Review #2: 2001 – A Space Odyssey (1968)

3 05 2011

2001: A Space Odyssey is an science fiction epic spanning four interconnecting short stories: The Dawn of Man, TMA-1, Jupiter Mission, and finally Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. Although writer/director Stanley Kubrick has made distinct spaces between each story, it may be better to look upon these as a Prologue (The Dawn of Man), an Introduction (TMA-1), and then the central story(Jupiter Mission/Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite). Featuring inspiring cinematography and powerful classical music, Kubrick tells a unique story who’s true meaning is never given, only hinted at.

Genius With a Movie Camera

The real treat of 2001 is the cinematography. Kubrick brings the viewer several iconic images in the first chapter, The Dawn of Man, but it is in the second and third sections where he really shines. In both TMA-1 and Jupiter Mission, Kubrick plays with mechanics creating several shots that are so engaging on their own, every movement becomes riveting. The power behind this is through the real sets, from today’s perspective it brings a type of sincerity in a world of CGI effects. This allows Kubrick to play with a constant like gravity and make shots look genuine rather than the sterile feel of a computer. Many of the scenes are fascinating and look even better than if they were done today artificially. The fourth short story is, without a doubt, the most visually outstanding and I can think of no true way to put that visceral experience into words and do it justice. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film whose backbone is truly it’s visuals, especially during the first and last segments as there is no dialogue. Although it has been over 40 years since it’s release, Kubrick has managed to put together a movie that may have not been matched in this department since.

Kubrick’s Cold Soul

If there is one criticism Stanley Kubrick may have garnered over his career, it would be how cold and lifeless all his movies feel. Luckily, that trait lends itself perfectly to the science-fiction genre and with 2001 it may be his greatest asset. Science-fiction, in particular movies involving outer-space, automatically produce a feeling of loneliness. Outside of our characters there is no life, no air, nothing aside from the rigid confines of their space craft. This is a situation where feeling removed from the whole scene adds to the atmosphere, we believe that they are alone instead a scene like the Omaha beach opening of Saving Private Ryan which is designed to make to the viewer feel like they’re right there. In feeling our character’s solitude, his other emotions get multiplied as well, this is most evident in the Jupiter Mission segment. Another bonus yo Kubrick’s style is in his villain, HAL, the cold and calculating computer. Part of the reason HAL is a great villain is because he is a computer, by draining the movie of much of its color and life HAL becomes all that more sinister, leaving us hanging on his every move.

So what is 2001: A Space Odyssey all about? The only real answer is that nobody knows, but that is part of what makes it great. Stanley Kubrick gives the viewer the bare minimum of information required draw some sort of conclusion but never have confidence in it. The film is engaging, thought provoking, a visual treat, and quite possibly the biggest minimalist film ever made. This is a movie made to be discussed and is one of the most definitive examples of cinema as art.

Score: 100/100

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