his point of view changing each time, eating dinner and then sitting in bed, staring at the monolith.He then reaches out to the alien presence
and is then transformed into a child enveloped in a circle of white light, floating beside the earth, starring at the planet.
The ending has many interpretations, but the way I see it is that David has lived his entire life in that small room, unaware of time and space, and has died when he reached into the monolith, and been reborn into the aliens visions of what humanity is or should be.
2001 A space Odyssey is a story about evolution, of man vs. machine and extraterritorial life. What’s incredible and a little creepy is how many things came to pass in the future. We use videophone every day. It’s called Skype. They envisioned spacewalking—remember, the movie came out on 1968, one year before men set foot on the moon. 2001 A space Odyssey is the first science-fiction epic to have graced the big screen that was not a “B science-fiction movie” at the time. It had no little green aliens with laser guns or monsters. It had a serious tone and actually posed fundamental questions about how humanity evolved.
Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke met shortly after Stanley had finished working on Dr. StrangeLove. Stanley Kubrick had become fascinated by the possibility of extra-terrestrials and determined to make “the proverbial good science-fiction movie” and it is my opinion that he succeeded. Kubrick was also searching for the best way to make a movie about man’s relation to the universe and in Clarke’s own words “determined to create a work of art which would arouse the emotions of wonder, awe and appropriate terror.”
Kubrick was asked what the real meaning to 2001 A Space Odyssey to which he replied “2001 is basically a visual, nonverbal experience” that avoids the spoken word in order to reach the viewer’s subconscious in an essentially poetic and philosophic way. The film is a subjective experience which “hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”
How much would we appreciate La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] today if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: This lady is smiling slightly because she has rotten teeth or because she’s hiding a secret from her lover? It would shut off the viewer’s appreciation and shackle him to a reality other than his own. I don’t want that to happen to 2001. —Stanley Kubrick
Like I said at the beginning of this review, 2001 a space odyssey is one of the best science-fiction films ever created. It is a mind-blowing epic, one that has sustained time and is still relevant today, fifty four years later. If you have not seen 2001 a space odyssey, please, I implore you to see it. You may find it slow. You may find it boring. But if you give it a chance, you will find yourself transported into the beyond and the infinite, to the unexplored realms of time and space. Give it a chance, and it will blow you away and leave you speechless.