Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Matinee: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 I doubt there is a person alive that hasn't heard of this movie.   It has been hailed by critics as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, was nominated for four Academy Awards (it won one, highly deserved, for visual effects), and it has that unforgettable soundtrack that people recognize automatically.  

Shockingly, I only saw it for the first time maybe 10 years ago, and recently rewatched it at the urging of my film-obsessive son.

This film blows the mind, even though Stanley Kubrick made it 44 years ago.  44 YEARS!  

In fact, let's just say that I'm not even sure I completely understand all of it.  I believe at the end of the film, after my first viewing and the latest, I said "I don't get it".  I read about it on Wikipedia, and I'm still not totally sure I get that whole end.  (My son tried fervently to 'splain it to me, but to no avail.)

 I can give you the general idea though.

We start out with the dawn of man...clans of apes fighting each other for the dead tapir, etc.  One day they wake to the appearance of a mysterious black monolith that, upon its presence, seems to push along evolution.  The apes discover the use of bones for tools, and away they go.

We jump ahead to "the future", an outpost on the moon, where another similar monolith has been excavated.  More evolving happens.  Eighteen months later, we are on a Jupiter mission, tracking down a signal that has been transmitting from the moon monolith.  This is where a majority of the film occurs.  The mission is being manned by two astronauts, and the ship is being run by a computer, a superior artificial intelligence, named HAL.  HAL is smart.  HAL is the by-product of evolution.  HAL is a little spooky and not completely trust-worthy we don't think.  HAL can read lips.  HAL is terrifying, especially knowing what we know now about computers.   

 That is really all I need to know to love this film. It is so beyond it's time, it is scary.  Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay and the novel) had to have some crazy vision to imagine the modern furniture, space travel, flat screen TVs, computers...I mean, people, we didn't land on the moon until 1969!!!!  Kubrick certainly didn't just dream all of this up one day.  He did his homework, consulting NASA scientists and astronomers, computer theorists.  But his foresight is mind-boggling.  The only place he missed his mark was in the fashion category (guess he didn't spend enough time with Coco Chanel?).  Everything here is pure and organic, predating any type of technology even close to that in the movie, predating Star Wars-type special effects.

The pace of the movie is very different than what we are used to.  Perhaps mimicking the nature of life in outer space and creating a mood, the story reveals itself slowly and gracefully and floaty, almost as if in a dream.  The inherent evil in HAL sneaks up on you, and is subtle.  Therefore, if you are going to watch this film, do it with the notion that you need to sit back and embrace what Kubrick has done, and not expect explosions or angry aliens.

Highly recommended for lovers of science fiction and non-lovers alike.

5 out of 5 stars  



bermudaonion said...

I'm going to show my age here and admit to seeing this in the theater when it first came out. I didn't get it then and I don't get it now. It is one of Vance's all time favorite films and he says to fully understand it you need to read the book.

thenovelsphere (Melissa) said...

Funny that you chose this movie this week, just on Friday I wrote a post about the Rama series. Arthur C. Clarke is an amazing author and Stanley Kubrick films never fail to be amazing. Loved the review, and I think I will not only be revisiting the movie but perhaps the book too!

Zibilee said...

I have never seen this movie, but my husband has and has told me that I would love it. I think you've finally convinced me that this one may be worth watching! I am not really a science fiction girl, but you make this sound fascinating!

Yolanda said...

I very much enjoyed this review and finding your blog. Hope you have a lovely week.

Alyce said...

I don't have any real reason for not seeing this movie - it seems like one that I would probably really like and yet I haven't watched it. Maybe the next time I have a sick day I can squeeze in time to watch - I tend to appreciate slow moving movies more when I'm not feeling well. :)

Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis said...

I saw it in the theatre when it was first released, too, bermudaonion.

My husband loves this movie. Me - meh. Maybe guys just don't want to admit they don't get it - so they have to say they love it. Or maybe they do get it. I confess I'm confused by that as I am by the film.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Totally with Kathy on being clueless both times I have seen it!!!

Heidenkind said...

I saw this on TV when I was an itty-bitty and the only think I remember are the people walking with velcro shoes so they don't float around the spaceship. I thought that was pretty clever. :)

Anonymous said...

I watched it once a few years ago and didn't get it or like it. Or maybe I didn't like it because I didn't understand it?
Just thought I'd let you know that you came in third in my favorite Sandy's poll last week :)
Take a look and see who you beat!

Jenners said...

My dad took me to see this in the theater when I was about 12 and it blew my mind!!! We spent the whole car ride home trying to figure it out and talking about what we think happened. It is amazing that Kubrick did this when he did. It would hold up (with some minor fashion updates) today. And the part with HAL? Terrifying! Plus in the middle of the film, the film itself melted (it was an old copy) and I screamed … I thought it was showing how evil HAL was inside. My dad just laughed and laughed at that.

Kathleen said...

I never completely understood this film either but I know it is genius. My son and I need to watch this in our film club!