- 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a very hard film to understand let alone putting into words. But I don’t think the genius of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece is in how much he does but rather how little he does. The film is as minimalistic as a film can get since every scene is reduced to just the essence of what it wants to portray. The pacing of the film is incredibly slow. Kubrick makes us stare at the same object for five minutes and wants us to inhabit it within our imagination. Most science fiction movies today are worried about providing cheap thrills and adding scenes to keep the audience’s attention. 2001 doesn’t fall for that. Instead it wants to inspire awe and thought.
2001 is essentially about the evolution of mankind, from monkeys who discovered bones as our first tool to NASA discovering spaceships as our most advanced tool, which is excellently represented in a single match-cut. It is this level of ambition that makes the film truly Epic with a capital E. The ending of the film has puzzled people for decades by now because of its pure ambiguity. The main theme of the film is how humans create their own ending. The HAL 9000, a computer that operates the spaceship, over time begins to understand and learn from humans more and more so that eventually it outsmarts the entire space crew. When the crew wants to abort the mission, HAL 9000 forces them to stay because it is programmed to complete the mission. Living in an age when mobile electronics dominate, I can understand Kubrick’s point. We are becoming so advanced in technology that one day they might outsmart us. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the computer I am currently using to write this review turns against me (I’m joking). 2001 does not contain a lot of dialogue but whenever there is dialogue it is Kubrick’s typical cold and bitter dialogue. Emotion was never a strong aspect of Kubrick’s films.
I feel 2001 is the closest movies has ever gotten and will ever get to visual poetry. The minimalist visuals, the hypnotizing classical music, the slow pacing and the ambiguity all give 2001 a poetic feel. I think 2001 deserves more credit for revolutionizing special effects than Star Wars because the effects still hold up to this day, not to mention that Kubrick created entire galaxies in the film before mankind was able to be even to the FREAKING MOON! The effects were so convincing that some people thought Kubrick assisted in faking the moon landing.
Almost all films are about a character with a goal in mind and they try to obtain this goal in either a dramatic or comedic way. 2001 is not about a goal but rather a quest. We are not asked to relate with any of the characters in the film, they are just chess pieces in a game. As ambiguous as the film’s ending is, my interpretation is that in the future our minds have given us the ability to understand where we are in the universe and who we are, so the next step in evolution is that we are not flesh anymore but intelligence. We don’t live on a planet anymore but among the stars. What a film.